Jewish World Review Oct. 11, 2001 / 24 Tishrei, 5762

Jules Witcover

Jules Witcover
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Giuliani: Fly in the election ointment -- NEW YORK - Now that Mayor Rudy Giuliani has said he won't try to seek a third term, and now that state and city officials have made clear they won't provide a 90-day extension to his expiring one, New Yorkers can focus on the two actual choices they have in tomorrow's (Oct. 11) Democratic mayoral primary runoff.

But the question remains how Giuliani's late antics to gain a reprieve from private life after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will affect the chances of those two choices - Bronx Borough President Fernando "Freddy" Ferrer and City Public Advocate Mark Green.

Giuliani's unsolicited idea of having the new mayor's inauguration pushed back three months from the legal Jan. 1 date posed a dilemma for Ferrer and Green, as well as for the expected Republican nominee, broadcasting mogul Michael Bloomberg.

Green and Bloomberg, not anxious to buck Giuliani's immense popularity, quickly acceded to the idea. But Ferrer took a political gamble and balked, saying the law was the law, and he was standing on the side of democratic process. "Freddy made a gut call," says David Axelrod, his media consultant, "and we all held our breath to see if the sun would come up the next morning."

It did, when Ferrer was widely applauded for taking a principled position while Green appeared to be caving in to the incumbent mayor. Both Ferrer and Green had been relentless critics of Giuliani before Sept. 11, but afterward fell all over themselves in his praise. Green, however, was judged by New York's tough press corps as having gone too far in expressing willingness to wink at the law to placate New York's man of the hour.

Since then, Green has been trying to scramble back, saying merely that he had been "willing to go along" with a 90-day extension of Giuliani's term "if it was going to help the city." In a subsequent interview, however, Green, known to have a high regard for himself and disliked by many New Yorkers because of it, stubbed his toe again. He observed that had he been mayor on Sept. 11, he believed he would have done as good a job as Giuliani "or better" in handling the crisis.

In a televised debate with Ferrer last week, Green acknowledged that his answer may have been a bit "inartful" but, he told me later, it had come out only because "I knew I was ready to be mayor." It sounded, he said, "more boastful" than he intended.

As for Ferrer, he has sought to placate Giuliani fans by saying he would hope the retiring mayor would be available to help in some capacity and would encourage some of his key city commissioners to stay on to smooth the transition. Green, striving to show his independence, now says having Giuliani on board his administration wouldn't work. "I'm ready to lead the city," he told one labor group. "We can't have a mayor and a half."

Green now emphasizes that it's not a question of who runs the city for the first 90 days of next year, but who runs it for "1,400 days, for 48 months or 96 months"--the latter reflecting his thoughts already for a second term before having won a first.

Many Democrats, including Green, insist that since Giuliani has abandoned his third-term dreams and since his offer of an extension to his term has not been picked up by anybody, the flap over it, and how Green and Ferrer responded, will not be critical in the runoff.

These Democrats say voters will cast their ballots on the real issue since Sept. 11--which man, Ferrer or Green, has the better experience and plan for putting New York back on its feet. Green has unveiled a comprehensive plan leaning heavily on coaxing more money from Washington for the rebuilding. Ferrer says rebuilding must take priority, but needs of the city's poor and a minorities can't be left behind in the process.

Giuliani's larger-than-life presence in coping with the human aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks does, however, make both Ferrer and Green seem smaller for a job that seems to demand, more than ever, a political giant in the mold of Fiorello LaGuardia - or Rudy Giuliani.

Comment on JWR contributor Jules Witcover's column by clicking here.

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10/05/01: Providing your own security
10/01/01: Getting back to 'normal'
09/28/01: Muzzling the Voice Of America
09/26/01: Bush's transformation
09/24/01: Using a tragedy for a federal bailout
09/21/01: A view of tragedy at home from abroad
09/14/01: Script for AlGore's coming-out party
08/31/01: Scandal and privacy in politics
08/24/01: On replacing Helms
08/22/01: Politics takes a summer holiday
08/15/01: The resurfacing of AlGore
08/13/01: You can go home again
08/10/01: Governors' Conference drought
08/08/01: Governors defend their turf
08/06/01: New Bush muscle with congress
08/03/01: America's benign neglect
07/30/01: Where is the fear factor?
07/26/01: Dubya, Nancy Reagan and the Pope
07/23/01: Bush's congressional dilemma
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07/11/01: Finessing election reform
07/09/01: Listening to, and watching, Ashcroft
07/06/01: New comedian in the House (of Representatives)
06/27/01: Spinning Campaign Finance Reform's latest 'headway'
06/25/01: When Dubya says 'the check is in the mail,' you can believe him
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06/20/01: If you can't trust historians, how can you trust history?
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06/13/01: Remembering 'Hubert'
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06/06/01: McCain doth protest too much
06/04/01: Memo to the Bush daughters
05/30/01: Missing in action: Democratic outrage
05/30/01: Honoring World War II vets
05/23/01: Lauding the Nixon pardon
05/21/01: Messin' with McCain
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05/16/01: The level of public sensibility these days
05/14/01: "I am Al Gore. I used to be the next president of the United States"

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