Smears, Smears, The Gang’s All Here

Was there a more appalling election-season spectacle than that of Talk editor Tina Brown strolling into Michael Bloomberg’s headquarters and pontificating about what “we” need in the coming years, and how her company’s candidate of convenience could provide it? (By “we,” was she speaking of the needs of the great mass of New Yorkers, most of whom live in the “outer boroughs” and “work” at “jobs” that are not necessarily celebrated in organs like Talk ? If so, one wonders precisely how Ms. Brown was able to divine the needs of such New Yorkers. Perhaps one day she will reveal her methods of investigation in a self-congratulatory piece in her magazine: “Why, just the other day I was speaking with Sean, our driver, who resembles many of the male leads in Miramax movies, and he was complaining about the poor quality of what are called ‘public schools’ in this country. In the spirit of post–Sept. 11, I must add that it is an honour to have such a salt-of-the-earth American labouring for us.”)

Incredibly, yes: There actually was something even more egregious than Ms. Brown’s presumptuous platitudes, which were delivered via an interview with NY1 reporter Dominic Carter. Mr. Carter, incidentally, didn’t think to ask Ms. Brown about the propriety of a magazine editor, a journalist, shilling for a political candidate-an omission that may be explained, but surely not excused, by the knowledge that Ms. Brown does this sort of thing all the time. But what can one expect from a “journalist” who prints the contents of private conversations she’s had with other members of her elite world?

You’re probably thinking that nothing could possibly be more offensive than the preceding tableau. But then it occurs to you: Hold on now, what about the spectacle of Harvey (“I’m the sheriff of this town!”) Weinstein trying to play the role of 21st-century backroom power broker with a Tammany man’s girth but none of his heft? Yes, that was appalling, all right. But, sad to say, Mr. Weinstein’s deplorable politicking still doesn’t measure up to the most reprehensible development of Campaign 2001, that being the smearing of Mark Green as a practitioner of racial politics.

The Reverend Al Sharpton and Bronx Democratic boss Roberto Ramirez, who until Sept. 11 were major players in Fernando Ferrer’s “two New Yorks” strategy, made it clear that they considered Mr. Green’s campaign-if not the candidate himself-to be racist. This grotesque accusation, based on some dumb tactics of a few pro-Green rogues, ought to have died a shameful death long before Election Day. Instead, it stalked the Green campaign and allowed Michael Bloomberg to take the ethnic high road, despite his own racially tinged campaign literature. (Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign sent a leaflet to predominantly white Staten Island and South Brooklyn labeling Mr. Green as a police-bashing liberal who was “No Friend of Ours.” For those who weren’t sure of the point, the word “ours” was underlined. Get it?) On election night, it became clear that rank-and-file Democrats accepted the Ramirez-Sharpton fiction as undeniable fact. Assorted hacks told this newspaper and others that they switched to the Bloomberg side for much the same reason that Mr. Weinstein and his ilk did: They felt Mr. Green hadn’t shown them proper respect.

The difference between Mr. Weinstein and the less celebrated Democrats for Bloomberg is that the latter turned Mr. Green’s aloofness into a racial grievance. They were predominantly Hispanic, soldiers in Mr. Ramirez’s parochial but powerful army. When Mr. Green declined to cut deals with their leaders, they hollered “race.” Mr. Weinstein had no similar charge to make; he abandoned Mr. Green because the Democrat declined to pucker up when Mr. Weinstein bared his bottom. This was interpreted as treachery of the worst sort-evidence that Mr. Green could not be counted on to pimp for Miramax or pretend to consult its machers on all manner of public policy.

Mark Green’s failings as a candidate have received an ample airing since Election Day. He wouldn’t cut deals, he wouldn’t kowtow to political bosses and, yes, he held himself above some of the requisite nitty-gritty of municipal politics.

But none of this has anything to do with race. In fact, Mr. Green’s refusal to make deals with people he came to loathe-i.e., Mr. Ramirez and his friends-shows that he is blind in matters of color, race and ethnicity. He didn’t pander to his critics because they claimed to represent minority groups. He treated them the way he would his white critics or enemies, which is to say, he treated them like dogs.

Now, this may not be the most politic method of winning elective office. In fact, as we’ve seen, it’s a pretty good way of losing elective office. It may have been petty, it may have been short-sighted, but it had nothing to do with race. Shame on those who claim otherwise.

Smears, Smears, The Gang’s All Here