Without a doubt, the best story of the year was the stunning — and blindingly fast — demise of Rep. Vito Fossella, whose career disintegrated faster than you can say “Another round of drinks.”
All summer long, this was the story that just kept on giving. Here’s a roundup:
• Jan. 10: Fossella applauds the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for agreeing to remove unused toll booths on the Verrazano Bridge.
• April 30: President Bush toasts the Super Bowl champion New York Giants at the White House — and Vito makes a night of it, drinking “a few glasses of wine,” he said. He is last seen driving in the direction of Virginia.
• May 1: Just after midnight, Fossella runs a red light in Alexandria, Va. and local police detain him. According to a cop, the boozy legislator could not recite the alphabet or maintain his balance. His blood alcohol level registered 0.17 — more than double the .08 legal limit.
• May 2: Initially, a vague apology: “Last night I made an error in judgment,” he said in a statement from seclusion. “As a parent, I know that taking even one drink of alcohol before getting behind the wheel of a car is wrong. I apologize to my family and the constituents of the 13th Congressional District for embarrassing them, as well as myself.”
• May 8: The shamefaced congressman admits he had an extramarital affair with Laura Fay, a former Air Force officer who he seduced on taxpayer junkets to Europe. Oh, he also has a daughter with Fay, who is not his wife.
• May 20: Fossella accepts his comeuppance and announces that he would not run for re-election this fall. Salivating Democrats begin jockeying for their party’s nomination to run for the suddenly open post.
• May 29: The GOP nominates obscure MTA board member Francis Powers to succeed Fossella and the Democrats brace for a choice between Councilman Mike McMahon and Steve Harrison, a Bay Ridge lawyer who rattled Fossella on a shoestring budget in 2006.
• June 9: Francis Powers’s estranged son, also named Francis Powers, threatens to run on a third-party ticket, but loses his bid to get the Libertarian Party nomination. Normalcy returns to the race.
• June 22: Not for long. Powers the elder dies from a heart attack in his sleep. The GOP is in shambles again.
• July: Former Assemblyman Bob Straniere, a man run out of office by rivals from within the Republican Party enters the race. Few are joyed.
• Aug. 25: Fossella’s lawyers say they will fight his arrest by clinging to that last refuge of a scoundrel: challenging the precision of the sobriety test equipment.
• Oct. 17: Guilty! Fossella is convicted by a Virginia judge after a daylong trial.
• Dec. 8: Fossella is sentenced to five days in prison. As soon as that hearing is over, Fossella and his attorney file an appeal, which triggers an automatic trial by jury.
• Dec. 14: Against all odds, the disgraced congressman shows he’s still got it. A crowd of 1,000 — including Mayor Bloomberg — attends what is billed as a goodbye brunch bash at a Staten Island hotel. The adoring fans chant his name, give him standing ovations and implore him to run again.
We too wish to give the soon-to-be-former congressman a round of applause.
Vito, thanks for the memory!
— Mike McLaughlin