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I'm Right, You're Wrong

Rick who? New York's dynamic duo dissects Hillary's Boy Scout challenger.

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Jennifer Senior: So Rudy Giuliani's out of the race. Did you call him? What'd you say?

Ed Koch: No, I didn't call him, but I wished him well on my radio program, and I certainly do. It's unfair, frankly, for columnists to keep badgering him about whether he was sincere, because he's made his statement. It's not exactly a mea culpa, but it's in that direction, and he admitted that he had failed in relating to all New Yorkers.

Al D'Amato: I think you're absolutely right. We all should give the mayor the benefit of the doubt. And he will either demonstrate the sincerity of his remarks or not. I don't mean to equate Giuliani with the pope, but it's sort of like when the pope said, "Hey, the church should have recognized what happened to the Jews during the Holocaust," and some people said, "Well, he should have gone further." My God! Give us a break!

J.S.: Senator, you've been gunning for Rick Lazio's candidacy all along. Will you campaign for him?

A.D.: Absolutely. I mean, here's someone who voted for the Brady Bill. Here's someone who is pro-choice, with limitations. He hasn't generated the antagonism that the mayor has within the minority community. And make no mistake: People do look. He has a certain boyish charm.

J.S.: "Boyish charm," "mediagenic" -- are those synonyms for "lightweight"? Does "mediagenic" mean Jack Kennedy or Dan Quayle?

E.K.: His boyish charm and good looks and Boy Scout demeanor lack gravitas and, in fact, will ultimately do him in. Some people will be entranced by it, but I think what people want in a senator is someone who thinks like a senator and looks like a senator and acts like a senator. And boyishness is not that quality. Now Bob Kerrey, for example, is someone who is charming, young-looking, virile, but nevertheless has gravitas.

A.D.: In spite of his boyish charm, Rick Lazio has been in Congress for eight years, and he has compiled an impressive record. On helping people in low-income housing. On voting for welfare reform and tax cuts.

J.S.: Isn't a sweet-tempered, pro-choice Republican Hillary Clinton's worst nightmare?

E.K.: Well, Rick is not an ogre, and he's no arch-right-winger. But there are clear differences in position. Rick is for gun control but not for gun registration. Why should people oppose knowing who's got guns? And abortion: I heard Mike Long say on TV that Rick supports limiting the right of abortion to the first trimester. I think that will dissuade lots of white suburban women who are now opposed to Hillary because she didn't leave Bill Clinton, which they think they would have done -- though God knows whether they would have or not. The guy's such a charmer.

J.S.: Senator, do you have a personal take on Lazio's chances? When you ran for Senate in 1998, people said not to worry about Chuck Schumer; he was just an obscure congressman.

A.D.: Yep. First, I'll go back twenty years ago: I was obscure, a total unknown, only a year older than Mr. Lazio, and I didn't look nearly as good -- he's handsome, and he's got hair. Anyway, I came out and won a primary against a giant, Senator Jacob Javits. Then, with only seven weeks to go, I went on to win the election! Now we fast-forward to Schumer. Less than two years ago, he won a primary that nobody gave him a chance to win, and then, even though he trailed me, even though he was not well known upstate and in the suburbs, he went on to win, again in only seven weeks. So I want to say to those who think there's not enough time -- nonsense!

J.S.: What about this business with Pat Buchanan? The First Lady is trying to make a big to-do out of Lazio's willingness to accept an endorsement from him.

A.D.: It goes to show how desperate Hillary and her team are. Lazio said, "I am running with George Bush. I am not supporting Buchanan, and if he happens to be on the ticket, then -- "

J.S.: But why should he accept his endorsement?

A.D.: Why should he turn down 300,000 votes because a madman may be there? He is not supporting him.

E.K.: It's more than that. Buchanan sometimes talks like a neo-Nazi, and you must not give them support. Hillary took the position of honor.

A.D.: I suggest that that was a position of political expedience. She knew that she couldn't get the endorsement.

E.K.: Rick Lazio confuses independents, meaning people, with the Independence Party. That's how he justifies it. That's ridiculous. These people have a philosophy. They're not independents.

A.D.: They endorsed my opponent last time. I didn't even go to be interviewed by those lowdown you-know-whats!

E.K.: You were brave, and Rick was not.

A.D.: And I lost.

Al D'Amato is a columnist at George.


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