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The Greatest Mayor: “How Would Dinkins Have Done, Had He Come After Giuliani?”

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Cunningham: Can I interrupt? I’m actually a big fan of Mayor Bloomberg. He is not out of touch. There’s a real willingness to try and grapple with some seemingly intractable problems in the current economic climate.

Smith: The consensus I’m hearing is Bloomberg, with an asterisk.

Cunningham: Let’s make sure that we remember that we’re barely one year into another four-year term. I pick Lindsay.

Sharpton: You can say, with some legitimacy, “La Guardia dealt with a depression, and Bloomberg dealt with a terrorist attack.” But they had a lot of help from beyond the city—from the national government and the state government. David Dinkins was dealing with everything from Crown Heights to the Korean-deli boycott on his own. He created a better tone in a city that was very polarized. It cost him his re-election, but without the qualities he had, the city would’ve been much worse off. He doesn’t get credit for Safe Streets, Safe City, but he set a tone that helped to save the city and did things that paid off later on. Dinkins had to weather the storm alone. That’s why I give him a mark up.

Hardt: The great politicians are the people who wake up in the morning and think they should rule the world. Bloomberg thinks everything should be called Bloomberg. And I think that is a healthy impulse for a mayor, even if it’s delusional among the other 8 million New Yorkers. As long as it’s in check. There’s a narrative with a lot of these mayors of wanting a little too much. Bloomberg is very interested in being on Meet the Press right now, but if you start loving your face in the national mirror too much—I’m not saying running for president, but going for some summit somewhere rather than dealing with the problems here, because you’re bored after giving the same speech for nine years—that could be a problem, where people are sitting in this conference room five years from now, saying, “Wow, that’s great Bloomberg did all these great managerial things, but that third term, he didn’t do much.” So I pick La Guardia. He oversaw the city in a transformative time and became the gold standard for all future mayors.

Smith: Why did I expect agreement?

Sharpton: That wouldn’t be New York.


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