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The Mayor's Hard Bargain

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As petty and depressing as that explanation is, it’s also totally in character with the Bush administration’s five-year record of using the specter of terrorism as a political tool, and with its shabby treatment of New York. The short-changing of the city isn’t limited to Homeland Security money (and even when the Feds give the city more dollars, they hamstring the ways Kelly can spend it: DHS regulations limit how much can be used to reimburse the city for overtime, the NYPD’s most significant terrorism-related expense; the recent alert, for instance, cost $1 million).

The subway alert again raises the question of whether Bloomberg is a Republican patsy.

Many of the ways in which Bush and congressional Republicans are wounding the city aren’t especially sexy, but they nevertheless cost New York tens of millions of dollars, and they’re ongoing. “We have a disproportionate number of teaching hospitals in New York City,” says Anthony Weiner, the erstwhile Democratic mayoral candidate who is now back to being a full-time congressman. “And Bill Thomas, the chairman of the Ways and Means committee, who’s a Republican, has targeted teaching hospitals, largely because they’re mainly in urban areas. So the cuts to Medicaid have been disproportionately hitting New York’s teaching hospitals, as are the cutbacks on hospital-reimbursement rates. This is something Bloomberg should understand very well, because of his relationship with Johns Hopkins and his interest in medical research. But he hasn’t done a good job of fighting it.”

The subway-alert episode again raises the question of whether the Republicans are playing the mayor for a patsy. Bush and the party are willing to cash Bloomberg’s millions in checks, use the city as a soundstage, and point to the mayor as an example of the party’s big tent. Yet whether it’s in Congress or in a crisis, Bush and his minions abandon the city. You’d think the administration would be more accomplished at the politics of fear by now: The president hollers “Terrorists!” whenever he’s trapped in a political corner. So during a week in which word leaked that Rove might be indicted for lying about his role in the Valerie Plame affair, and the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers was foundering, Bush suddenly gave a “major speech” about the continuing terrorist menace, larding it with warmed-over details about plots the administration claims to have foiled.

It’s this kind of shamelessness that disturbs the thinking New York Democrats who are planning to vote for Bloomberg in three weeks. They’re grateful for the mayor’s managerial competence, and they don’t see Ferrer offering any new or better ideas. But then they realize that Michael Bloomberg will be the first Republican they’ve ever voted for. And the idea that they’re supporting the party of Bush and Rove, even tangentially or symbolically, leaves them chillier than the endless October rain.

E-mail: Chris_Smith@nymag.com


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