Strange Political Seasons

I keep hearing how the Congressional race in New York is, somehow, a referendum on the presidency of Barack Obama. Usually, I would scoff at such fatuous prognosticating. But then, it’s been a strange political season.

So, why not?

This one will end when Obama leaves office. Things will return back to normal.

The only comparable periods I could remember were when Harold Washington became mayor of Chicago in the early 80’s and when David Dinkins became mayor of New York City in the early 90’s.

Chicago's 51st Mayor
Chicago's 51st Mayor

Both times, the Democratic Party establishments in those cities willfully elected to sit on their hands and give up considerable political power and patronage just so the incumbent Democrat would lose.

In his first race for mayor of Chicago, Republican Bernie Epton actually had a fighting chance to win because the Democrats preferred him over the Democrat in the race, Harold Washington. Like the late Chicago Sun Times Columnist Mike Royko famously wrote, “Chicago doesn’t have enough Republican voters to win a Moose lodge election.”

When Washington won, the party establishment organized a coup d’etat in the City Council and resolved to run the city themselves. Washington (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Washington) was a Congressman before running for mayor. He was a tough political battler who was willing to fight for his political life.

From Wikipedia:

“Washington’s first term in office was characterized by ugly, racially polarized battles dubbed “Council Wars”, referring to the then-recent Star Wars films. A 29–21 City Council majority refused to enact         Washington’s reform legislation and prevented him from appointing reform nominees to boards and commissions. Other first-term items include overall city population loss, increased crime, and a massive decrease in ridership on the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). This helped earn the city the nickname “Beirut on the     Lake”, and many people wondered if Chicago would ever recover or face the more permanent declines of other cities in the U.S. Midwest.

The twenty-nine, also known as the Vrdolyak Twenty-nine, was led by “the Eddies”: Alderman Ed Vrdolyak, Finance Chair Edward Burke and Parks Commissioner Edmund Kelly. The Eddies were supported by the younger Daley (now State’s Attorney), U.S. Congressmen Dan Rostenkowski and William Lipinski, and other powerful white Democrats.

During one of the first Council meetings, Harold Washington was

unable to get his appointments approved.

Harold Washington and the twenty-one ward representatives that supported him, walked out of the meeting after a quorum had been established. Vrdolyak and the other twenty-eight were able to appoint all of the boards and chairs. Later lawsuits submitted by Harold Washington and others were dismissed because it was determined that the appointments were legally made.

Washington ruled by veto. The twenty-nine could not get the thirtieth vote they needed to override Washington’s veto; African American, Latino and white liberal aldermen supported Washington despite pressure from the Eddies.”

So, in the Senate, after Obama came into office, despite having 59 United States Senators to the Republicans 41, Republicans somehow set the terms of the debate on legislation. Then, in the midterm elections, Republicans strengthened their hands by regaining the House of Representatives and gaining a couple of U.S. Senate seats.

Republicans became strictly obstructionists, not only unwilling to reasonably discuss any national issue, but actually working to harm the nation because it served their political purposes. They paid no political price for that. In fact, they gained more power.

But I am getting too far ahead of myself.

To get back to back to Harold Washington, he won reelection but had a massive heart attack at his desk in City Hall in early in his second term.

Dinkins (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Dinkins), like Obama now, was seen as weak. In New York City, people did not come out to vote. Think about it. Democrats outnumber Republicans by 5-1 in New York City. Winning the office meant not only that lots of people kept their jobs but that they got more jobs and patronage for four more years.

And they gave all that up.

So, yes, Obama—perhaps one of the smartest person to ever hold the presidency of the United r-bStates—will lose reelection in 2012. Maybe the people of our fair nation will start acting normal after that.

UPDATE: Just to prove Democrats are their own worst enemies, if not worse, some lame-brain Democrats now say they oppose the president’s job bill. The same bill that has put Republicans in a “damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t” quandry! How could make political hay against recalcitrant Republicans when Democrats are adding fuel to the Republican fire?

MANDELA—BORN TO RULE

By GENE MUSTAIN and MICHAEL O. ALLEN, Daily News Staff Writers | Sunday, April 3, 1994

JOHANNESBURG—He carries himself like he was born to power—and he was, 75 years ago, in a hut at the bottom of the African continent.

His family ran the village; a cousin, with whom he lived while a teen, was chief of the surrounding region. Under a stand of eucalyptus trees that was the tribal courthouse, they prepared Nelson Mandela to follow in their footsteps.

“The genesis of my ideas is under these trees,” said the Old Man, as he is known among his followers, during a homecoming last month.

