Last Friday, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani stunned New Yorkers when he announced his withdrawal from the U.S. Senate against First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. He cited health reasons, specifically his April 27th diagnosis with prostate cancer. [includes rush transcript]
He expressed hopes that his final 18 months in office can be a time of healing. Giuliani, who has been criticized for racial insensitivity, said he regretted the way he had handled the police shooting of Patrick Dosrismond, an unarmed black man. The mayor was asked whether he would change his attitude toward blacks and Hispanics. He replied that “There’s too much group identification in our society, and not enough human identification.” In response to the mayor’s decision, the Reverend Al Sharpton said he doesn’t wish anyone ill health but that he won’t ignore the tears the mayor ignored.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, U.S. Representative Rick Lazio announced that he will run against Clinton in New York’s Senate race. Standing in his high school gym in West Islip, Long Island, he told a crowd that Clinton is no more a new Democrat than a New Yorker.
- Les Payne, editor of Newsday, Long Island’s major daily newspaper.
MAYOR RUDOLPH GUILIANI: I’ve decided that what I should do is to put my health first and that I should devote the focus and attention that I should to running — to being able to figure out the best treatment and not running for office.
AMY GOODMAN: Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York City, holding a news conference on Friday afternoon announcing he’s withdrawing from the US Senate race against First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. He cited health reasons, specifically his April 27th diagnosis with prostate cancer.
Giuliani expressed hopes that his final eighteen months in office can be a time of healing. Giuliani, who has been criticized for racial insensitivity, said he regretted the way he had handled the police shooting of Patrick Dosrismond, an unarmed Haitian American man, security guard who was killed by New York police. The mayor was asked whether he would change his attitude toward blacks and Hispanics. He replied, “There’s too much group identification in our society and not enough human identification.” In response to the mayor’s decision, the Reverend Al Sharpton said he doesn’t wish anyone ill health, but that he won’t ignore the tears the mayor ignored.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, US Representative Rick Lazio announced that he will run against Clinton in New York’s Senate race. Standing in his high school gym in West Islip, Long Island, he told a crowd that Hillary Clinton is no more a new Democrat than a New Yorker.
We’re joined on the telephone right now by Les Payne. He is the editor of Newsday newspaper, which is the main newspaper for Long Islanders, where Rick Lazio comes from. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Les Payne.
LES PAYNE: Good morning.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, what is your reaction to Mayor Giuliani’s announcement? And what do you think are the sort of real causes for why Giuliani is bowing out?
LES PAYNE: Mayor Koch, you know, who is, despite his other faults, you know, has some political insights, wrote a column two months ago at least saying that Giuliani would not end up running. This was before his prostate and before his marital problems were made public. And I think what he had in mind was that this, in Giuliani’s heart of hearts, was not the job for him, you know, the Senate job. It was a stepping stone to what he — the job he really wanted was to be the governor. So I think perhaps, laying aside the marital woes and the prostate, I think in his heart of hearts, he probably didn’t want it. And I think, in my view, I think it gave him an easy way out. But what a hard and pretty heavy load it was for him to get this easy way out.
But having said that, I think what was interesting about, you know, his announcement is, in addition to his — I mean, the good news obviously to some of us is that he’s not going to run for the Senate. The bad news, as you announced, is that he’s going to be the mayor for eighteen more months. He’s promising reform. He’s promising to change his relationship with some minority groups, which I think probably should be taken for the cynical calculation — cynical political calculation that it probably is.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about Mayor Giuliani’s relationship with the black and Latino community, for this national audience? Can you talk about the last year of the killings of unarmed black men in New York City?
LES PAYNE: He — from day one, following — he succeeded, of course, David Dinkins, who was an African American. And he succeeded him by capturing a hardcore bloc of votes in New York City that was against Mayor Dinkins, of course.
But so, for the six-and-a-half years that he’s been mayor, I think that, interestingly, the African American community and Hispanic community have long known that he has not reached out to them, because they did not support him in either election with any enthusiasm, and that it has been terribly eroded, as bad as it was to begin with, with first the — well, starting with the Diallo shooting, the shooting of an unarmed Guinean, African merchant who was shot on his doorstep. I suppose that was fairly well politicized worldwide, and after that, this year in March the shooting to death of Patrick Dorismond, who obviously was unarmed, had said no to a undercover drug agent offering him drugs.
