Jewish World Review Oct. 4, 2001/ 14 Tishrei, 5762
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- I'D just returned from King's Pharmacy in Tribeca on Sunday morning and was in no mood.
Making the one-block walk isn't so easy: you have to negotiate with an overworked group of cops who've cordoned off Duane St. to pedestrians and show driver's license or passport as well as proof of residence. Once past that hurdle‹a wartime inconvenience that's now routine and that I have no objections to‹I waited on line at the prescription counter where the embattled staff was trying its best to fill orders. King's has no phone service, and has undoubtedly seen business plummet in the WTC aftermath, but the staff is very accommodating and friendly. A woman ahead of me on line was having a devil of a time getting medicine for her baby, understandably distraught that she'd have to shell out cash and send a receipt to her insurance provider.
Making matters worse, most ATMs in the area are "out of service." Such are the conditions my neighbors live in now. And it's much worse south, below Chambers St., which is closer to what TV correspondents call "Ground Zero." People still can't return to their damaged homes on some streets, and the city's bureaucracy, up to its ears in emergencies, hasn't been of much help. Getting back to my apartment, I foolishly read the Boston Globe Online -- for some perverse reason, I'm still following the disastrous Red Sox Season -- and found two articles so galling that I contemplated returning to King's for an economy-sized bottle of Pepto-Bismol.
The lead editorial this past Sunday, written by someone in Boston where there aren't bulldozers hauling away debris, posters of missing people on the city's buildings, and national guard trucks and tanks patrolling the streets, was a real slap in the face. It began: "New York City's ban on amateur photography at the World Trade Center site, however well-intended, is more hurtful than helpful, for it prohibits a form of grieving... Most people making the sad walk to the southern end of Manhattan go as they would go to a tomb or to the ruins of a death camp. They are not tourists but mourners, who feel connected to the people who died, even if not related by blood or friendship."
This simply isn't true, and as a Lower Manhattan resident I resent this lecture from an editorialist several hundred miles away. No one would deny some are true "mourners" who are somberly taking a faraway look at the utter devastation of New York's financial district, but these people are in the minority. The past two weekends, especially, have been a street carnival, with gawkers yakking and laughing, and loading up on sodas and disposable cameras. Just ask the cops posted outside my apartment: they're disgusted.
I skipped op-ed pundit/Democratic Party hand-maiden Thomas Oliphant and logged onto to Globe metro columnist Eileen McNamara's screed against Mayor Giuliani. I understand there's a debate going on about Rudy's political machinations, and I respect the opinions of New Yorkers like Pete Hamill and even Jimmy Breslin on the subject. They live here.
But McNamara ought to butt out and confine herself to Massachusetts' wealth of public corruption.
She writes: "It is an art, knowing when to leave. It is an embarrassment, watching men who will not go... For sheer chutzpah, though, it is hard to beat New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who saw in his city's crisis an unprecedented career opportunity. Last week, he Śasked' the three mayoral candidates to agree to a three-month extension of his tenure at City Hall, arguing that this personal leadership is indispensable to New York's recovery. If they don't comply, Giuliani warned, he just might run for another four-year term in November as a Conservative Party candidate. Never mind that such a decision is not the candidate's to make or that the state's term-limits laws, twice approved by New York voters, prohibit the mayor from seeking a third term. Giuliani said he will have the law repealed, or at least amended."
As the city's residents know, Giuliani can't "have the law repealed"; that's up to the state legislature. As for McNamara's outrageous slur about the Mayor's "unprecedented career opportunity," she can stuff it. I'm not a huge fan of the mercurial Giuliani, but not only was he one of the finest mayors this city's ever had, his nonstop dedication to managing Lower Manhattan's crisis has been extraordinary. There's no doubt that Rudy, when his day comes, will have to present a compelling case to St. Peter to let him roam among the angels, but his actions in the past three weeks have improved his chances of avoiding the fate of burning with the likes of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Osama bin Laden, Arafat, Saddam Hussein and their disciples will have a far worse section of hell carved out.
And by the way, The Washington Post's David Broder, also on Sept. 30, included an e-mailed quote in his column from Ron Lauder, the meddlesome cosmetics heir who financed the term-limits referendum in the first place.
Lauder wrote: "[T]he law should be flexible enough to extend the mayor's term through next year, pushing the mayoral election to November 2002. An extended term would honor the 1 million New Yorkers who voted for term limits and keep Rudy on the job as we start rebuilding."
