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I'm Right and You're Wrong

Our resident pundits rally over Hillary's gay appeal, Lazio's lapses, and Gore's charisma deficit.

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Maer Roshan: Just as the furor over the Puerto Rican Day parade was subsiding last week, Lazio's decision to skip Gay Pride ignited a new controversy. Will he regret it?

Ed Koch: Even Lazio's Republican supporters admit it was a foolish decision. But I'll tell you why he did it. His advisers probably told him, "Listen, you're on record as being supportive of gay rights, but you don't have to walk with them. It won't do you very much good upstate. People might think you're gay." And he took their advice, foolishly. Because if gays and lesbians come out in the numbers reflected in the parade, they will be a very powerful voting bloc, and in an election this close they'll make the difference. Hillary got an enormous reception. They'll remember that Lazio didn't even show up.

Al D'Amato: It would have been a far bigger mistake if he broke his commitment upstate. It would have looked like pandering. Every candidate has to make decisions about where to make appearances, and people will always second-guess them.

M.R.: Let's move on to Lazio's other problem last week: hud released a letter in which the congressman demanded federal funding for a nursing home that happened to be owned by a big contributor of his.

A.D.: Desperate charges by a desperate campaign! It's ridiculous! One of the reasons you're sent to Congress is to fight for your constituents. What do they expect you to say? "I'm sorry, I can't help you because you're a supporter of mine?"

E.K.: I agree with Al.

A.D.: Hillary's in deep trouble, and that's why you see her supporters coming after Lazio. Now they're challenging his investments, too. The fact is, she's hardly the one to be throwing stones. People say, "Are you kidding? You're gonna investigate Lazio because he invested $3,000 and made a $13,000 profit? She invested $1,000 and made a $100,000 profit!"

E.K.: My conclusion is, I'd rather have her broker!

M.R.: Speaking of you, Ed, you recently starred in a campaign commercial for Hillary, which prompted Dick Morris to write, "Hillary trots out Ed Koch to do negative ads so she won't have to get her own hands dirty."

E.K.: I happen to like Dick Morris. We're old friends. But I read that and said to myself, "He really hates the Clintons, and it blinds him." I thought Lazio's response to my ad was ridiculous. He starts whining, "Oh, Hillary is trying to smear me."

A.D.: I thought his response was brilliant. Hillary's done nothing but attack.

E.K.: The fact is, every word in my commercial is true. Lazio didn't respond to a single allegation I made. He couldn't.

A.D.: In an era of twenty-second sound bites, it's hard to address everything, Ed.

E.K.: Maybe he should learn to talk a little faster. Laughs

M.R.: Al Gore, meanwhile, is still struggling to address ethical problems of his own.

A.D.: He's in terrible trouble!

E.K.: Gore's real problem is his image. He comes off as Mr. Square; everybody thinks he doesn't have a personality -- but he does, on occasion. He can be warm and very funny, but that doesn't come out. He's put himself into the hands of merchandisers who've just wrung the life out of him.

A.D.: And he has cultivated a reputation as a great bore. Laughs He's lost a lot of momentum by not getting out there. The most important issue, as I see it, is education. And George W. seized that -- he's been moving around the country talking up his plan. Gore just dropped out.

M.R.: How damaging will his fund-raising improprieties prove to be in the long run?

A.D.: That business is old, it's tired, it's not going to defeat Al Gore. I mean, this has been rehashed to death. People are tired of investigations that end up in zilch and are simply there to harass candidates. In the end, this presidential election will come down to: "Do we want change, or do we feel comfortable enough with this man to have him continue?"

M.R.: One recent poll shows Gore trailing by 13 percent.

A.D.: There's still a long way to go. The debates will be tremendously important! Don't forget the last great election, where Dukakis was ahead by seventeen points in August but melted down after the convention. The same thing could happen here. Gore may still have a shot.

E.K.: As long as he doesn't ride around in a tank.

Al D'Amato is a columnist at George.

Ed Koch is a columnist for Newsday.


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