Just in time for Halloween, members of the Bernard L. Madoff family have emerged from wherever they keep themselves to squeeze a little more money from anyone willing to pay attention to them. The holiday is the perfect occasion for this sort of venture. It is the season for ghouls, isn’t it?
Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.
An authorized biography of the family is being published on Monday. You will have no problem learning its title somewhere else. It’s not incumbent upon me to contribute to the hype more than is absolutely necessary.
As if one self-serving volume weren’t enough about a clan described by The New York Post on Sunday as “the worst family on earth,” there is a dueling book. It bears the name of a former Madoff daughter-in-law, Stephanie Madoff Mack, and was released midmonth. Ms. Mack was married to Mark Madoff, Bernard Madoff’s older son, who committed suicide last December.
Months earlier, she had gone to court to purge herself and her children of the Madoff name because she found it so odious. Somehow, she has managed to hold her nose long enough to make it her middle name for the book.
There are rituals in the rollout of books of this sort. One involves publicly donning a hair shirt, in the form of agreeing to be scrutinized on television and in newspapers. That sales might be thus increased is not an incidental consideration.
Bernard Madoff’s wife, Ruth, who has said little to nothing since her husband’s enormous Ponzi scheme collapsed in December 2008, did her part. She agreed to a couple of interviews, including with The New York Times, because her surviving son, Andrew, had asked her to help promote the biography.
She and Andrew also appeared Sunday night on the CBS “60 Minutes” program. Ten days earlier, Ms. Mack performed a similar rite on ABC’s “20/20.” Not to be outdone, Barbara Walters, also of ABC, talked off-camera with Bernard Madoff at the federal prison in North Carolina where he is supposed to spend the next century and a half — or as much of that time as he can do.
This is the modern way. Do wrong, or at least be part of an operation that does wrong, then go forth and write a book, perhaps labeling it “tell all,” even if it is at best “tell some.” Whether this brings absolution is debatable. It does, however, often bring a sizable advance from the publisher.
Public officials engage in this routine all the time, first building careers on the taxpayers’ dime, then reaping multimillion-dollar book rewards. The fact that the information they possess belongs to the American public — with they themselves having been no more than temporary custodians — gets lost in the money shuffle.
Of late, we have been subject to a parade of senior officials from the George W. Bush administration — Dick Cheney, Donald H. Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and Mr. Bush himself — hawking books in which they justify their actions, like going to war in Iraq to pry Saddam Hussein’s hands from those illicit weapons he did not have. Even lesser lights have joined the act. They include the former director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet (originally of Little Neck, Queens), and Scott McClellan, who was Mr. Bush’s press secretary for three years.
Mr. McClellan was an avatar of the book-peddling tradition. He went on NBC’s “Today” show in 2008 to say virtuously that the president had relied on “propaganda” to sell the war while he, Mr. McClellan, had misgivings a good 10 months before he finally quit.
Why did he wait so long to acknowledge what he knew to be the truth? Well, he said, “you get caught up in the White House bubble.” Oh.
Who knows if lives might have been saved had he spoken up sooner.
Lives were ruined as well in the Madoff scheme, with paper losses totaling nearly $65 billion and cash losses more than $17 billion.
The good news is there is not much to lose with these new books — $27 plus tax for the hardcover editions, less on Kindle. Of course, if you buy them, you must accept on faith that you are not being taken in yet again.
As ever with the Madoffs, there is no money-back guarantee.
For more local news, including the cleanup after the weekend’s record snowstorm, a soldier’s death raising suspicions in Chinatown, and that likelihood that a person with ties to President Obama, Clyde Williams, will challenge Representative Charles B. Rangel, see the N.Y./Region section.
Here is what City Room is reading in other newspapers and blogs.
Occupy Wall Street demanded the return of confiscated generators. [DNAinfo]
Snow and cold temperatures made it difficult for Zuccotti Park protesters. [CBS New York]
A woman was in critical condition after being hit by a shopping cart tossed from four levels above at a Target. [New York Post]
The funeral was held for a Brooklyn woman killed while shielding children from gunfire. [NY1]
Metropolitan Transportation Authority service may be shut down in some neighborhoods if Halloween vandalism becomes a problem. [Daily News]
The renowned Little Italy’s Ray’s Pizza closed down with $1.50 slices. [DNAinfo]
Giant “Occupy Halloween” puppets will be in evidence at the Village parade. [DNAinfo]