- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 28, 1999

Last week, HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo announced that he had taken the unprecedented step of seizing control of $60 million in federal aid to New York City's homeless, having come to the conclusion, he said, that New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani simply could not be trusted to pass out all those many millions fairly. The mayor, Mr. Cuomo charged, had allowed petty politics to jaundice his judgment. And, as Mr. Cuomo put it, "We cannot allow federal funds to be politicized." No, indeed. Mr. Cuomo then followed up his non-politicized statement with an equally non-politicized endorsement of New York Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. Later that same day, his wife, Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, cheered a Democratic Party holiday gathering attended by Mrs. Clinton with a similarly non-politicized announcement of her husband's non-politicized $60 million decision. (The resulting applause was, of course, also non-politicized.)
Who's politicizing what? To be sure, a federal judge ruled in early November that Mr. Giuliani had unfairly blocked funds for Housing Works, an advocacy group once known as ACT-UP, the AIDS group that infamously disrupted church services and other public gatherings. The Giuliani administration contends that its decision to freeze out Housing Works was based not on the group's critiques of City Hall, but rather on the fact that Housing Works still can't account for $500,000 in funds missing from an earlier federal grant dispensed by the city; the judge's ruling is under appeal. When it comes to Mr. Cuomo's big money grab, however, there is no recourse for the City of New York.
"You've got to be, like, living on Mars not to figure out what is going on," said Mr. Giuliani last week. "This is Clinton politics come to New York." The way it works is this: Mr. Cuomo, an informal advisor to Mrs. Clinton, seizes $60 million to dole out directly, dramatically impugning Mr. Giuliani's abilities as an administrator, while recruiting allies for Mrs. Clinton in the upcoming Clinton-Giuliani Senate race, not to mention boosting Mr. Cuomo's personal strengths in the state. And what a coincidental boon to Mr. Cuomo that his former New York HUD director, Bill de Blasio, has just become Mrs. Clinton's campaign manager.
None of which fools Rudy Giuliani. "There's no question that Andrew Cuomo runs a major-league political operation," Mr. Giuliani said following the HUD secretary's announcement. "In essence, he wants to take over and give money to his political operatives to the people who work on Democratic campaigns, support Democratic campaigns."
And how does Mrs. Clinton see it? According to this newspaper's Bill Sammon, Mrs. Clinton actually instructed aides to encourage reporters to ask her about the controversy. (Of course, had reporters not done so on their own volition, they would have been well-advised to seek other avenues of employment.) Clearly, Mrs. Clinton and her aides had devised A Response that they were bursting to impart. So, when asked, on cue, whether Mr. Cuomo's action was politically motivated, this is what Mrs. Clinton, smiling broadly, said: "I know it made the mayor angry. But you know, the mayor always gets angered about things that go on, and I think we ought to keep our focus on what is the best way to deliver the services that people in need in New York City require. I don't have anything to add, other than I can't be responding every time the mayor gets angry, because that's all I would do."
Voila Hillary Rodham Clinton's grand new campaign strategy: Rudy Giuliani is so angry all the time that I don't have to respond to anything he says or does. An outrageous federal power grab takes place, smacking of rank cronyism; Mr. Giuliani boldly and responsibly identifies it for what it is; and Mrs. Clinton patronizes the two-term mayor as being uselessly emotional (the "little woman" in reverse) and altogether undeserving of a serious person's response. Talk about negative campaigning. Did anyone notice how really nasty this strategy is? And did anyone notice that Mrs. Clinton failed to answer the question? That, of course, may be what is most patronizing of all.

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