The lights of Times Square were just beginning to put a
false face on twilight when a guy in a green double-breasted suit and a fur cap
parked his livery cab near the corner of Broadway and 49th Street and started
preaching. “We are not a dictatorship,” he bellowed in a thick, vaguely Central
European accent. “We are a free people.” His black Caprice was decorated with
U.S. flag decals and bumper stickers for Rick Lazio and George W. Bush. Even
with his fractured English, his arguments could be heard over the traffic and
chaos of Times Square at rush hour on Dec. 7.
He raised a pair of binoculars and looked south, where a
planned pro-Gore rally was taking shape seven blocks away. “They are sore
losers, the liberals” he shouted. “They want to bring a Marxist dictatorship
here.” He laughed at his own exaggerations. A businessman in a Toyota stopped
in traffic rolled down his window. He was talking into a cell phone. “Could you
be quiet for a minute while I make my call?” he asked, surprisingly polite. The
man in the green suit obliged, for a moment anyway. A Latina-looking woman
passed by. “Viva Latina Americana,” the man in the green suit said. It was
freezing, the wind whipping from the west across town, but he was coatless. Two
black kids, maybe 18 or 19, walked by, wearing turned-around baseball caps.
“Black, white, we are all together,” he said, returning to his bellow. “We are
free people.” The black kids laughed. A guy in work clothes yelled something
obscene about George W. Bush. “Have a happy holiday, sir,” said the man in the
He gave his name as Paul Christache, a 60-year-old immigrant
from Romania. “I fought the dictatorship there,” he said. “I was a great bus
driver. Here, I have letters from people saying what a good bus driver I was.”
He was standing out in the cold, he said, to protest the protesters who were
gathering to the south, who were preparing to hear politicians and celebrities
accuse Republicans of all kinds of depredations. Mr. Christache, of course, was
not to be outdone, comparing Al Gore to the Communist oppressors of his
homeland. But at least there was a smile on his face and a hint of laughter in
Seven blocks south, on a hastily constructed stage, things
were a bit more serious. Thousands of demonstrators, most of them recruited
from public-employee unions, gathered on the sidewalk on the east side of
Broadway, from 42nd Street south to the upper 30′s. Bundled up, they listened
patiently as speaker after speaker spoke of the need to count all the votes in
Florida. The crowd was festive enough, and actually seemed to enjoy hearing
from a gaggle of elected officials, from the measured Alan Hevesi to the glib
Mark Green (“George W. Bush and I agree on something. There should be a
concession. It’s time for George W. Bush to concede!”) to the antic Anthony
Weiner, a fuzzy-cheeked Congressman from Brooklyn.
Before long, it was time to bring out the drearily
inevitable Hollywood types, those modern-day bosses who preside over the Show
Business Democratic Club. Harvey Weinstein was brought onstage after a speaker singled out his Miramax Films for
its enlightened positions on public policy. Mr. Weinstein started off by
reminding his listeners that he usually can be found chatting with the likes of
Ben Affleck. But on this occasion, he wished to talk about the great
vote-stealing conspiracy in Florida. He told the audience that he was
personally challenging the news media-he mentioned the three city dailies and The Washington Post -to investigate fraud
in Florida. He challenged these great organizations to go to Florida to “break
the conspiracy,” as they did during Watergate.
It is wonderful to be reminded that all people, even great
Hollywood moguls, are capable of personal growth. Why, just about a month ago,
Mr. Weinstein was so suspicious of the press that he roughed up an Observer reporter who dared to make an
unauthorized inquiry about a movie. But Mr. Weinstein has seen the light! Now
he challenges the press to go down to Florida to ask tough questions and break
the unnamed conspiracy! Well, then, my colleagues: You have heard the
challenge. What will you do? Whatever path you choose, do not presume that you
may ask Mr. Weinstein a question about his patriotic challenge-unless, that is,
you are highly skilled in the art of self-defense.
Mr. Weinstein was followed, inevitably, by Barbra Streisand,
who was kind enough to send a phoned-in message. “They are not just stealing an
election,” the singer said. “They are stealing our soul.” My, my. Such a
serious, earnest business.
Back up north, Mr. Christache was yelling at passersby, and
having a ball doing it.
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