Monica Yant Kinney: Nutter was up a tree before this

Mayor Nutter, with wife Lisa, has his eyes on the city's Christmas tree. Rivals such as Councilman Bill Green may have their eyes on his office next year.
Mayor Nutter, with wife Lisa, has his eyes on the city's Christmas tree. Rivals such as Councilman Bill Green may have their eyes on his office next year.
Posted: December 05, 2010

Anyone who missed Mayor Nutter's appearance on NBC's Meet the Press last Sunday might want to check it out online, given the wild and weird week he went on to have in the city of brotherly imbroglios.

"None of us walk on water," Nutter told host David Gregory, speaking ostensibly about President Obama, but clearly reflecting on his own stumbles. "There is a harsh reality to this economy that people are in pain, people are upset, people are angry, they are frustrated. . . . So managing expectations is certainly a big part of the job."

Days later, Nutter suffered the political equivalent of getting tangled in the cords while hanging holiday lights.

First, there was the boneheaded decision to take the Christmas out of that quaint Christmas Village surrounding City Hall.

Naturally, the story of stupidity spread from Broad Street to the North Pole. So Nutter reversed the decision and looked even worse, like one of those indecisive guys pacing the Christmas tree lot unsure which fine fir to ferry home.

By Thursday, the Philadelphia Daily News ran the inevitable Photoshopped cover of Nutter as a haggard Santa - hardly an image fit for framing.

Ghosts of Christmas future

Three years into Nutter's "new day, new way," grinches lurk around every corner.

In this month's Philadelphia Magazine, archenemy John Street calls Nutter an "arrogant, incompetent, and offensive" coward. Bashing his successor for that lame 311 system and refusing to stand up to city unions, Street goes in for the kill:

"On the things that matter, Mayor Nutter has crippled the city."

Consider this payback. Whenever candidate Nutter talked about cleaning up government, he meant that Street was dirty.

But Street's the ghost of Christmas past. For a current and future apparition, look no further than City Councilman Bill Green, who may jump into the 2011 mayoral primary for sport or spite.

Green's name makes Nutter nervous. So the mayor had his pollsters ring up loyal Democrats to ask whom they'd support in that hypothetical battle royale.

One former fan who got the call told the Daily News that he just couldn't stomach another nod for Nutter: "He put himself out as a reformer, and he is not that effective at all."

The dreaded D-word

When I was a kid, the worst thing my parents could say to me was that I was a disappointment. The term connotes heartbreak and lost hope with such finality that I couldn't fathom how I'd ever redeem myself, if redemption was even humanly possible.

Disappointment is the most frequent rap I hear about Nutter, from insiders, outsiders, and cabdrivers.

He's not as loose or amiable in office as he was during the campaign. He lacks a mayoral message. He misses opportunities to tell citizens what he's up to and why.

Nutter's so hell-bent on distancing himself from the seedy Philly machine, he's become a pol who won't play politics. So he shuns City Council, then wonders why he can't get anything done.

Friday morning, I popped by City Hall to take the mayor's temperature. He finally had something to crow about: raising $26,500 to send two cash-strapped youth football teams to compete in the Pop Warner Super Bowl tournament in Florida.

After the corporate donors spoke of the mayor's good-natured arm-twisting, Nutter paused at the lectern, standing silent for so long I couldn't tell whether he was fighting back real tears or performing.

"We just can't forget, ever, why we come to public service," Nutter said to the cameras. "It's not just the big policy issues. This job is about people."

A more astute politician would have used the occasion to admit, even joke about, his self-made mess. Unfortunately for Nutter and us, the mayor is not that guy.

"This," he declared before changing the subject, "has been one hectic week." A man in Nutter's position can ill afford more like it.


Reach me at myant@phillynews.com or 215-854-4670. Visit my Web page and connect on Facebook and Twitter at philly.com/kinney.

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