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

Our resident pundits rate the debates, size up Al Sharpton, and sound off on the fighting in Israel.

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Maer Roshan: Well, the long-awaited first debate is finally over. But no one seems sure who won.

Al D'Amato: Well, there was no winner. George W. should have fleshed out his thoughts a little more, and Gore shouldn't have done all that mugging. But I think people will come away feeling they're both up to the job. I don't think Gore's off-camera antics helped him any. What a whiner!

Ed Koch: These things are not too important. When I ran for mayor against Cuomo in '77, he was a much better debater than I was and I still beat him. I think Gore was clearly the better debater. But Bush seemed a nicer person.

M.R.: As a piece of political theater, though, it was a pretty big bore, wasn't it?

Al: It certainly had nothing on the Hillary-Lazio debate. That had real excitement. But no, there was nothing scintillating about this debate!

M.R.: Let's turn now to Israel. Both Hillary and Lazio have condemned Arafat for encouraging the violence there. But doesn't Ariel Sharon deserve blame as well?

Ed: No! The people attacking Sharon are absolutely wrong! He is a citizen of the State of Israel. He has a right to go to the Temple Mount. To blame him for the rioting is an outrage. The Muslims didn't riot when he was there. After he left, they threw stones at the Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall. Sharon had an absolute right to go to the Temple Mount. He is chairman of the largest party in Israel, the Likud. He can go anywhere he wants.

M.R.: You also have a right to put on a white sheet and march around Harlem. But if you get your ass kicked, you can't really complain about it.

Ed: Oh, yes, you can complain about it. The cops have to be there to protect you and they were there to protect him. In 1991, I went to Israel. I walked to the Western Wall and I was struck by a stone thrown by an Arab that caused me nine stitches in my head. Someone said, "Let's go to the hospital." Because I was bleeding a lot. I said, "We're not going to let these bastards prevent me from going to the Wall. After I go to the Wall I'll go to the hospital."

Al: Sharon wanted to demonstrate that Israel and its citizens were going to exercise their right to pray in this holy place. He wanted it clearly understood that they weren't going to sacrifice that right.

M.R.: The Palestinians still harbor a lot of animosity toward Sharon because they blame him for the massacres at Sabra and Shatilla.

Ed: I happen to be a friend of Sharon's, and I don't think he's massacred anybody. The fact that Muslims killed hundreds of Christian Arabs who then took revenge against the Muslims was not Sharon's fault. The blame here lies with Palestinians who tell youngsters that if they kill a Jew, they'll go to Heaven. What's distressing is that the State Department is urging a censure of Israel, as has been proposed by some European countries. If Bill Clinton caves in, I guarantee Hillary will lose 85 percent of her Jewish support.

Al: Look at what's going on. You have hundreds of young people throwing rocks, Molotov cocktails. None of that could take place if Arafat stepped in. He has absolute control over there. Instead of enforcing peace, he's encouraging violence and using it as a P.R. opportunity.

M.R.: Let's turn to a slightly less loaded topic -- city politics.

Al: Yeah. The mayoral race will be wonderful! Al Sharpton will emerge as kingmaker. He'll get a significant portion of the vote, enough to deny any other candidate 40 percent. He's Mark Green's worst nightmare.

Ed: Sharpton invited me to his birthday party last week. I reminded him that he has promised for more than a year to apologize for the Tawana Brawley fiasco, and for his statements that were anti-Semitic and anti-white. While I don't think he is either anti-Semitic or anti-white, he had to apologize for what he said. I told him, "You've failed to keep your promise, so I'm not coming to your birthday."

M.R.: How did he respond?

Ed: He hasn't yet.

M.R.: Finally and inevitably, Rudy. Word is the mayor is shopping around a new book. How do you think the two of you will come off?

Al: Not well! Laughter.

Ed: I don't know. Remember, Rudy couldn't have been elected the first time without my support. I was one of four people who made the difference. Since then we've had tense moments. But I've always said my beef with him is on policy, so I don't think he'll stoop to personal attacks.

M.R.: This is coming from a guy who wrote a book called Giuliani: Nasty Man?

Ed: Oh, I forgot about that.

Al: You better change your answer, Ed. As I said before, neither of us is gonna come out too well.


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