One would not have thought that the Rev. Al Sharpton could command an entire wing of the Democratic Party. But that is what Bruce Teitelbaum, Mayor Giuliani’s campaign manager, would have us believe. This claim could be dismissed as so much extravagant campaign rhetoric, except that Mr. Teitelbaum included in the Sharpton wing such unlikely persons as the City Comptroller, Alan Hevesi, heretofore considered a moderate Democrat from Queens. Because he had the decency and humanity to visit the mother of Patrick Dorismond, thus demonstrating that the institutional city is not as callous and mean as its titular leader, Mr. Hevesi has now been included as one of Mr. Sharpton’s “pals,” to use one of Mr. Teitelbaum’s locutions.
What utter nonsense. It is a measure of the desperation in City Hall that anybody who dares raise an objection to the Mayor’s conduct since the police shooting of Dorismond risks being condemned as Mr. Sharpton’s fellow traveler. And so Mr. Hevesi and other Democrats, most prominently Hillary Rodham Clinton, are dismissed as allies of a man who would not expect a friendly greeting in many outer-borough and suburban neighborhoods, where swing voters live. We can take some comfort in knowing that the Mayor and his mouthpieces would never intentionally attempt to divide the city, especially along racial lines. We know they would never do this because they have told us so, and surely they are honorable people who would not lie about such matters.
The Mayor’s conduct in this affair has left him friendless and alone. Having smeared a dead man who met an untimely end for no good reason, he has inspired disgust from even friendly sources, and merely confirmed the judgments of his political enemies. He appears to be as isolated as Richard Nixon was in 1974-perhaps he is confiding his thoughts to some of the paintings of long-dead civic fathers that line City Hall’s walls. His aides tell reporters, privately of course, that he listens to nobody. Onetime admirers are at a loss to explain his relentless insensitivity; fellow Republicans fear that he has become his own worst enemy at the very time he is trying to persuade upstaters and suburbanites that he has the temperament for the U.S. Senate.
The extent to which Mr. Giuliani’s behavior has alienated even those who have supported him is evident in the pages of the New York Post . When the Mayor decided that Dorismond’s arrest record-please note, it is not a criminal record, as he was never found guilty of anything punishable by more than a summons-ought to be part of the public debate, the Post’s Eric Fettmann offered a pointed rebuttal. The headline of Mr. Fettmann’s piece accused the Mayor of “demonizing the victim.” The caption asked why the Mayor wanted to “smear” Dorismond. Harsh words indeed from a usually friendly source.
Nearly eight years ago, the great Jimmy Breslin dismissed Mr. Giuliani’s candidacy by saying that the city was mean enough-it didn’t need a mean Mayor, too. I thought at the time that Mr. Breslin was being, well, merely Breslinesque. Now, of course, Mr. Breslin (not surprisingly) looks like a prophet.
Would it have been so terrible, so unmanly (at least as the Mayor defines manhood) if Mr. Giuliani offered his regrets to the Dorismond family? Certainly a good many New Yorkers would have regarded such sensitive words as the very least the Mayor could do. And even now, the Mayor could make things right by exhibiting the kind of courage he prides himself on. He could apologize for his smear. But he won’t do it, just as he was incapable of saying anything soothing to a mother who lost a son to a police bullet on Eighth Avenue.
Often in the course of a political campaign, a single event can foil all of the spinning and image-making, revealing a candidate-for better or worse-for what he or she is. Mrs. Clinton’s moment probably has come and gone: By not swatting aside the idea of running for Senate from New York, she showed something of the burning ambition that some regard with such distaste.
Mr. Giuliani’s moment came when he disregarded his own admonitions to withhold judgment and smeared Dorismond, dead at the hands of the police. He stood before the voters who elected him as a mean, cruel man who was willing to have us believe that the dead man may have gotten what he deserved, for he was, in the Mayor’s own words, no altar boy. That this suggests an entirely new category of capital offense seemed beyond his comprehension. He was a prisoner of his essential self; he has no sympathy or compassion; in his world, a man who spent his life punching people-another Mayoral smear-is not a figure worthy of our sympathy.
Mr. Giuliani’s behavior in this matter is absolutely authentic. All the more reason to be horrified.