And in the wake of the Dorismond shooting, the Mayor, instead of reaching out to the family, instead of giving — providing information to the mother, instead attacked the victim, who was in his grave not long and released his juvenile records, tried to paint him as a man with a bad temper and who had somehow provoked the shooting that took him to his grave, which was the Mayor at his most mean-spiritedness.
And I think that this final blow, these last two incidents, I think began finally to arouse African Americans to try to organize in a more concerted way to express their disenchantment with the fact that they have been exiled in this city.
By the way, to those who are not really counting, when the Mayor made the point that he admitted at his press conference that he had not had a particularly good relationship with elements of the minority community, it should be noted in New York City, blacks, African Americans and Hispanic constitutes 53% of the population, so we really are talking about the majority of New York City. And if you throw in the Asian community, we’re talking another 7%, so we’re really talking about 60% of New York City, which is so-called minorities that he admits, you know, that he has had a bad relationship with us.
So, essentially, what we see happening here now is — and even some cartoonists and gossip columnists and other straight reporters — Joyce Pernick of the New York Times, for instance, said in her piece yesterday, not a viewpoints piece, but a news analysis piece, that he has had a bad relationship with the minority community, which really is the majority community. So he has been — to the degree that he has been an effective and a good mayor, he has been an effective and a good mayor for 40% of the population that is white, which is to say he has been anti-democratic in that sense, if you add up the numbers.
AMY GOODMAN: There have been some interesting developments over the last weeks. Apparently, privately he said to the mother of Anthony Baez, who was a young man we’ve covered on Democracy Now! quite extensively who was killed by a New York police officer as he was playing ball with his brothers on his own property in the Bronx — he said to her he was sorry, as they were renaming a street in his honor.
And then, in the Patrick Dorismond case, I think it has been misreported generally what he said. He didn’t say he outright apologized for it. He said he thought he — and, you know, and did not apologize for releasing his sealed records as a youth, but instead just said he had been insensitive.
LES PAYNE: Insensitive, yes. Yeah, he said that he should have balanced his reaction. What he did was to defend the police 100%. What he said was he should have balanced that defense of the police by reaching out to the mother, which does not go to the issue of his releasing his police records. You’re absolutely right on that.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, what does this mean, Mayor Giuliani pulling out of the US Senate race, for Hillary Clinton?
LES PAYNE: Well, she’s now faced with Lazio. And Rick Lazio is from Brightwaters, Long Island, which is not exactly the seat of enlightenment, even on Long Island. It is a moderate — basically a moderate, by Long Island standards, district. He won from Tom Downey, who’s a Democrat, eight years ago or seven-and-a-half years ago, Rick Lazio did.
He is a fence-walker. He considers himself a moderate, but I think his record certainly is solidly conservative. He comes from, you know, a middle-of-the-road district, I would call it, but he has been in lockstep with conservative elements. And in terms of Lazio’s voting record, Barney Frank, I think, put it pretty succinctly when he said that as a lot of congressmen and women and senators do, they pad their record, the moderates pad their record so they can in debate, as we saw Rick Lazio on the talk shows yesterday, he can say, “Well, I voted for this, and this is not so bad,” and “I voted for this, you know, and this is kind of a liberal proposal.” They pad their records. When the vote is decided, they will come up and vote for an issue when the issue has already been decided. And so, what Barney Frank said, who is a Democrat from Massachusetts, but who has a good working relationship with Lazio, what he said, that what Rick Lazio has done is that he has padded his record by voting for issues when the issues have been decided. He calls him a ice-in-the-winter voter, which is to say that he will give you ice, Barney Frank said, in the wintertime, but he won’t give it to you in the summertime, when it counts. So I think that if you look at his record, he will be able against Hillary Clinton to claim that he is not a hardcore Newt Gingrich-type conservative, because he has padded his record and hedged his bets, which is not an unknown practice in Congress.
But having said that, I think that he is not to be underestimated. I mean, we are not really talking about a dumb man here. He was a prosecutor for five years. He’s been in the Congress for six, seven-and-a-half years now. He can handle himself speaking and even arguing his record.