Continue reading “MANDELA—BORN TO RULE”

NEW CHALLENGES FOR A NEW NATION: Sharpton Sees Lesson in South Africa Voting

By GENE MUSTAIN and MICHAEL O. ALLEN, Daily News Staff Writers | Sunday, May 1, 1994

JOHANNESBURG—After a whirlwind, emotional visit, the Rev. Al Sharpton flew home to New York yesterday with stars in his eyes.

“If only I could bring home in a bottle the hope and spirit I saw here, it would change New York politics forever,” said Sharpton, who’s challenging incumbent Daniel Moynihan for the U.S. Senate democratic nomination.

Continue reading “NEW CHALLENGES FOR A NEW NATION: Sharpton Sees Lesson in South Africa Voting”

Hizzoner’s Relationship Not Private Affair by JIM DWYER

Sunday, May 07, 2000

Last fall, a Daily News reporter wondered why the mayor had vanished most summer weekends. For years, the mayor made public appearances on Saturdays or Sundays all summer long, so reporter Michael O. Allen asked the mayor’s press office about his schedule.

Because the answers were vague, Allen asked for the mayor’s public calendars.

File a freedom-of-information request, the reporter was told — a classic stalling tactic, but Allen sent in the paperwork.

A few weeks later, he got a call from the press office. Withdraw your official request, and we’ll tell you what you want to know.

Yes, the mayor had cut way back on his weekends.

How come? Speak to deputy mayor so-and-so, the press office told Allen, and he’ll give you what you need.

The deputy mayor said the mayor was taking more private time on weekends to be with his son.

“He’s also got a new love in his life,” the deputy mayor said. He gave a long, theatrical pause.

“It’s called golf.”

We now know the mayor has developed a very close relationship with a woman who is not his wife. He brought her to the party for the New York City Marathon and to be with him on New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

And he apparently stayed at the friend’s beach home in the Hamptons many weekends last summer.

Nothing here calls for Kenneth Starr and a grand jury investigation. While Bill Clinton lied about his involvement with Monica Lewinsky and confessed to being ashamed of himself, the mayor has all but boasted about his involvement with his friend Judi Nathan. She was posing for pictures all week.

Still, anyone who files Giuliani’s nonmarital relationship under the category “purely private” is hallucinating.

When three or four New York City Police detectives have the job of chauffeuring the mayor to liaisons in the Hamptons with his friend, the public life meets the private around the Douglaston exits of the Long Island Expressway. From the city line to Nathan’s condominium in Southampton, it is 75 miles.

“There’d be one or two city Town Cars in the parking lot all weekend,” said a Southampton neighbor of Nathan’s. “These big guys would be in the cars, with the motors running when you went to bed at night, and they’d be there in the morning. There were always at least two, sometimes three or four.”

Not so long ago, a New York City mayor got in trouble for sending city detectives to Long Island. In 1991, when David Dinkins dispatched two detectives to investigate a fire at the home of a friend, Giuliani clucked disapprovingly: “This poor guy gets into trouble every day.”

Last week, I asked the Police Department how much it cost the public to have the current mayor delivered by a police taxi service to his woman friend in Long Island. I wanted to know if helicopters had been used, hotels booked, food paid for, and if there had been any repayment by the mayor for these expenses.

“We never give out details of security,” Police Chief Thomas Fahey said Friday.

“Not details of security,” I said. “This is a request for costs.”

“Then you’ll be able to see which guy made the most overtime and figure out who spent the most time with him,” said Fahey.

“Give the cost information without the names,” I proposed.

“FOIL it,” he said.

“FOIL it” means file a freedom of information request. It would do no good, Fahey assured me, but I should file it anyway.

We argued some more, and then he said to put the questions in writing. I did. Late in the day, his office called back: “The chief wanted me to tell you that our statement is, ‘We’re not responding.'”

Later on, Fahey revised his official answer: “We don’t discuss security.” Of course, some of this is security, and some of it is a taxi service provided to the mayor.

Since the city has chosen to stonewall, we are free to analyze it ourselves. It is fair to say that the cost to the public of the mayor’s personal friendship was at least $200,000, much of that having to do with overtime and the need to dedicate so many detectives making $55,000 to $75,000 annually sitting in a Long Island parking lot.

Naturally, the mayor is entitled to protection, wherever he is. So are his wife and family, who continue to live in Gracie Mansion, the official residence supplied by the public. His wife and children also have police protection and chauffeurs, a reasonable precaution.

What about Judith Nathan? Asked by The News’ John Marzulli if she also receives police protection, Commissioner Howard Safir retorted: “It’s a nice day, isn’t it?”

Whatever the bright line between public and private life, Giuliani long ago declared that his temperament was a force that would shape the city.

And if he were a senator, he has even declared what the standard of public morality should be. In February, he called for the Ten Commandments to be posted in public school classrooms.

