The Democrats in Boston

Conventions are to political junkies what spring training is to baseball fans-a time when hope springs eternal. The Democrats in Boston have good reason to be cheerful, because their nominee, John Kerry, stands a good chance of unseating incumbent President George W. Bush.

But in this first convention since 9/11, the party’s high hopes are, or should be, tempered by the awful realities ushered in on that terrible day. The last time the Democrats successfully unseated an incumbent President-in 1992, when the President was also named Bush-Bill Clinton offered talk-show empathy, New Age psychobabble and old-fashioned hucksterism. And we bought it. This time around, the Clinton formula simply isn’t good enough. Times have changed. We have been attacked, and our enemies are planning to attack again. This time, the Democrats have to show us that they are serious about keeping the nation as safe as possible from Islamic terrorism.

The Democrats, then, cannot define themselves simply by their opposition to Mr. Bush’s misadventure in Iraq. Even though they believe the invasion was and remains a disaster, there is no turning back on the war against those who wish us harm. If Iraq were stabilized tomorrow, the nation’s enemies would still be plotting our destruction. Michael Moore, the left’s master propagandist, may not realize that, but surely Mr. Kerry does.

And so his challenge, and his party’s, is to demonstrate that opposition to Mr. Bush’s policies in Iraq should not be mistaken for weakness. Indications are that the party’s hard left-the Bush-hating loonies like Mr. Moore-does not want to hear this message. But the rest of the country does, particularly those who voted for Mr. Bush in 2000 and who might be persuaded to vote against him this time.

Most Americans do not believe that the use of force against Islamic terrorists is evil or unjustified. John Kerry must speak to these Americans, and not to the haters who have attached themselves to his candidacy.

He also, of course, must address taxes and the economy. The economy, for the moment, isn’t in bad shape, and George W. Bush has used tax cuts to captivate those voters who vote with their wallets. On the other hand, the country faces a half-trillion-dollar annual deficit that may last for years to come, the long-term implications of which are uncharted territory.

Keeping America safe and solvent: Both make for an enormous challenge. The next few days will tell us if Mr. Kerry is up to it.

West Side Stadium Fumbles

Joining several prominent New Yorkers who have spoken out against the plan by the city and the state to help the New York Jets build a 75,000-seat football stadium on Manhattan’s far West Side, the Regional Plan Association has issued a report opposing the stadium and calling instead for residential, retail and commercial development. The association’s chairman, Peter Herman, noted that in his 34 years with the R.P.A., no other issue had received as extensive a review, and the conclusion was emphatic: A West Side stadium would do little or nothing to spur development, and instead would stand in the way of transforming the far West Side into a thriving, revenue-producing waterfront neighborhood. As the association’s president, Robert Yaro, told reporters, “The experience in North America is that stadiums, particularly football stadiums and dual-use stadiums, have repelled commercial and residential development, not attracted it.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki, however, remain determined to hand this magnificent piece of real estate-and $600 million of taxpayer money-to the Jets. They claim that the stadium will anchor development and be the centerpiece of a possible 2012 Olympics. Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff continues to insist that the stadium will be “a magnet for developers and for visitors.” But the truth is, a stadium would have a negative impact on the city’s tourism business and quality of life. As Broadway’s most prominent theater owners have pointed out, traffic overflow from a football stadium on the West Side would cause unimaginable gridlock in the theater district. Arguments that a stadium would spur the local economy are also specious: A 1996 study by the city comptroller concluded that professional sports events account for just 0.7 percent of a city’s annual gross economic product. And about those phantom apartment buildings which will supposedly sprout up nearby? No developer with significant resources is going to build in the vicinity of a sports arena-who would want their home or office in the shadow of a stadium? Why not take that $600 million and invest it in the renewal of downtown Manhattan?

Environmental concerns have recently been raised as well. The city’s own Environmental Impact Statement notes that when the stadium and surrounding skyscrapers are completed, the daily sewage flow to the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant, located on the Hudson River at 137th Street, will climb from 1.1 million gallons to 8.6 million gallons. State Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat and Peggy Shepard, co-founder of West Harlem Environmental Action, predict that such a volume would overwhelm the plant and cause sewage overflows to spill into the Hudson. The city’s statement also notes that on game days, the Queens-Midtown Tunnel would be at 90 percent capacity, and 10 prime Manhattan intersections would see traffic tie-ups.

If Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki truly want to create a lasting legacy on the West Side of Manhattan, let them encourage measured residential and commercial development. Economically, aesthetically, environmentally-a stadium is a bad idea on all counts.

Albany Is No. 1!

Finally, some good news to cheer about: The New York State Legislature has been named the worst state lawmaking body in the country. Hooray! We’re No. 1! We’re No. 1!

For years, the Legislature’s critics have been quick to denounce the state’s lawmakers as a sad collection of mediocrities. But it turns out that the critics completely underestimated the Albany gang. Indeed, there is nothing mediocre about our legislators-they are downright and completely awful! They bring new meaning to the words “dysfunctional” and “ineffective.”

In your heart, you knew that New York is too great a state to be governed by mere mediocrities. And, it turns out, you were right. According to a survey of state legislatures conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School, no state capital rivals Albany for pure, unadulterated badness! Bills are voted on without debate, rank-and-file members haven’t a clue about what’s going on, and nobody bothers to hold public hearings on legislation.

In recent months, New Yorkers have rightly been concerned that the antics in Hartford and Trenton might mean that Albany had lost its rightful place as the nation’s capital of bad governance. This would have been a tremendous blow to New York’s pride-sort of like learning that Ellis Island actually is in New Jersey.

Never fear, New York. Your Assembly members and State Senators are determined to make you proud. They know that New Yorkers will not stand for mediocrity, so they have established a record so deplorable-for example, if they cut out of work early, they are recorded as voting

“yes”-that we can hold our heads high, knowing that when it comes to bad government, nobody does it better than New York.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and even Governor George Pataki-who is not a member of the Legislature, but who certainly sets the tone in Albany-are to be congratulated for their efforts in making the capital such a miserable place. Were it not for their lack of leadership, New York might have finished in the middle of the pack in the bad-government ratings. That simply wouldn’t do.

Instead, thanks to the non-leadership of these three visionless elected officials and the absolute dearth of talent among the Legislature’s rank and file, we can note with pride that New York is No. 1!

So congratulations to all 211 members of the New York State Legislature for this well-deserved accolade. Seldom in the field of democratic politics have so few done so little for so many.