Jennifer Senior: Happy New Year, gentlemen. Shall we start by discussing our new mayor? He seems to have abandoned all of Giuliani's grand plans -- using the World Trade Center site primarily as a memorial, building new baseball stadiums . . .
Ed Koch: Well, it shows that Mike Bloomberg entered City Hall without commitments to others, and that's what we need at the moment. Someone unencumbered.
Al D'Amato: This is not because he doesn't like George Steinbrenner or Fred Wilpon. In fact, he has good relationships with them. And he didn't say never. He said, "Not now."
Ed: George Steinbrenner. There's a guy who'd take a bone away from a dog. He paid CBS $10 million for his franchise. Now it's worth $700 million --
Al: More than that.
Ed: -- and he's asking the city to give him a subsidy.
J.S.: Has Bloomberg pulled a bait-and-switch by hiring so many Democrats?
Al: Well, there wouldn't be one Republican if Mark Green had been elected, and the truth is, Democrats are the people who work in New York City government. But I think he's going to be nonpartisan.
J.S.: He has some tough choices ahead of him. What should he cut first?
Ed: The rule of good government is you don't just cut across the board. There are very important programs and less important ones. When the Post and Daily News cry, "Cut the fat," it's crazy. There isn't any fat left. Whatever we cut now is sinew. Muscle. Flesh.
J.S.: Recently, the Post said hands off our heroes, warning Bloomberg not to cut the budgets of the Police and Fire Departments.
Ed: Ridiculous. Cops and teachers and firefighters constitute more than half the people who work for the city. He's gotta do it. Another thing Mike should be moving on, and isn't at the moment, is the commuter tax. When the firefighters and the cops and the emergency personnel ran into the Twin Towers, they didn't ask: "Who's a commuter? You're staying. You're a resident? I'm taking you with me."
Al: Ain't no way. That's just the kind of thing that would keep a company from saying, "Yeah, we'll relocate to New York."
J.S.: What will the first battle royal be?
Ed: Bloomberg should form a bipartisan committee made up of people not in office, like Senator D'Amato and Congressman Floyd Flake, who'll say they're going to support the opponent -- without regard to party -- of every city legislator who votes against giving him authority to run the city's schools.
J.S.: Talk to me about some of Bloomberg's quirks. His private life --
Al: I knew you were going to ask about his girlfriend. She's very nice. And very talented.
J.S.: Actually, I was going to ask if he's obliged to talk about his private life. Is he allowed to simply vanish for a weekend and not tell us where he went?
Ed: Yes. It's none of your fucking business.
J.S.: Turning to Washington . . . Senate Democrats are valiantly attempting to make political hay of Bush's stimulus package. Is it working?
Ed: I think Daschle is afraid to say what Democrats really want, which is "rescind the tax cut." I'm for rescinding it.
Al: Aw, rolling back the tax cut is ridiculous. Our problem isn't the deficit. It's moving the economy forward. But I will say this: I don't know what my Republican friends are thinking when they propose giving tax cuts to corporations retroactively. Give them prospectively.
Ed: It's still the old trickle-down theory. Using that logic, it was very unfair of the Republicans not to give the poorest people, who don't pay income tax but do pay fica, their $300. It's those people who'll spend the money. But the Republicans don't give a rat's tail for poor people.
Al: Please, Ed. If you provide incentives for businesses -- like a tax credit for every new employee that you hire -- that's not trickle-down. That's creating jobs. You know what I think? I think Bush is doing such a tremendous job that Democrats feel they have to find something to criticize.
Ed: Hey, if Bush were running tomorrow, I'd vote for him. I don't agree with a lot of things he stands for, but he's done nothing he didn't say he'd do. On the war against terrorists and the countries that harbor them, he's been magnificent.
J.S.: Do Democrats have any shot at all of unseating him?
Ed: Well, you can never say never. Look at what happened to his father.
Al: Can't argue with that.