In what may stand as the most absurd and offensive bit of political theater of the season, Hillary Rodham Clinton stood before a largely black crowd in Riverside Church in upper Manhattan on Sunday, March 5, and played the race card for all she was worth. Her topic was the police shooting of Amadou Diallo, which she lies squarely on the shoulders of the current Mayor, and her Senate-race opponent, Rudolph Giuliani. Dismissing the city’s impressive drop in crime, a reduction which has hugely benefited New Yorkers of all races, Mrs. Clinton could not resist exploiting the sad death of Mr. Diallo. “It is a false choice to say that we cannot have safer streets and greater trust and confidence in the police,” said the First Lady, as if she herself, if only given a sharp pencil, some paper and a quiet cubicle, could have cut the city’s homicide rate by 70 percent without any tragic accidents.
The hypocrisy that lies beneath Mrs. Clinton’s shameful pandering to the African-American community is well illustrated by two glaring facts. First, she herself has remained silent on what she thinks of the not-guilty verdict handed down in the case. If she wants to blame Mr. Giuliani’s Police Department for Diallo’s death, does it not follow that the full acquittal of the officers involved was an outrage? Or at least a miscarriage of justice? She won’t say. In Mrs. Clinton’s world, to state a personal conviction is seen as counterproductive to the effort of getting all New Yorkers to feel warm and fuzzy about her.
Most telling of Mrs. Clinton’s hypocrisy, however, is that while claiming to be a friend to the black community, she also happens to be a staunch supporter of the death penalty, which, as every American knows, falls disproportionately on black prisoners. How does Mrs. Clinton square these two diametrically opposed positions? She can’t, of course. But in Hillary’s world, what matters is not what you believe, but rather what you can make voters think you believe.
Pataki Gets Bushwhacked
Who was the big loser on primary night? That’s easy: Gov. George Pataki, who may never recover from the damage done to his image.
Until this winter, Mr. Pataki seemed like a genial chief executive who never personalized his political differences. Even after more than five years as Governor, his reputation for decency seemed intact.
But that was before his operatives, surely with his knowledge and tacit approval, launched one of the nastiest, cynical and untruthful campaigns in recent memory, on behalf of Gov. George W. Bush. In the weeks leading to the New York Presidential primary, the outright lies spread about Senator John McCain’s voting record and the smear-at-all-costs tactics of the Pataki associates told us something about Mr. Bush-that he is empty at his core-and something about Mr. Pataki, namely that his well-guarded image as a coalition-builder is just another political falsehood.
The Bush-Pataki campaign’s offenses against decency were numerous: The effort to keep Mr. McCain off the ballot was just the beginning, making New York a laughingstock and making the Governor seem like a tin-pot party boss. More recently, Mr. Pataki allowed a vicious, “independently” funded Bush ad to tout the candidate’s environmental record and assail the greener Mr. McCain. Worst of all, Mr. Pataki took an active role in the ugly campaign to smear Mr. McCain as an opponent of breast-cancer funding. News reports indicated that the Bush campaign itself was queasy about the anti-cancer-research charge, but the Pataki operatives insisted, and the lie was spread. To his credit, fellow Republican Rudolph Giuliani declined to join this immature and sleazy gang-up on Mr. McCain.
The candidates have moved on, but the damage to Mr. Pataki is done.
Democrats Swoon for Sharpton
It is a bizarre political courtship ritual that is as deranged and, in the long term, as damaging as George W. Bush’s embrace of the anti-Catholic bigots at Bob Jones University. It has become de rigueur for Democrats in search of New York votes to come calling on Al Sharpton. It’s hard to say what is more disturbing: that would-be Democratic officeholders pay court to a man of Mr. Sharpton’s bigotry and disgraceful ethics, or that they think in so doing they are winning points with New York voters. Among Democratic hopefuls, it seems there is simply no discernment. Whether Al Gore or Bill Bradley or Hillary Clinton, they all come to see Mr. Sharpton, begging for approval from a man with no job, no residence and intimate friendships with the country’s most outspoken anti-Semites.
In early March, Mr. Gore commended Mr. Sharpton for having “spoken into the void of silence that others have left,” while Mr. Bradley said that Mr. Sharpton “has in many cases kept the lid on otherwise dangerous situations.” Are they nuts? Apparently, the Democrats in question have chosen to ignore that, before the fatal fire at Freddy’s Fashion Mart, Mr. Sharpton called a Jewish store owner a “white interloper.” And that Mr. Sharpton has never repudiated the outspoken anti-Semitism of Louis Farrakhan and his henchman Khallid Muhammad.
Furthermore, there is scant evidence that the Democrats’ coziness with Mr. Sharpton actually brings them any votes. But the candidates don’t dare bypass Mr. Sharpton, for fear he will march or protest at their events.
And so the Democrats build up a man who never gets elected, and ignore the opportunity to empower young black pols who would benefit from media exposure. For example, the city’s Congressional delegation includes four African-Americans: Edolphus Towns, Gregory Meeks, Major Owens and Charles Rangel-plus two Puerto Ricans, Jose Serrano and Nydia Velasquez. Yet none of these politicians were given the lead-off question at the Democratic debate at the Apollo Theater. That honor went to Mr. Sharpton. And the Democrats, just as after every dance with Mr. Sharpton, came away with their dignity compromised.