What an absolute treat to unfold Saturday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and see the most unique “politician” ever in Pittsburgh, “sniffing” snacks of $2 bills he used to pay his entry fee into New Hampshire’s Democratic presidential primary.
Richard E. “Mad Dog” Caligiuri is the “Philosophical Outlaw,” the one-time, perennial Congressional candidate who oftentimes took on former Congressman Bill Coyne (the antithesis of thoughtful deliberation and verve). The quintessential Pittsburgh Libertarian, Caligiuri made his biggest splash in the mid 90’s when he posed nude, strategically positioned as “The Thinker,” on the back cover of one of Pittsburgh’s weekly liberal odes to all things unconventional.
“Mad Dog” had arrived. As the editor of an advertiser-supported every-other-weekly ode to all things Block Watch, Community News and feature-happy odes to all things small town, U.S.A., I was excited to meet him. We became fast friends, but alas, a family-member’s health was encompassing more and more of his time, so I knew that Caligiuri’s time in the “alternative candidate’s” spotlight was waning.
Of course, the throngs of public sympathizers and fans of unthinking, unblinking Coyne-dom voted Sleepy Socialist Willie into office one last time. Shortly thereafter, Fidel Castro’s poster boy for all things crazier-than-a-loon retired and gerrymandering allowed for the one-time middle-of-the-road-thinking Mike Doyle assumed the city of Pittsburgh. Thusly, Doyle accepted the lunatic-fringe of lefty liberalism, but before that had to face Caligiuri one last time.
Doyle and I had a good working relationship, as I did with virtually everyone in public office. One Bill Peduto guided former Congressman Dan Cohen’s political ship into an everyman’s quagmire of Congressional hopefulness. No one quite realized the inexplicable power of the Sleepy Socialist and Cohen’s political future was sunk. The shock of that outcome still resonates to this day.
Caligiuri ran against Coyne and I broke the story. Doyle informed the rest of Pittsburgh’s media that I had the scoop, that indeed he had an opponent that fall. Doyle won then, and has raced to the left faster than his idol, John Murtha fell from grace in the opinions of 95% of career service men and women. Caligiuri disappeared off the political map just about the time in which he should have shined.
In his prime, Caligiuri would have been the Internet’s political darling, a daring thinker who’s “out of the box” ideas have been copied but never duplicated.
Our friend Mark Rauterkus has picked up Caligiuri’s reigns perhaps better than anyone might have dreamt. However, Caligiuri always kept his eyes only on Congress. He became folklore to us political junkies, perhaps not as oddly as the late sandwich-board guy who despised Coyne and once ran for Mayor, but in a city with so few real “colorful” politicians who didn’t make a career out of cashing city council paychecks, Caligiuri was a hero.
According to the Concord Monitor, Caligiuri drove to New England to enter the crowded Democratic field. He still maintains a true Libertarian philosophy, but that only makes him closer to being a John F. Kennedy Democrat than a Hillary Clinton Democrat.
New Hampshire voters were also reported to be waiting for TV funnyman Stephen Colbert to show up. Colbert had announced his candidacy for the South Carolina primary a few weeks ago, but those staunch intolerants decided to leave him off the ballot. It’s still uncertain whether Dennis Kucinich is on that ballot, but one joke shouldn’t necessarily disqualify another.
From time to time, I’ve thought of Caligiuri, but lost his phone number eons ago. Print says he continues to maintain his family’s fast food and ice cream restaurant in Wilkinsburg. Back in the day, he routinely shuttled from that hamlet to a kraal in Westmoreland County, where he presumably drank wine and waited for the next Congressional go-round.
Had I had a vote in New Hampshire, I would consider crossing party lines to plunk the Mad Dog.
It’s great to see an old friend once again.