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Crashing Green's Party


There was an implicit threat built into the proposal: If you don't agree to this, I can and perhaps will cause a constitutional crisis in New York. I'll screw up the election in a way that didn't happen during the Civil War, World War I, or World War II. I'll make what should have been your big moment a nightmare.

This was power politics at its most naked. "Rudy is like a master chess player," says one insider who knows him well. "He's the best I've ever seen at having multiple games going on at the same time and anticipating several moves ahead in each game. He's always prepared for all possible outcomes."

One of Green's aides tried to put the best face on it by saying they took the mayor at his word, that he was concerned about easing the transition between administrations. But it must have made Green's blood boil. "These guys may have some weird mutual respect, but they also can't stand each other," says someone who knows both men well. "Remember, when Rudy wanted to run for the Senate, he began an entire movement to alter the city's charter just so Green wouldn't succeed him if he resigned."

There are insiders -- even people close to the mayor -- who believe that he, too, may ultimately suffer if he continues to pursue the idea of a longer stay in office. Though no one has wanted to criticize the mayor publicly -- both for the good of the city and out of respect for the job he's done -- that is beginning to change as the grasping political machinations become more apparent.

"The implication of his people," Green says in his apartment, in a rare moment of anger, "that après moi, le déluge, so insults the democratic process . . ."

And there is even dissension among the mayor's longtime supporters. The story dominating the news now, one insider told me, should not be Rudy trying to position himself to remain mayor. It shouldn't be Rudy's people calling legislators and powerful supporters in the real-estate and business communities -- which they've been doing -- trying to muster the backing. It looks unseemly.

The idea of Giuliani's extending his term was raised within the first days of the terrorist attack. Initially the mayor didn't seem interested. If he had been, he could've directed his people to move faster on the legislative front. Some insiders believe this didn't happen because the mayor thought he would get the new Cabinet post that went to Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge.

"That was never going to happen," says one observer. "First of all, Bush has no great affection for Rudy. Remember, he supported McCain. And besides, why would Bush give that job to someone he wouldn't be able to control? Someone who's probably bigger than he is now?"

If the mayor goes after more time, argues one source close to Giuliani who is against his trying to stay on, it will be a drawn-out process, and the hero's cloak he's been wrapped in will wear thin. Eventually, his numbers will start to drop. He has the opportunity now to go out as the greatest mayor in the city's history, this source says. But it appears that those within his very small inner circle who advocate staying on are winning.

"It is always dangerous for democracy," says another political insider, "when someone tries to engage in charismatic leadership."

Mayor Giuliani is only one obstacle Green has to deal with. The other is a sudden challenge to his appeal in the black community from the loosely knit black-and-Latino coalition that has developed, to everyone's surprise, around Ferrer. The Bronx borough president's campaign is fascinating because it continues to defy the judgments and predictions of the experts.

First, the conventional wisdom said that groveling for Al Sharpton's support was a mistake. It wasn't. Then the chorus emphatically said Ferrer's two-cities argument -- one prosperous, the other suffering -- was divisive and would seriously damage him after the terrorist attack when unity was the order of the day. It didn't. And finally, no one correctly anticipated the commitment of his Latino support, which turned out in force on primary day while Green's Jewish base stayed home in unprecedented numbers.

"This is now a dogfight," says one political veteran. "And race is the real issue. Of course, Mark can't say that. But what you have now is Mark Green and Bill Bratton against Freddy Ferrer and Al Sharpton."

It is yet one more bizarre turn of events in Green's quest for City Hall that after struggling to shake the too-liberal label he should now be matched in a runoff with someone who's attacking him from the left. And, in the face of the extraordinary new challenges confronting the city, that the Democrats would be locked in a good old-fashioned intramural battle of interest groups -- just the kind of skirmish that did so much damage to the Democratic Party back in the eighties.

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