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

With the primaries all but over, New York's prickliest pundits set their sights on the Senate race.

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Maer Roshan: Admit it! Now that it's down to just George W. and Al Gore, aren't you a little disappointed?

Al D'Amato: Sure, a little bit. When McCain started out, he was like Don Quixote, and at one point it looked like he might actually rescue the princess. I was living vicariously through the guy. Personally, I'm glad Bush won in the end, but with the other two gone it's going to be a boring presidential race. The real excitement is the Senate race. A real bloodfest! Everyone shooting! It'll be like the Colosseum in Rome!

Ed Koch: He's right. The presidential race is a bore now. Early on, I believed that McCain and Bradley would both win the primaries. Gore was such a charmless caricature. But Bradley just fell apart. He didn't like the press. I don't even think he liked constituents. After he gave his concession speech, he shook hands with me and said, "Sorry I disappointed you." I was so sad. But he didn't disappoint me; his campaign managers disappointed me! They ran a campaign worse than the one that was run for Al D'Amato last time around.

M.R.: What's the biggest negative Hillary has to overcome?

A.D.: Her phoniness. She's trying to reinvent herself as a New Yorker, and it's a canard on the people. Nobody really believes she was in Chicago cheering for the Yankees. And now she's suddenly discovered her Jewish heritage. Gimme a break! She's a political Dame Edna, masquerading as something she's not. Which is why a lot of traditional Democrats are not there for her. Especially white women of a certain age -- they hate her!

E.K.: Those women -- white, mature women who are upset because Hillary doesn't leave Bill Clinton -- will return to her when they realize that a vote for Rudy undermines abortion rights. Ultimately the right to abortion is more important to them than punishing Hillary. Yes, Rudy supports abortion rights. But Rudy also desperately wants to be president of the United States, and he can't afford to betray his party again like he did when he endorsed Cuomo. So if Bush is elected and sends over a couple of anti-abortion Supreme Court nominees, you better believe Giuliani's gonna vote for them.

A.D.: You're wrong on that, Ed! Giuliani supports partial-birth abortion, which even Moynihan opposes. Trust me, if it ever comes to that vote, Giuliani will say, "I'm not going to support somebody who takes an extreme position that would overturn Roe v. Wade." People don't resent Hillary because she refuses to leave her husband. It's because she plays the victim after watching him run around for twenty years. She's not a victim. She's an enabler!

E.K.: Well, Al, some people believe that marriage -- good or bad -- is forever. And there will be those who admire her for that. You should admire her for that, Al. In person, she's an extraordinarily charming, highly intelligent lady. When she addresses an audience, she doesn't have a note in her hand, and afterward they stand up and cheer. I honestly think that she's going to cream Giuliani. I mean, Rudy can't even get 50 percent against her -- and it's because people realize, though he might be a good mayor, he's a very nasty man.

A.D.: Obviously, he won't ever win Mr. Congeniality. But people say, "Yes, he's overpowering, and he overreacts. But, you know what, he really made things better." He'll win. The only thing that may trip him up is race relations.

E.K.: Absolutely. Minorities are going to come out in full force this time. They've been insulted by the mayor! I don't quarrel with the Diallo jury's decision to acquit the officers. But the mayor has to understand that the minority community -- and much of the white community -- thinks it was an erroneous verdict. Instead of saying, "Let's put it behind us," he says, in effect, "You see? I told you so." It's like pouring gasoline on hot coals.

A.D.: Hey, Hillary wasn't any better. Those who say the mayor lacked sensitivity should take a look at Mrs. Clinton. She rushed in and basically accused the cops of murder.

E.K.: She was wrong. She apologized. He hasn't apologized.

M.R.: What's Rudy's most dangerous vulnerability?

A.D.: He has to overcome the appearance of being indifferent to other people's feelings. If you're in politics, you don't have to agree with everyone, but you have to at least listen.

E.K.: His utter cruelty is his biggest problem: As a child, Rudy probably loved pulling the wings off flies.

A.D.: Ed, even you can't deny that he's been a strong mayor.

E.K.: You don't have to be Pin-ochet to be a strong mayor, Al.


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