Time to Tee Off On Cynical Pols

I’ve been trying to figure out exactly why I’m so intensely interested in seeing Phil Mickelson win his first major title and so unbelievably uninterested in whether Andrew Cuomo wins his.

In the case of Mr. Mickelson, the second-best golfer in the world, it’s probably a case of my showing solidarity with another embattled lefty-we speak here not of ideology, but of genetics. Mr. Mickelson and I are members of an unprotected minority group, i.e., left-handed golfers, who are almost as rare as African-American golfers. And only one of us, Bob Charles, has won a recent major championship, the British Open in 1963. It’s amazing that this pattern of subtle discrimination hasn’t inspired talk of a left-handers’ lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, given that golf courses in major championships are blatantly designed to test the skills of right-handers.

So, as the men’s tour enters its four-event championship cycle with the Masters tournament this week, I’ll be watching Mr. Mickelson with great enthusiasm. He is the finest golfer never to have won a major championship, and he’s spent the last few years responding to questions about this conspicuous failure. He plays an aggressive game, and has told his legions of critics that if they don’t like his style, they can stuff it. He’s not going to change, he says, and if he never wins a major championship-which is the way history measures golfers-well, he doesn’t particularly care. Incidentally, he has never whined about the golfing world’s obvious bias against left-handers. I, on the other hand, cite this polite form of bigotry at least a dozen times during a round. Tee shots that land in the woods; sand shots that stay in the sand, twice; two-foot putts that go five feet past the hole-all evidence for my future lawsuit.

Now if Phil Mickelson’s brand of candor were somehow to spread to the playing fields of politics, perhaps the younger Mr. Cuomo’s great quest to avenge his fallen father might seem a bit worthier of my time and energy. But the gubernatorial race thus far has been filled with intelligence-insulting legalisms and double talk from all three major candidates-so much so that I can justify my obsession with Phil Mickelson’s career on the grounds that I seek a purer, more honest and, indeed, more inspiring avocation.

Mr. Cuomo’s recent explanation of his urgent wish to visit Israel would have been laughable had it been original. But it was depressingly familiar. In a conference call from Jerusalem to New York reporters, including one from The Observer , Mr. Cuomo insisted that his trip had nothing to do with the fact that he’s running for Governor this year. “At this point, I am a citizen; at this point, why I am here is plain and clear and honest,” he said. “I want to show solidarity at a very difficult time.” Mr. Cuomo’s trip came a couple of weeks after his Democratic primary opponent, H. Carl McCall, went to Israel, fired a gun in the West Bank, posed for many pictures, and then said the trip had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the wise stewardship of New York’s investments.

Citizen Cuomo didn’t pay for his trip; his campaign did. Mr. McCall’s campaign didn’t pay for his trip; State of Israel Bonds and the state pension fund did. And those health-care ads that look a lot like commercials for Governor George Pataki’s re-election-they’re simply public-service announcements.

The contestants for Governor all insist that their trips abroad and other insipid efforts at self-promotion have nothing to do with politics. And, in their eyes, those who dare question these absurd assertions are little more than world-weary hacks who wouldn’t know virtue if they stumbled on Francis of Assisi feeding the pigeons in Washington Square Park. “You can always have people who will take a cynical view,” Mr. Cuomo said, with all due righteousness.

He is right, of course. The number of cynical-view-takers is formidable, and like the poor, they will always be with us. But the most egregious of them tend to be the holders and seekers of public office, who view the truth as fungible, voters as cattle and themselves as irreplaceable.

The cynics are the politicians who claim to abhor politics, the candidates who feign outrage when they are accused of campaigning. Every now and again, some good-government editorial writer will issue forth a statement bemoaning the corrosive effect of public cynicism on the body politic, etc. Would that once-just once-such a writer would identify the true cynics: not the people who expect politicians to act like politicians, but the politicians who deny that they act politically.

As nothing seems likely to change any time soon, I’ll spend the next few months fiddling with my lob wedge and rooting for my fellow lefty. Time to Tee Off On Cynical Pols