Jennifer Senior: Welcome, gentlemen. I believe you've all met.
Ed Koch: Yes. And I'd like to start. My former congressional colleagues are injuring their party by attacking the president for failing to anticipate 9/11. They're like the people who tried to destroy FDR during World War II by falsely charging him with having lured the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor.
Mark Green: I half agree. The issue can't be "What did Bush know?" but "What did the administration know?" Because it's clear there was a gross failure of U.S. intelligence.
Al D'Amato: But I chaired one of those special committees, and I can tell you, they can really get into the mud. Ken Starr made a total mockery of a serious undertaking.
Mark: You're creating a straw man. If Democrats found a Ken Starr equivalent, then we'd all agree it'd be disgraceful. But if Washington spent $50 million to investigate a president for private sexual misconduct, it's certainly appropriate to spend a tiny fraction of that on a Warren-like commission to ask what went wrong.
Ed: Absolutely. I support a commission. But what's happening now is an attempt to divide the country.
Mark: By whom?
Ed: By Democratic leaders, who're attacking Bush.
Mark: Who's attacking Bush? They're simply saying, "Let's investigate."
Al: No, they aren't. They came out with their guns blazing. They're going to have to modify their position.
Mark: Ed, you say Democrats have a political motive. Do you think that of Hillary, who led the criticism the next day?
Ed: Let me say this: I happen to like Hillary Clinton . . .
Mark: Which is why I asked.
Ed: I helped get her elected, all right? It doesn't mean --
Mark: We both did.
Ed: I was in her commercials. I don't remember you being in her commercials.
Mark: Ed, Ed, I was playing to your vanity.
Ed: Anyway. Doesn't mean that she can't make mistakes. She can ask for an inquiry, but it was the tone: My constituents demand to know . . .
Mark: I don't get it. It's okay for you to say "Let's have an inquiry," but not for Hillary to say "Let's have an inquiry"?
Ed: Tone! Tone! You never heard of tone?
Al: It just goes to show that anything concerning the tragedy of 9/11 has to be handled diplomatically. Speaking of which -- notice how I'm getting us out of this discussion -- we just saw one of the greatest political debacles, with Cuomo's comment about Pataki hanging on to Rudy Giuliani's coat during the World Trade Center tragedy. Until now, I thought Andrew was going to win the primary.
Ed: Now Al thinks he owes me a steak at Peter Luger.
Al: Andrew is toast. I'm the king of foot-in-mouth disease, so I can tell you. In the next series of polls, he'll have dropped ten points, and his unfavorables will be greater than his favorables.
Mark: His point was valid. His metaphor was excessive.
Ed: What? Mark, I believe you have a problem. McCall didn't support you in the way you wanted in the mayoral race, and you haven't forgotten it. I understand that, but --
Mark: Ed often imputes political motives to people who disagree with him.
Ed: That's true.
Mark: What negative things have I said about Carl McCall?
Ed: It's your defense of Andrew Cuomo, which I believe is indefensible. What Andrew said was so dumb it defies explanation. Pataki did exactly what a governor should do. After all, at this table, I'm the only one who's ever been mayor. And I can tell you --
Mark: Wait till the recount!
Ed: Ha. And I can tell you, if the governor tried to usurp the functions of the mayor at that time, there would have been a storm of outrage.
Mark: Cuomo's an old story. Here's a new one: Tom Golisano says he's going to spend up to $75 million -- gee, where have I heard that number before? -- to challenge Pataki in the primary. Al, now that the shoe's on the other foot, what do you think of a rich businessman trying to affect, disrupt, or buy a public election?
Al: This is the United States. If a person wants, he has the right -- even Golisano.
Ed: There should be a constitutional amendment preventing unlimited spending, but he's not going to decide the election.
J.S.: You think? People were very quick to dismiss Bloomberg in the beginning.
Ed: Like me! I told him not to run. But Bloomberg was never in the race to enhance his name. He's the most non-showboat mayor this city has ever had. Golisano is Mr. Showboat. He just wants his name in the papers.
Mark: But you're a little worried.
Al: Look, you'd have to be really stupid not to be a little concerned. But in the fullness of time, Golisano will probably draw equal votes from Democrats and Republicans. So it's a wash.
J.S.: Pataki selected Dora Irizarry, a Latina, to run as attorney general . . .
Mark: It's a smart political move. But no matter how much Pataki tries to be an election-year liberal, Latino Democrats will vote for either McCall or Cuomo, who are authentic liberals.
J.S.: Let's conclude with Bloomberg. He's doing a valiant job trying to close the deficit, but his approach is a bit like that of a CEO: to cut, cut, cut. Is there a point at which he should raise taxes?
Mark: He's turning a problem into a crisis. It was one thing for Bloomberg to say he wouldn't raise taxes when the deficit was $2.8 billion, maybe even $4 billion. But now it's $6 billion. He's dug in his heels, but the ground is shifting. How can he continue to say that those who can least afford it will have service cuts, and those who can most afford it shouldn't sacrifice at all?
Al: But any darn fool can raise taxes. Bloomberg's no fool. He's realistic. He knows proposals to raise taxes would be dead on arrival in Albany.
Mark: But then what he's saying is that politicians are cowards because they won't do what's necessary in an election year. If there's an emergency in an election year, we're supposed to wait?
Ed: Well, Mark will feel vindicated by my statement: I'm not opposed to considering taxes at this point.
Mark: I'm pleased that Ed has joined the Working Families Party, acorn, and me in coming to this realization.
Ed: The difference is, I am not an ideologue. I call it like I see it.
Mark: Well, I want to thank my new colleagues for indulging my Brandeis-like dissents. I hope we make up in readership what we may lack in conviviality.