“The Ten Commandments is part of our tradition, it’s part of our history,” said Giuliani.

A few weeks later, the mayor and his “very good friend” Judith Nathan marched on St. Patrick’s Day, in a parade where gays are banned for practices seen by the Catholic Church as sinful as, say, adultery.

The wife who shares a public home with the mayor was not in that parade.

Rudy Pooh-Poohs Dem Bigs’ Digs By MICHAEL O. ALLEN and LISA REIN Daily News Staff Writers

Sunday, October 26, 1997

With a comfortable lead in the polls, Mayor Giuliani yesterday refused to engage in a war of words with Democratic challenger Ruth Messinger — even allowing harsh comments from his predecessor, former Mayor David Dinkins, to go unchallenged.

Dinkins, who spent the better part of a rainy afternoon campaigning with Messinger in Brooklyn and Queens, accused Republican Giuliani of running an “out-of-control” campaign that would “self-destruct” before Election Day.

“I predict that Mayor Giuliani has a great capacity to self-destruct, and I think he’s going to do that in the next 10 days,” Dinkins said, at times stealing the spotlight from Messinger yesterday.

“He’s out of control right now,” Dinkins continued, recalling the mayor’s blistering attack on Messinger for not attending Mass on Columbus Day. “He seems to think that the whole world started on Jan. 1, 1994, when he became mayor.”

But Giuliani, crisscrossing the city with campaign stops in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Harlem and Throgs Neck in the Bronx, refrained from attacking Dinkins, saying only, “The best thing for me to do with a question like that is to say, ‘I’m not going to respond.’ ”

When asked if he thought Dinkins could rescue Messinger’s flagging campaign, the mayor said he “couldn’t evaluate the other side.”

The mayor’s comments came at Sylvia’s Restaurant, a Harlem landmark where he capped a swing through clothing stores along W. 125th St., receiving warm greetings from proprietors.

Earlier, the mayor tasted meatball calzones and onion rings on his first-ever tour of a superstore, the Costco in Sunset Park. The visit came a day after he pledged to mount an aggressive campaign to revive his failed proposal to speed up the opening of more megastores if he wins reelection.

But as he marched in the small Parade of Flags along Fifth Ave. just a few miles away, some merchants told the mayor that superstores would decimate their mom-and-pop stores.

Messinger campaigned in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, getting thumbs-ups from shoppers and merchants along Broadway.

She then took the stage with Dinkins at the Panamanian Day parade in Brooklyn, where she accused Giuliani of positioning himself for a run for national office, a move she insisted would push him to the right politically and divert his concerns from the city’s schools.

Giuliani denied the charge, calling it an “irrelevant issue” and calling his “sole focus” his race for reelection.

Original Story Date: 102697

Don’t Sell Cops Short, Says Rudy By MICHAEL O. ALLEN and PAUL SCHWARTZMAN, Daily News Staff Writers

nullSunday, August 31, 1997

A day after thousands protesting police brutality marched on City Hall, Mayor Giuliani yesterday sought to refocus attention on cops’ accomplishments while his chief rival took the day off.

Eleven days before the Democratic primary, front-runner Ruth Messinger spent the day out of sight with her family, while opponents Sal Albanese and the Rev. Al Sharpton reached for votes in Harlem, Brooklyn and Queens.

Of the Democratic candidates, only Sharpton invoked the rally and the alleged police torture on Abner Louima, as he has since the reports of the incident first surfaced three weeks ago.

Greeting a cheering Latino crowd in Red Hook, Brooklyn, Giuliani said it was time for the public to cease castigating cops.

“Yesterday, over a 24-hour period, there was one murder in New York City,” Giuliani said. “That didn’t happen because the Police Department aren’t doing its job.

“They are saving lives in New York City while some people have been spending time excessively bashing them. That’s a big mistake. That has to stop.”

Giuliani also praised the cops for enduring during Friday’s demonstration a torrent of curses and taunts that they are racists and Nazis.

“That’s a lot of people who are calling you names, rushing up towards you, using words like Nazis and fascists — things that should just not be said,” he said, adding that the cops’ restraint showed that they are the “finest police department” in the country.

Although protesters castigated Giuliani during the march — at which Messinger, Sharpton and former Mayor David Dinkins spoke — one political analyst said the mayor would not suffer politically from the event.

“The real story — that the police and the marchers were able to maintain civility — is a plus for him,” said Mitchell Moss, director of the Taub Urban Research Center at New York University.

Approaching the final week before the Sept. 9 primary, Messinger today plans to speak at a Brooklyn church service and campaign in Riverdale. Yesterday, she was nowhere to be found.

