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

As the messiest election in decades stalls in Florida, our correspondents survey the damage from their banquette at Le Cirque.

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Maer Roshan: A day after the election, it looks like the closest presidential race in U.S. history may end up decided by a bunch of Jewish retirees in Century Village. It's a bad episode of The West Wing.

Al D'Amato: I'm not sure if it's comedy or drama. I mean, a dead guy winning Missouri? Who could make that up?

M.R.: A week ago, you both agreed a dead man would have a better chance of getting elected than Gore had of winning the popular vote.

Al: I was wrong. I honestly thought Bush would win the popular vote and struggle with the Electoral College. But even despite Nader, Gore ran stronger than anyone suspected.

Ed Koch: But if Gore ends up losing, as he still might, it will be his own fault. He ran a very weak campaign, and his biggest mistake was not taking advantage of Bill Clinton, who helped get him there in the first place. Clinton would have been terrific in Florida. Come to think of it, I would have been terrific in Florida, because so many of those people are from New York, and I do very well, regretfully, with retirees in particular. I'm a god in Century Village!

M.R.: How will this affect Nader's political future?

Ed: If there's any justice, he'll go down in history as a guy who screwed the very people and programs he said he believes in, especially the environment. He fanned his ego.

Al: But there's no question he's become a political force who can now demand tremendous concessions from the Democrats. Nader has become the Democratic Buchanan, which is terrible for them! The Republicans had to kiss Buchanan's butt for years! Now he's just the butt of every joke.

Ed: Speaking of jokes, shall we talk about the media coverage of all this? They don't know what to do. You turn on CNN, and they're all gibbering away, not making any sense. I think there should be a rule that if reporters have nothing smart to say, the networks should cut off the mike and play Beethoven. I'd prefer it, and so would the country.

M.R.: You don't have to get snippy about it! Laughter.

Al: I agree with Ed. The media's in such a rush to declare a winner that they don't bother to confirm their data before throwing it on the air. They've lost lots of credibility.

M.R.: It now appears that this election may not be decided for weeks. Is it damaging for the country if this is drawn out for much longer?

Ed: I don't think so. We have a president for two more months. The republic will be safe until then.

Al: I think it's damaging if the two sides attack each other in an arbitrary, nitpicking manner. Gore especially has a lot at stake. If he goes down as a sore loser, he'll ruin any chance of a comeback. But since Gore won the popular vote, even if Bush takes the Electoral College, Gore will walk away a greatly enhanced figure. He'll be like a shadow president.

M.R.: Were you shocked by the margin of Hillary's victory?

Al: In the final days, I thought she'd win, but never by twelve points! Upstate she got 47 percent of the vote! No one would've predicted that.

M.R.: After a series of statewide Republican losses, some believe that Lazio's defeat proves Pataki isn't as popular as he thinks he is.

Al: Nonsense! Pataki is no more responsible for Lazio's loss than he was for mine. The people made a choice. If anybody was a loser, it was Mike Murphy, Rick's campaign consultant. The arrogance! He lost Lazio the election. Rick had a great opportunity to tell people about his accomplishments! Instead, he trusted so-called experts who just beat up Hillary without offering any alternative. I suggested to Lazio's people that they switch tactics, but I'm a has-been. An old shoe! Only you and Ed listen to me. Laughs.

M.R.: Andrew Cuomo claims that Hillary's win was a personal repudiation of Pataki.

Al: The only governor repudiated in recent years is Cuomo Sr.! And if Pataki were lucky enough to draw young Cuomo as an opponent, he'd kick his butt.

M.R.: Let's move on to New Jersey, where Jon Corzine --

Ed: -- proved that anyone can buy an election if they spend $65 million! What an atrocity! I agree with him on the issues, but when you buy an election, even if you're a saint, you belong in hell.

Al: I agree. Though if Corzine hired me as a consultant, I could have saved him $50 million and he'd have won even bigger. I'd have told him, "Corzine, shave your silly beard, and you'll only need to spend $15 million."


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