Schumer and Spitzer: Make Nice

When Governor George Pataki and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani commanded starring roles at the Republican National Convention in New York

When Governor George Pataki and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani commanded starring roles at the Republican National Convention in New York a few weeks ago, much was made about their presumed rivalry. It is assumed, not without reason, that the two men have their sights set on lofty goals—and that in pursuit of those goals, they are bound to cross paths and swords.

A good deal less has been written about another made-in–New York rivalry, this one between two Democrats: State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer may be on a collision course in pursuit of Mr. Pataki’s job in 2006. Mr. Spitzer has made no secret about his ambition to become New York’s next Governor. Mr. Schumer has been a good deal more circumspect—but he has done nothing to dampen speculation that after nearly a quarter-century in Washington, he has his gaze fixed on Albany.

If Mr. Schumer does, in fact, decide he’d rather be Governor of New York than a United States Senator—a curious move in any case—you can be sure that Mr. Spitzer won’t simply fold up and choose to run for re-election as Attorney General. Mr. Spitzer is at the top of his game right now, the most famous state Attorney General in the nation, the scourge of Wall Street’s white-collar crooks and thieving C.E.O.’s. It is impossible to imagine that he’d pass up the chance to capitalize on his well-received crusades against corporate chicanery.

And so New Yorkers face the prospect of a battle of the titans in 2006, with Mr. Schumer and Mr. Spitzer facing off against each other in an expensive Democratic primary. On one hand, such a battle would be reminiscent of some of the state Democratic Party’s epic intra-party battles: Daniel Patrick Moynihan against Bella Abzug in the 1976 U.S. Senate campaign; Ed Koch against Mario Cuomo in the 1982 gubernatorial race; Carl McCall against Andrew Cuomo in the 2002 … well, scratch that last one.

While a Schumer-Spitzer primary would be a truly memorable campaign, in reality, the match-up makes no sense. The two men are mainstream New York Democrats—it’s not as though they disagree on many issues. And let’s bear in mind that both are extremely capable public servants. Mr. Schumer is running for re-election this year against just token opposition, certain proof that he is doing his job well. Mr. Spitzer likewise has demonstrated his skill and leadership in an office not known—until recently—as a highly visible platform.

If the Senator and the Attorney General fight each other in 2006, both are certain to emerge bloodied and perhaps even bowed. If Mr. Schumer loses, he would return to Washington bearing the scars of defeat. If Mr. Spitzer loses, he will be out of office, his promising political career cut short.

The two Democrats have some time before the Governor’s race begins in earnest. Maybe they might try talking to each other in person, instead of through hints and leaks in the press.

60 Minutes Meltdown

It’s hard to believe CBS and 60 Minutes would be in the mess they’re in if Don Hewitt were still running the show. But the 81-year-old Mr. Hewitt hadn’t been out of the executive producer’s chair for more than a few months when 60 Minutes, relying on a highly suspect source, broadcast its now-discredited report on George W. Bush’s National Guard service. The blunder was inflated by the fumes of Dan Rather’s arrogance as he stonewalled for almost two weeks, long after reasonable men and women had concluded that CBS had been hoaxed.

Now comes the latest taint on 60 Minutes ’ legacy: Last week, the news magazine announced that it will withhold broadcasting a story critical of the Bush administration’s rationale for the Iraq war until after the Nov. 2 Presidential election. The segment—which reportedly shows how the Bush administration relied on fake documents to claim that Iraq was trying to buy processed uranium from Niger—has been ready to go since Sept. 8. But CBS got cold feet: “We now believe it would be inappropriate to air the report so close to the Presidential election,” said CBS spokeswoman Kelli Edwards.

This can only mean one of two things: The report is full of holes, in which case CBS should never run the story, either before or after the election. Or, more likely, the report is solid and 60 Minutes ’ current executive producer, Jeffrey Fager, is putting the comfort of the Bush administration ahead of 60 Minutes ’ responsibility to its viewers. Indeed, there are indications that CBS is dancing to the tune of a partisan agenda. Sumner Redstone, the chairman of CBS parent company Viacom, recently and crassly announced that he’d be voting for President Bush because “from a Viacom standpoint, the election of a Republican administration is a better deal.” Connect the dots, and one could conclude that Mr. Redstone pressured the CBS power elite to delay the uranium story until his man was safely re-elected. Does anyone think Mr. Redstone would have played the thug with Don Hewitt? And even if Mr. Redstone applied no pressure, his publicly proclaiming his vote for Bush was an absurd, narcissistic gesture.

It’s ironic that CBS, without Don Hewitt, finds itself rapidly losing credibility the week of the Presidential debates. It was Mr. Hewitt who directed the first televised debate in 1960. Last year, CBS made clear to Mr. Hewitt that the network had decided to ease him into a comfortable and dignified retirement, though Mr. Hewitt vigorously insisted he’d prefer to remain at his desk until his last breath. CBS persisted, and is now paying the price.

The Anti-Terror Economy: Helping New York Helps the U.S.A.

The numbers are so lopsided, they sound like a joke: Currently, New York State receives $5.47 per resident in federal anti-terrorism funds, while Wyoming receives $38.31 per resident. As has been amply documented, the dispersal of anti-terror money by Congress has little or nothing to do with real threats and everything to do with pork-barrel politics. The so-called Homeland Security director, Tom Ridge, has turned homeland security into just another government-entitlement program. New York and other high-profile targets such as Washington, D.C., deserve not just a fair share of federal anti-terror money—they deserve most of it.

Thanks in part to the 9/11 commission’s report, Republican leaders of Congress are slowly coming around to see that the funding should be tied to the threat of attack. There’s been talk of creating a panel to determine where the money should go—a bureaucratic approach which drew the ire of Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently on his radio show. “Enough with the panels,” he said. “We’ve had them. We know who is the target.”

The Mayor went on to make the point that more aid to the city would protect the entire country, since New York is the “economic engine of the country, to a great extent.” In other words, with the city now spending $500 million per year on security, higher taxes and fewer services are inevitable, which in turn will impact New York’s ability to service our cultural epicenter. And of course, the repercussions—both symbolic and financial—of another massive terror strike on New York would be felt nationwide.

New Yorkers may be guilty of too often thinking that we live at the center of the universe—but when it comes to the economy, we’re not far off. George Bush should understand that an investment in New York would pay off from Miami to Maui.

Schumer and Spitzer: Make Nice