“She is spending it with her family,” said campaign spokesman Lee Jones, adding that it was the Manhattan borough president’s last chance for a respite before “eight weeks of solid fun and games with Uncle Rudy.”

Sharpton, for his part, sought to seize on the protest’s aftermath to attack Giuliani at a rally of approximately 200 supporters in Harlem.

“It gives people the idea that he can’t deal with issues other than his own pat issues,” Sharpton said afterward. “He can’t deal with unemployment, he can’t deal with schools and he can’t deal with police brutality. He’s a good law enforcement guy, but that’s the end of it.”

Touring Queens, Albanese said, when asked, that he hopes Friday’s demonstration focuses attention on what he said was Giuliani’s failure to deal with police brutality.

“You can’t lay the [Louima] incident at his doorstep,” he said, “but everyone is focusing on abuse. It focuses attention on the department and how it has addressed abuse.”

Poll: Wild About Mayor, Not Rudy By MICHAEL O. ALLEN and FRANK LOMBARDI, Daily News Staff Writers

February 12, 1997

City voters soundly approve of Mayor Giuliani’s job performance and would reelect him in a walk, even though they aren’t wild about his personality, according to a new poll.

The Quinnipiac College Poll showed 62% of voters approved of the first-term Republican’s performance as mayor, while 32% disapproved and 6% were undecided. That’s the best showing for Giuliani since the Quinnipiac mayoral surveys began nearly two years ago.

With the help of his high job approval rating, Giuliani would rout any of five potential Democratic challengers in a head-to-head match, the survey showed. That includes former Mayor David Dinkins — who was to announce today if he would take on Giuliani for a third time.

Dinkins, Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger would lose to Giuliani by at least 20 percentage points if the election were held now, the poll showed.

Giuliani would beat Dinkins 55% to 34%, the poll found. Ferrer would lose 53% to 33%, and Messinger would lose 54% to 34%, it showed. The remaining Democratic contenders, Brooklyn City Councilman Sal Albanese and the Rev. Al Sharpton, would fare even worse.

Still, the survey wasn’t all good news for Giuliani. It found voters split on his hard-charging personal style — with 43% describing him as likeable and 52% disagreeing.

“I can deal with that,” said Giuliani, noting that the poll gave him high marks for leadership and getting things done.

While cautioning that poll results fluctuate, Giuliani said “it always feels a little better [to be ahead] by 20% than to be behind by 20%.”

The survey showed Giuliani has not bridged racial and gender gaps as he tries to expand the narrow margin he won over Dinkins in 1993.

While white voters gave him 77% approval on job performance, that dropped to 52% among Hispanics and 34% among blacks.

Among male voters, 71% gave Giuliani thumbs up on job performance, compared with 55% among women.

White New Yorkers were evenly split on his personal style; 48% liked it and 47% didn’t. Hispanics were equally split, with 49% approving and 48% disagreeing. Among black voters, 29% liked his personality and 66% did not.

“New Yorkers like the way the mayor does his job,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac College Polling Institute. “But they don’t think he’s a likeable guy.”

The poll of 845 voters was conducted Feb. 3 to 9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

Original Story Date: 021297

Rudy Going on ‘Cos’ MICHAEL O. ALLEN, Daily News Staff Writer

December 12, 1996

Mayor Giuliani will dust off his acting skills today when he tapes an episode of “Cosby,” guest-starring as himself on the CBS sitcom.

Is Shakespeare in the Park next?

Giuliani laughed when asked if his latest acting foray was a sign of things to come when he leaves office.

“The old adage about being mayor was there’s no place to go from there. It ruins your career,” he quipped.

Using the TV appearance to poke fun at predecessors David Dinkins and Ed Koch, Giuliani said, “it seems to me the only future career you have as a former mayor of New York City is as radio talk-show host, giving a very hard time to whoever the incumbent mayor is.”

Giuliani is no acting novice. He appeared in Whoopi Goldberg’s movie “Eddie,” and he twice appeared onstage at Metropolitan Opera New Year’s Eve productions of “Die Fledermaus” to belt out “O Sole Mio.”

He also has been a repeat guest on “Late Show with David Letterman.”

Bill Cosby, a friend of Dinkins’, wasn’t particularly complimentary of Giuliani at a 1993 Dinkins fund-raiser. Giuliani said he agreed to appear on Cosby’s popular show because it’s good for the city.

The TV episode focuses on a visit by Giuliani to the Astoria, Queens, home of Cosby’s character, Hilton Lucas. Lucas, a laid-off airline employe, expects a high-profile dinner guest — President Clinton.

When Giuliani arrives and samples appetizers, Lucas has him take care of filling neighborhood potholes.

Original Story Date: 121296