Jennifer Senior: So let’s start with the obvious: Enron. Senator, you spent two years pursuing Whitewater; you know how infuriating it is when someone invokes the term executive privilege. What do you make of Dick Cheney’s refusal to submit the names of the people on his energy task force?
Al D’Amato: Politically, it’s a mistake. Anyone other than Cheney would never have been able to get away with this in the Bush administration. I just hope it doesn’t injure them unfairly or unduly. Because let me tell you, people are going to ask: “What are you hiding?”
Ed Koch: Even if Cheney’s technically correct, it was the most stupid decision he could have made. Those names will ultimately come out.
J.S.: So will this scandal be Chapter 2 of the Bush administration?
Al: No, because the Supreme Court is going to rule in the vice-president’s favor. But I think political pressure is going to build to get the information out. I say: Get it out now.
Ed: Actually, to me, the big shock is Chuck Schumer. Before Bush was even elected, he took over $300,000 from the auditing industry, and – along with eleven other senators – wrote Arthur Levitt, the SEC chairman, demanding he not go forward with proposals limiting the powers of auditing agencies. I hope the senators on the committee have the courage to ask their colleagues why they sent those letters.
J.S.: Mr. Mayor, I see that once again you’re throwing your support behind a high-profile Republican, George Pataki.
Ed: Listen – I’ve supported tens of thousands of Democrats in my life and perhaps two handfuls of Republicans. My support of Pataki is based on the following: (A) I supported him the last time he ran. (B) If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. (C) He’s a mensch. A mensch!
J.S.: Is he beatable?
Ed: Everybody’s beatable. But has Pataki done some extraordinary pirouettes that’ll bring him strong support at the polls? Support that’d ordinarily go to Democrats? You betcha.
Al: He has the Democrats in total con-ster-nation! That legislation he worked out with the hospitals, giving their workers a raise? Brilliant. Now you have Hoffa, head of the Teamsters, saying to Democrats, “How dare you take on the hospital workers union?” I love it.
Ed: I don’t happen to agree with what Pataki did, because they’re depending on federal money that the president himself has said won’t be available, but Al’s right – it was brilliant. And he’s not going to suffer, because everyone supported it.
J.S.: There’s a slightly more mischievous way of looking at Pataki’s popularity, though, right? Which is to wonder whether Democratic values are quietly corrupting the hearts of New York’s Republicans?
Al: Nah, I don’t see it that way. I see the governor recognizing the needs of his constituents. He didn’t wait for Vieques to become a political thing. He saw that many of New York’s Puerto Ricans were upset by it. And the hospital workers – you know what? They’re not the most highly paid people in the world. So he reaches out and forges an agreement.
J.S.: What about our new mayor, though?
Al: Well, he’s throwing one hell of a fund-raiser for Pataki. He and the president will raise about $1.5 million – in 45 minutes! This thing is so popular there are no comp tickets. Rudy is paying. Bloomberg is paying.
Ed: Al, that’s birdseed for him.
J.S.: Are you going, Senator?
Al: Yeah. Costs $25,000 a couple, too. Agghhh. Frowns.
J.S.: And you, Mr. Mayor?
Ed: I’m not in that tax bracket.
J.S.: What will the Democratic primary look like?
Al: Chaos. Nastiness. A wonderful collision. “I didn’t say it – he said it.” Et cetera.
Ed: Much worse than the mayoral runoff. The supporters of both McCall and Cuomo are capable of the vilest tactics.
J.S.: Do you want to be specific?
Ed: Nope. Whatever I come up with, they’ll do worse.
J.S.: Recently, Bloomberg made a blithe remark on his new radio show about firing thousands of staffers. Wasn’t that a bit crass? And a possible glimpse into his true nature?
Ed: No. He was trying to be funny, and humor is not his, uh, top ability.
Al: Listen, you gotta be so careful today when you’re in public office. But don’t worry. He’ll soon become antiseptic. And then he’ll really be boring.
J.S.: Do you think Giuliani screwed him?
Ed: He certainly tried to, filling every position that he could, and even those he couldn’t.
Al: I think Bloomberg will handle those things with no problem at all. This is not a man who’s going to be trifled with.