That bizarre episode in Santa Barbara with ex-mayor Richard Riordan and the little girl got Steve Lopez's attention. He writes in today's Times column that Riordan didn't have a stroke or inebriation to blame:
The education secretary doesn't have to be tanked, or in the midst of a physical breakdown, to take leave of his senses.
It comes naturally.
The outburst in Santa Barbara was a snapshot of the contradiction who calls himself Dick Riordan. The zillionaire venture capitalist came late to public office, buying his way into City Hall when he was near retirement age. Here's a guy who's spent years improving public schools and libraries, and then in a roomful of innocents, he stumbles like Big Bird on a bender. He later apologized for the "misunderstanding," saying he was only teasing the child.
If you've ever had a bad fuse that causes the house lights to flicker, then you have some sense of the temperamental organ protected by Dick Riordan's skull. Either the wiring is frayed or a few synapses are gummed up.
Lopez goes on to make fun of Riordan's first name — the familiar version. Judging by the comments on the earlier item, people are fairly polarized on Riordan these days.