Meanwhile, the Democratic runoff contest between Mark Green and Fernando Ferrer is becoming very contentious. Ferrer's political savior, Al Sharpton‹and who needs to hear from this nasty piece of work at this juncture?‹outdid his normal fits of demagoguery at a Harlem rally on Saturday. According to Sunday's New York Post, the slimy "reverend," a cut-rate Jesse Jackson if you can stretch your imagination that far, sought to divide the city even as it mourns its dead. He said of Giuliani: "We elected you mayor, not Messiah. You didn't bring us together, our pain brought us together and our decency brought us together. We would have come together if Bozo was the mayor."
Funny, I don't recall Sharpton‹who's always the first to take advantage of a photo-op‹being down at WTC on Sept. 11 like Giuliani was. The Mayor, who barely escaped death himself after the towers fell, doesn't deserve potshots from a scumbag like this.
Besides, whatever Giuliani decides as far as trying to extend his term for three months, or actually running for another four years, it's a dicey political calculation. He said on Saturday: "When you have watched 10 or 12 of the people you really care about die, you've gone to as many funerals that I've gone to...you don't really care about political spin."
I believe him.
Green, another shameless publicity hound, and an awful choice for mayor, has at least sucked in his gut and pointed out the obvious. Yes, he's competing with the myopic Ferrer for the Democratic nomination, but his remarks, as recorded in The New York Times on Sunday, made a lot of sense.
Reporters Adam Nagourney and Dexter Filkins wrote: "Mr. Green mocked Mr. Ferrer's assertion that his work rebuilding the Bronx had prepared him to deal with a crisis of this magnitude. ŚThe planes that attacked the World Trade Center did not attack the Bronx, with all due respect... The Bronx 14 years ago has very little to do with the crisis in downtown Manhattan, New York, and the world now... The terrorists presumably attacked downtown Manhattan because it was both the symbol of America and the heart of financial services in the country. If they attacked downtown Manhattan because it was the heart of financial services, you have to rebuild downtown so it stays the heart of financial services.'
"Mr. Green also aggressively defended his support of Mr. Giuliani's term extension, saying that this is not a normal transition. ŚWhat's different is that we lost 100,000 jobs in a month,' he said. ŚWhat's different is that it's going to cost $40 billion and a year to clean up. What's different is 7,000 are perhaps dead under the rubble a few blocks away.'"
It's not likely Giuliani will prevail in a quest to remain in City Hall for another four years. The city is going to wake up in 10 days and realize one of these creatures‹Green or Ferrer, neither of whom has executive management experience, or a record of success running anything of import‹is going to be the next mayor, either on Jan. 1 or April 1. And at that moment citizens in all five boroughs are going to look up from their cornflakes and late editions of the Times and say to themselves: We are in trouble, we are in big trouble.
I don't hold much stock in polls, and President Bush's stratospheric ratings will inevitably drop as the economy worsens or if the public isn't appeased by having Osama bin Laden's head paraded on a spear at the Rose Garden. But his performance since Sept. 11 has been inspiring and shrewd, especially his counsel that Americans can't expect willy-nilly feelgood bombing just for a morale boost. It's obvious now, even to Gore-backers, that the 2000 election was the most significant since 1960, and I'd say the American people are fortunate indeed that the Democrats didn't successfully hijack Florida from Bush's column.
That said, I do wish he'd relieve press secretary Ari Fleischer of his duties. Bill Maher's dumb comments on Politically Incorrect were intemperate, but he doesn't need a scolding from the likes of Fleischer. (At the same time, the anti-America lobby that is trashing Federal Express for pulling their ads from Maher's show are missing the point: Just as Maher is entitled to his First Amendment rights, advertisers also have the choice to spend money where they see fit.) The media will have to get used to more secrecy from the administration‹who needs the enemy getting bulletins from reporters trying to scoop each other?‹but the Bush White House doesn't need to rub their noses in it.
Also, aside from the airline bailout, which was too large and will only lead to other corporations lining up at the Capitol with their tin cups, Bush has erred in not opening Reagan National Airport. How can the President restore confidence in flying when this hub is closed? Worse still was the announcement that the President, or in his stead a general, will now have the authority to order the shooting down of commercial airplanes if national security is threatened. I don't doubt that such a policy may be necessary in wartime, but such an occurrence is unlikely, and the plan surely could've been confined to the White House and Pentagon. Talk about a disincentive to start traveling again.
And while he's at it, Bush ought to use his popularity to strong-arm
Congress into passing meaningful tax stimulus measures. He can throw a minor
sop to the Democrats‹you choose one‹but marginal tax rates must be reduced
immediately to get investment moving again. And yes, of course a capital
gains tax cut is