But I think what Hillary Clinton now, she faces someone with less negatives than Giuliani. She faces someone who has some political experience. But I think what it turns on, I think there are two things probably important now that she may give some attention to. One, I think, is that, clearly, African Americans, in particular, were going to come out and vote, I think, heavily against Giuliani and therefore for Hillary Clinton. Lazio is more or less an unknown and somewhat of a neutral to them. So I think that the enthusiasm with which African American voters and Latino voters may now come out and vote for Hillary Clinton is an issue that has to be decided.
I think the other issue — I think the key to the race — and I’ve always thought this — is what white women will do. The interesting thing about Hillary Clinton, despite — I mean, a lot of the talk, including the city room, where I work, by men, in particular, saying that the country is fed up with Clinton and the Clintons, and they’re fed up with Hillary Clinton. I think the issue is going to turn on where white women stand on this issue. There has never been a woman senator from the state of New York. And in all the history of the Senate, starting when women got the vote back in 1919, there’s only been twenty-seven women senators. There are now nine out of the hundred in the Senate. So I think if you look and if you weigh, laying aside whatever your feminist position might be, if you stack Lazio up against Hillary Clinton, I think that she does very, very well.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Les Payne, who is editor of Newsday, which is the Long Island and Queens newspaper. And we’re talking about Mayor Giuliani’s announcement in the last few days pulling out of the race against Hillary Clinton. This weekend, Rick Lazio, Congress member from Long Island, held a news conference at his high school, West Islip High School — he now lives in Brightwaters, New York — announcing that he would be running. And a lot of Republicans have lined up behind him. Others have said they won’t run because he will be, and the Republicans see they need to unify in order to take on Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The One Hundred Black Police Officers in — or Black Law Enforcement Officers Who Care, an organization in New York, held a news conference yesterday, Les Payne, saying that if Mayor Giuliani is serious about improving relations with the black and Latino community, the first things he should do is settle lawsuits with the family of Patrick Dorismond and with Abner Louima. What do you think are the possibilities of that?
LES PAYNE: Oh, here they go again, wanting substance. You know, this is symbolic. This was a symbolic and, in my view, empty gesture, you know. And I don’t think you will likely see the kind of substance that would be required, I think, for a number of reasons. One, you know, unfortunately, we, particularly the newspaper business, do our best reporting — and I think it is quite good reporting — when a candidate is running for office. Once he or she gets into office, we kind of fall asleep at the switch and kind of let him — you know, let the candidate or the official work its way out.
It was observed early, when Giuliani was running back in 1989, the New York Times did a piece in which they talked to members of Giuliani’s law firm. And they had concerns. And I think Judge Tyler, who was the head of that firm, said that they had worked with Giuliani as a prosecutor for many years, and they thought that he was ill-suited to become the mayor. And one of the — there was several reasons that they cited. And this goes to his temperament, which I don’t think will change, because we don’t change our temperament. And they have concerns about him, having worked with him for many years, and I think we’ve seen evidence of this. Almost in every crisis, we’ve seen some evidence of one of these flaws that they knew about him and now we have come to know about him.
They said he was authoritarian, Giuliani was. He’s thin-skinned. He’s overzealous. He’s self-righteous, and he is provincial. And I think with or without prostate cancer, he’s going to remain that. I don’t want to be cruel here. And so, I think that in addition to what the Hundred Black Concerned Police Officers submit, in terms of asking for substantive change, I think another thing he might do, for instance, is open up his access to the media, for instance. I mean, the media has been–I mean, our lawyers spend — our libel lawyers at Newsday, and I’m sure at other newspapers, don’t spend their time arguing libel cases so much. They spend most of their time trying to get access to information so they can release it to the public. So I think that — and the public themselves trying to get access, for instance, to City Hall, you know, those barriers. They have bow locks. They have guard gates that have been put up. I mean, inaccessibility, you know, has been the — one of the many negative hallmarks of this administration.
So, yes, I agree with them. I’m sure that every interest group may have — I just stated one of mine as a newspaperman: access to information. The police officers, black police officers, stated theirs. I’m sure that the mother and the parents and relatives of Dorismond and Diallo and others, Baez and others, have their own concerns. But there are — there’s a very, very long line of people in this town, not all of them so-called minorities, who have a very long list of things that a contrite mayor might begin to do to make his administration more democratic, more open, more reflective of the people who live and work in this city.
AMY GOODMAN: And we’ll see if the candidates for Senate have things to say about these issues. I want to thank you very much for being with us, Les Payne, editor of Newsday, also writing a biography of Malcolm X.