The end of the Presidential campaign signaled not the end of the political season, but the beginning of a new cycle of rhetoric, advertisements, spin and back-stabbing.
Welcome to Campaign ’05: The Race for Mayor.
Michael Bloomberg is up for re-election next year, and the Republican businessman turned politician looks strong as he prepares for the new campaign. For the second time in eight years, the city’s Democrats find themselves in the unlikely position of taking on a popular Republican incumbent Mayor. They were unable to unseat Rudolph Giuliani in 1997, when Ruth Messinger just barely beat Al Sharpton-yes, Al Sharpton-in a Democratic primary. She never mounted a serious challenge to Mr. Giuliani, who won re-election in a landslide.
Democrats want to avoid a repeat of that scenario in 2005, but it won’t be easy. Mr. Bloomberg not only is as strong as Mr. Giuliani was in 1997, but he has gobs of money (his own) to spend and has made it clear he’ll part with whatever it takes to win re-election.
A number of Democrats are actively pursuing the party’s nomination, or are being talked about as possible contenders. Council Speaker Gifford Miller and former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer lead the group of active pursuers. City Comptroller William Thompson is among those mentioned as a possible contender. Barring a huge upset, one of these three will be Mr. Bloomberg’s eventual opponent.
Mr. Miller and Mr. Ferrer represent opposite ends of the spectrum. Mr. Ferrer is a veteran of city politics and proved to be a strong vote-getter in 2001, when he finished first in that year’s Democratic primary but wound up losing a runoff (because Mr. Ferrer had less than 40 percent of the primary vote) to Mark Green. Mr. Ferrer is well-positioned to campaign as an outer-borough candidate, a Latino who can talk the talk in Bay Ridge and Staten Island as well as his home borough of the Bronx.
Will voters see Mr. Ferrer as a mature, professional public servant who is ready to cap his career in 2005, or will they see him as a ghost of elections past, a man who has already had his shot at City Hall and lost? If the public sees Mr. Ferrer as washed up, Mr. Miller will be the beneficiary. He is just 35 years old and has been a citywide figure, as Council Speaker, for only three years. Were it not for term limits, which will force him out of the Council, Mr. Miller would surely not be positioning himself for a Mayoral race. He is relatively inexperienced and still has lots to learn about city politics. But if voters are looking for a fresh face, Mr. Miller certainly fits that description.
Mr. Thompson is finishing up his first term as City Comptroller, a job he has performed extremely well. Unlike Mr. Miller and Mr. Ferrer, he has won a citywide race-he was elected Comptroller in 2001. As the highest-ranking African-American elected politician in municipal government, Mr. Thompson would have a strong ethnic base for a Mayoral campaign. Chances are, however, that Mr. Thompson will choose an easy re-election as Comptroller next year rather than give up his post for an uncertain Mayoral campaign.
In some ways, Mr. Thompson would be the strongest Democrat to face Mr. Bloomberg, because of the job he has done as Comptroller and because the city’s African-American voters would turn out in large numbers for him. But most observers figure that the eventual nominee will be either the young newcomer, Mr. Miller, or the tested veteran, Mr. Ferrer.
Mr. Bloomberg has the luxury of watching and waiting while the Democrats try to sort this out.
Kofi and Kojo
For the good of the United Nations, Secretary General Kofi Annan must resign.
The scandal involving his son, Kojo, gets worse, and Mr. Annan’s excuses and explanations are increasingly unbelievable. When it was first revealed that Mr. Annan’s son might have influenced the awarding of a contract to his employer, a Swiss firm called Cotecna Inspection, Mr. Annan insisted that his son was innocent. The contract was part of the infamously corrupt Oil for Food program, which did little to relieve suffering in pre-invasion Iraq and much to benefit Saddam Hussein’s pockets.
More recently, published reports show that Cotecna continued to pay Mr. Annan’s son $2,500 a month for four years after he supposedly left the firm. Those close to Mr. Annan insist he didn’t know about the payments, but that is beside the point. Mr. Annan didn’t cooperate with Congressional investigators who would have uncovered the payments. Besides, he certainly did know that his son worked for Cotecna for several years.
Mr. Annan’s attitude has ruined his credibility. He must share the results of his internal investigations into his son’s connection to Cotecna with Congress. But that will not be enough.
Mr. Annan must provide every assurance-to Iraqi citizens, coalition members and the world-that the rebuilding of Iraq will not be subject to the corruption that infected the Oil for Food program. That requires a full and unfettered investigation, the results of which are beyond taint or question. Until Mr. Annan resigns, that taint and those questions remain.
If you’re a student at Harvard University-or at any other self-respecting institution of higher learning, one hopes-and you plagiarize material, you should expect harsh punishment. At Harvard, the penalty for passing off unattributed research or misusing sources is suspension for at least two semesters and exile from Cambridge.
If you’re a professor at Harvard, however, the penalty is not so severe.
As The Crimson recently noted, Harvard law professors Charles J. Ogletree Jr. and Laurence H. Tribe were forced to apologize recently because they plagiarized material in their books. Neither man, however, was forced to leave the rarefied atmosphere of the Harvard Law School. Indeed, neither suffered any public penalty beyond public embarrassment.
The student editors of The Crimson wondered why the professors got off so easily, while any student found guilty of similarly shoddy scholarship would have paid a severe price indeed. The editors are right to note the double standard, but they ought to appreciate the lesson this episode has taught them.
In the words of a member of the Harvard Class of 1940, John F. Kennedy (or was it Shakespeare? Or Ted Sorenson?): Life is unfair.