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Is Washington Ready for Bella Abzug? Is Anybody?

One by one, with obvious distaste, the members said they didn't want Bella. During a fifteen-minute break in the meeting, Bloom began to explain. "The people here don't like her because she beat Farbstein. He was here for fourteen years, the eyes and ears of the district, and we knew him and we liked him and we didn't want a change. Then here comes this woman from the other part of the district—all right, she has a right to run, but why pick on Farbstein?"

The resentment is not as trivial as it might appear. Congressman Leonard Farbstein always was a good vote, as far as New York City was concerned. He was late and tepid on Vietnam, like too many others. But by now, 1970, he is everything you want. And the reformers always ran a man at him in a primary. Yet nobody from the left side of the Democratic party ever has had the guts to take on somebody like James Delaney in Queens, an entrenched old man whose voting record indicates he still firmly supports all of President Hoover's policies. Since Bella has been part of the Democratic party's left almost since it began, she takes some of the blame. Beat Farbstein? Hurray. But does that change the vote in Congress? No.

It is a fair comment. The unfairness comes from people in the Jewish Defense League who have seized on part of a statement Bella made on radio one night, the sense of it being that she didn't see how anybody could rely on Phantom jets to settle Israel's problems when a political settlement was the only sane approach. The Jewish Defense League began to spread the story that Bella Abzug was against giving planes to Israel, and therefore she was against Israel and should be condemned.

"There she is in the purple dress, that's Bella Abzug, she's against Israel," a little guy from the Jewish Defense League began yelling at a rally on the East Side the other night.

Bella grabbed a young guy who had driven her to the meeting. "Hit that bastard in the mouth for me," she said. "I can't do it where people see me."

Another group which does not like Bella is the Liberal party. Which is thoroughly understandable. Bella Abzug is too real a human being for the Liberals to handle. It is a rule of New York politics that any time you see somebody with a weak face, he is from the Liberal party. There are no Liberal party clubhouses in this town, and no Liberal party workers. It is a paper organization which survives through strict adherence to the strategy of its leader, Alex Rose: Sneak and Shnor. The latter word means "beg." Rose, a brilliant sneak, has convinced everybody that it was he, not a little thing called television, which kept John Lindsay in office. Rose, also a brilliant beggar, proceeded to put so many Liberal party people into City Hall jobs that it is obvious why Lindsay's administration too often seems to lack the common day-to-day guts you need in this city. In the campaign in the 19th, the Liberal party spreads the rumor that Bella Abzug is a Communist. In 1948, she was a member of the National Lawyers' Guild. The fact that Arthur Goldberg happened to be a member of the same thing at the same time is unmentioned. And no reference is made to the more important point: who cares about 22 years ago when you are trying to survive today?

"Alex Rose," Bella Abzug spits. Her quite lovely face gets a little hard now. She would like to fight Alex Rose. If the match ever occurs, all of New York will be able to see how fast Alex Rose can run.

And so here she is, pushing, brawling, poking, striding her way toward the Congress of the United States—Mrs. Bella Abzug, daughter of the owner of the Live and Let Live Meat Market on Ninth Avenue in Manhattan. She will win, of course. Farber speaks with a Southern drawl and cries Communist. He is great for Greensboro. Bella could be the best New York candidate in decades.

Bella Abzug campaigns in the mornings at subway stops like the one at Grand and Chrystie Streets on the downtown East Side. The people walk to the subway in the morning sun, a light sweat starting to coat foreheads and darken the armpits of short-sleeved shirts, their stride and breathing changing as they came upon each of those obstacles which, when put together on all the streets, contribute to the harshness of life in this city at this time.


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