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Ed Koch Vs. Al D'Amato:
I'm Right, You're Wrong

New York's pugilistic politicos on Bush's slide, Hillary's rising tide, and W. as media critic.

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Maer Roshan: Bush took a few lumps this week for indiscreetly calling the Times' Adam Clymer an asshole. I'm sure you guys would never speak ill of a journalist.

Ed Koch: The whole thing is ridiculous. I personally have said much worse. It's not like Bush called him a fucking asshole. Laughs.

Al D'Amato: Let's face it -- there isn't one of us in politics who hasn't denigrated reporters. Who can blame us? Sometimes it's hard to believe how dishonest and prejudiced the Fourth Estate can be!

Ed: I completely agree. Some reporters are assholes.

M.R.: Seems to me a journalist isn't doing his job if he isn't called an asshole by a politician at least once. Laughter. The other big issue of the week was Bush's announcement that he'll accept only one of the three official commission debates.

Al: What a horrible mistake. The American people have a right to see Bush in action! If he wants to insist on those two other debates with NBC and CNN, that's his right. But he cannot, without doing political harm to himself, duck out on the commission debates. His advisers are giving him bad advice.

Ed: I agree. Gore has the high road on this one. And ultimately, Bush will be dragged along until he caves.

Al: We're talking about a very close race. If a candidate is perceived as being fearful of appearing before the American people, it's going to hurt him. And in this case it could cost Bush the election.

M.R.: Last Monday's Daily News featured the headline it's gore's to lose.

Al: Not quite. According to the polls, right now Gore and Bush would each get 150-plus delegates in the Electoral College. This race will be fought in just a handful of battle states where the candidates are within seven or eight points of each other. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Georgia, and Florida will determine who becomes the next president.

Ed: But even the Post had to admit that historically, whoever's ahead in the popular vote on Labor Day wins, and Gore is now ahead.

M.R.: How did Gore turn things around? A few weeks ago, you were both going on about how boring and ineffectual he was.

Al: Well, he was boring. But since the conventions, while W. was resting in Texas, Gore was out there pounding the pavement, talking up his programs, and taking shots at Bush. You've got to be on the attack! Bush needs to get out there. If he's got a message, let the people hear it.

Ed: The problem is, he has no message.

Al: No, Ed, he does have a message. When the public saw him, they liked him. But then he retreated.

M.R.: Why? Did he get cocky?

Al: I think that's part of it. I also think Bush really distrusts the media, which is unfortunate. As negative as he may perceive them, they are the only vehicle by which you see the candidate on TV, other than paid ads. He needs to reach out and take some risks.

Ed: The bottom line is that Republicans thought they had an easy win. But Democrats traditionally have the better of the issues, whether it's taxes, Social Security, or health care. When you have these stupid Republicans fighting an increase in the minimum wage, you say to yourself, "Keep it up, fellas."

M.R.: People once predicted the New York Senate race would overshadow the presidential campaign, but these days the candidates have been reduced to debating which of them likes sausage more.

Ed: It's obvious to me that the heart has gone out of the Lazio campaign, and I'm shocked. He's unconsciously thrown in the towel.

Al: Listen, people are tired of the both of them! This whole kielbasa battle is ridiculous. What are they running for? Prom king and homecoming queen? I mean, give me a break! This is painful! People have great reservations about both Hillary and Lazio. We are entitled to a series of serious debates instead of what we're getting.

Ed: I agree. But here's my prediction. The Democrats are going to carry both houses. Hillary will carry New York, and Gore will carry the presidency. It'll be a clean sweep. And you heard it here first.

M.R.: Care to second that?

Al: At one time, I'd have said Ed Koch was taking a fantasy drug -- a Democratic Ecstasy. Now I'd say that his predictions may not be pie in the sky. Republicans have a good chance of retaining the Senate, but the New York Senate race is dead even, which I never would have predicted. I always thought Rick held an advantage. It's now a dead-even race, but Rick can still win it. And yes, George Bush has a lot of work to do, but the race is far from over.

Al D'Amato is a columnist at George. Ed Koch is a columnist at Newsday.


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