Thursday, May 08, 2008


I was amused this morning to see that the Clinton campaign had sent Ed Koch out to do the latest attempted hit on Obama:

As Democrats coalesce around Sen. Barack Obama, one of Hillary Clinton's must outspoken supporters is not mincing words: the party is walking needlessly and unaware into a general election buzzsaw.

"I believe Obama probably will win [the Democratic nomination], although in politics you never ever can count anybody out," said former New York Mayor Ed Koch. "I think Hillary is doing a magnificent job and is a great candidate and if anybody can pull it out, she can. But my honest opinion is, it probably won't happen. And that he will be the candidate and that he will lose." ...

Yeah, Koch is a former mayor of ultra-mega-lefty New York City. Yeah, he's a lifelong Democrat.

But he's a special kind of Democrat.

First, let's talk about Ed Koch and race. Here's a Wall Street Journal article from the time of his last mayoral campaign, when he lost a primary, in a racially divided New York City, to David Dinkins, who would go on to become the city's only African-American mayor:

...In the final days of campaigning, the indefatigable mayor ... has been forced to explain why he has had such poor relations with many in the black community since he was first elected in 1977.

At a Manhattan synagogue late last week, Mr. Koch addressed the question by denying responsibility for the city's racial tensions and asking the audience whether they thought the death of [a] black youth [killed in a white Brooklyn neighborhood], Yusef Hawkins, would have been prevented had Mr. Dinkins been mayor. A few people shook their heads, no.

"That's what they're trying to convey." he said. "It bothers me that there is racial intolerance by whites against blacks, but it also exists by blacks against whites!"

It was vintage Koch to try to be conciliatory but to come across argumentative instead.

..."I don't think Ed is racist but I do think he is insensitive on matters of race," says Felix Rohatyn, the Lazard Freres & Co. investment banker who heads a board overseeing the city's finances.

... he dueled with black leaders over the closing of a Harlem hospital, over whether police had acted brutally against blacks, and over his well-publicized charge that Jews would be "crazy" to vote for Jesse Jackson as president.

"I think Ed saw back then that he could make political capital out of the backlash against the free-spending sixties," said Haskell Ward, a former state department official who served as Mr. Koch's first black deputy mayor until 1979. "He started using code words like attacking 'poverty pimps' and 'poverticians.' But what he was really doing was telling whites he could be tough with the black community." ...

Yeah -- around these parts, he gets the credit for the phrase "poverty pimps."

He's gone back and forth on race -- decades ago he marched for civil rights in the South, and he joined a multiracial coalition in protests against police brutality in the Giuliani era (though this may have been just a result of his distaste for Giuliani).

Koch may be a Democrat, but he's often quite comfortable with the GOP. He invited Ronald Reagan to City Hall in 1980 shortly before that year's presidential election. In 1981 he ran for reelection as a Republican and a Democrat. And in 2004 he endorsed George W. Bush and appeared with Dick Cheney a campaign rally in Florida:

"I would give my life" to protect Cheney, Koch told hundreds of cheering supporters.

"You can depend on him. You can depend on George Bush," the New York Democrat added.

Kerry, Cheney noted, is "a man who will say and do anything if he thinks it will advance his cause."

To give him his due, I'll note that in the summer of 2007 he gave up on the Iraq War -- but that was a few weeks after he wrote,

To those who believe that when America leaves Iraq, Islamic terrorists will be satisfied and stop fighting, I say this: Wake up. The hard truth is that if we leave Iraq, the terrorists will continue their attacks on Americans everywhere, including our homeland. And they will use Iraq as the new base of their terrorist regime.

Oh -- but it was a couple of years after he endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Go digure.

This is my favorite line from his current bloviations:

"I am shocked, without knowing the reason that it is happening, that none of the allegations with the respect of Wright, his former pastor, have had any impact on his polling," said Koch.

Yeah -- this is the guy who just knows Obama can't win -- but he can't figure out why Obama isn't losing already. It's not his theories that are wrong -- it's the damn facts that keep screwing them up!

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