Jennifer Senior: Gentlemen, as we speak, Bob Torricelli is pulling out of the Senate race.
Alfonse D'Amato: It's obvious the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said, We're not going to put any more money in this race. It comes down to managing your assets.
Mark Green: What a tragic case of self-immolation.
Ed Koch: He is screwing up my column! In my column, I say: Vote for the conservative zealot, not the liar. It was a takeoff on the slogan that Edwin Edwards, the former governor of Louisiana, used in his reelection campaign against David Duke: Vote for the crook, not the bigot.
J.S.: Let's talk about someone else whose ethical breaches might ultimately make a difference: Carl McCall. As the Post reported, he sent Verizon a letter asking for a job for his daughter, and the note pointedly reminded the company how much of its stock the state has in its pension funds.
Ed: It's so outrageous. That letter implicitly said, Remember: I can affect your stock price.
Al: It was certainly ill-advised. But I don't think it's going to make or break the election.
Mark: Two days before that article, the Times had a substantial piece about how the El Paso Corporation gave $40,000, through different subsidiaries, to Governor Pataki -- just when it was seeking permits to build an energy plant near Albany. So you can say that McCall shouldn't have done what he did, but it pales in comparison to tens of millions of dollars in state economic-development funds possibly going, preferentially, to your contributors.
Ed: What? Pataki didn't threaten anyone! By mentioning how many stocks the state has in his control -- that's a threat. Look, I think this is scurrilous. Are you willing to say, Mark, that the governor engaged in an unethical act? Because to raise the issue and not be willing to charge the governor is McCarthyism at its worst.
Mark: Is the Times guilty of McCarthyism? Ed, you're the one who said McCall threatened Verizon unless the company gave his daughter a job --
Ed: It was implicit, I said.
Mark: -- and McCall did no such thing. Threatening Verizon would have been a crime. Are you charging McCall with a crime, Ed?
Al: Aw, it's ridiculous to suggest that raising funds from people who do business with the state is a crime. If you want to change the law, change the law.
Mark: So why doesn't Pataki change the law? He's failed for eight years to enact campaign-finance reform so he can continue milking a corrupt system for contributions. That's a way bigger problem than trying to help your daughter inartfully.
J.S.: Does McCall even have a fighting chance at this point?
Al: Whatever momentum McCall had after the primary is gone. He doesn't have the message or the funds.
Mark: If you gave me a million bucks, I couldn't tell you what Pataki wants to do if given a third term. He's playing out the clock, based on money and Post headlines.
Ed: You know, in 1989, I was the incumbent, and everybody was sending checks. Why? I'd like to think it was because they thought I was a good mayor. Nevertheless, David Dinkins, whom I outspent, beat me. So money is not the overriding issue.
Mark: Ed, you're wrong, and you've made my point. In 1989, you and Dinkins spent comparable amounts, precisely because of a city campaign-finance law that you enacted! Pataki won't enact the same law in New York State.
Ed: [Beaming] It's true! I'm responsible for that law.
J.S.: And you were punished for your integrity. Speaking of integrity: Does the president owe Tom Daschle an apology for accusing the Democrats of being more focused on special interests than on national security?
Ed: Definitely not! And I support the Democratic position, which wants to extend union protections to the men and women who are moving to the Department of Homeland Security! But the president is entitled to a vote on his bill!
Al: I think Senator Lott posed an interesting question: Who's the enemy? The president or Saddam Hussein?
Mark: I think a respected and amiable senator was frustrated that the president is heating up this issue just before the elections.
J.S.: According to a recent poll, only 17 percent of the public is even focused on those elections.
Al: I give a slight edge to the House Republicans, but only because of reapportionment. In the Senate, it's a coin flip.
Ed: I think Senator Daschle endangered his majority with his statements.
Mark: Either way, what's so interesting is that never in modern history have we been as evenly split as in the most recent congressional and presidential elections. Maybe 2004 will break the tie.