Jennifer Senior: Greetings, gentlemen. Mr. Mayor, nice tie. Let's start with today's headlines: Dennis Mehiel, Carl McCall's choice for lieutenant governor, fathered two children out of wedlock . . .
Mark Green: It's a speed bump, not a car crash. But it was somewhat distasteful to implausibly and unpersuasively blame Andrew Cuomo's campaign for leaking it, and without any evidence.
J.S.: Mr. Mayor? You look skeptical.
Ed Koch: [Shrugging] Somebody leaked it.
Mark: Ed, it's crazy to think it was the Cuomo camp. Andrew could end up on a ticket with Dennis Mehiel this fall!
Al D'Amato: It doesn't help either Democrat, to be honest. But -- without naming names -- we have seen other men in office in similar situations, and guess what? They've gone on to be re-elected every time. The real concern is, have they taken care of that child? And Mehiel has.
J.S.: What happened to the candidacy of Andrew Cuomo? He seemed to have so much Clintonian potential: big ideas, sex appeal.
Al: It all goes back to the comment he made about Pataki holding Giuliani's coat.
Ed: He now says this was taken out of context. That's what people say when they don't have the courage to admit error. He could have used La Guardia's old line: "When I make a mistake, it's a beaut."
Mark: I love how conventional wisdom shifts with the polls. Until the latest from Quinnipiac, most unbiased commentators would have said that Cuomo was energetic, had a large inventory of ideas, and had made only a few mistakes out of the hundreds of thousands of words he's uttered. McCall is ahead because he's like a Democratic Pataki after 9/11. He's reassuring, he's comforting, and he has a real base among prime Democrats.
Al: I told Mario the other day, "Your son cost me a dinner." Because I bet Ed that Andrew would win. You know what he said? "Well, it's his first race . . . " Can you believe?
Mark: I'd like to make another point. Allow me to attack the press, like my mentor Spiro Agnew: Why isn't the media comparing the records and visions of these two? As usual, horse-race journalism has preempted analysis.
Al: Isn't that the job of the candidates? Why hasn't Cuomo been saying, "You know, my opponent talks about education. He was president of the Board of Education. Show me the scores -- "
Mark: He has.
Al: And on the other side, why hasn't McCall been saying, "Listen, you've been touting what you've done as Housing secretary -- "
Ed: "Show me the housing!"
Mark: Notice how Al has brilliantly squeezed in attacks on both candidates.
Al: [Beaming] I thought that was pretty good.
Mark: It was. But hey, if each trashed the other, the press would say, "Aha! A negative, in-the-gutter campaign."
Ed: That's not in-the-gutter; that's substantive.
J.S.: Speaking of dirty campaigns . . . Bob Torricelli is running for his life in New Jersey. Senator, you've had ethics charges filed against you before. By a person sitting at this very table, in fact . . .
Mark: Ed! You shouldn't have!
Al: Aw [nodding at Green], he's repented. Anyway. It's a tough thing. But I want to tell you something. Don't write him off. Torricelli is a fierce campaigner, and he delivers for his state.
J.S.: And now a question Mr. Green can personally address: Why does Mike Bloomberg want to revise the City Charter so that the public advocate -- once your job -- no longer succeeds the mayor?
Mark: I have no idea. But when he tries, without any public or legal demand, to change a 170-year precedent, it's a fight that does neither him nor the city any service. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Ed: Exactly. He's getting bad political advice.
J.S.: And his proposal to make city elections nonpartisan?
Ed: I'll tell you what Virginia Fields said in her testimony, and it makes sense: If you don't have party affiliation, the party doesn't support you with its funding -- and that harms minorities.
Al: Ugh. No, no, no. When we get into the business of who will be more empowered, whether it be minorities or nonminorities, that is deplorable. That is alien to me.
Mark: Al, it's the basis of the Voting Rights Act!
Al: Listen, in local elections, we should be running nonpartisan. There's no Republican or Democratic way.
Ed: Al, I love you like a brother, but you're all wet.