One step followed another with a weary familiarity, like a piece of choreography danced and seen too often.
The unarmed black man, killed by a police bullet, was not in his coffin when New York’s Mayor Rudolph Giuliani released his arrest record. The mayor’s opponent in the Senate race, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has never walked the city’s streets alone, looking over her shoulders for a mugger, may not grasp that he gave New Yorkers their first taste of security and common struggle against crime. She gave him a sermon on divisiveness.
The politicians who make their living on the streets popped out, not selling chewing gum but racial tensions, and so did the flag burners, bottle throwers and drug legalizers but mostly people who are none of the above, just furious at the mayor and the police.
They are black people he should be getting closer to if they let him, instead of mean-mouthing them as if nobody had feelings except him. The sharpness often jumps out of him because everything he has done for this city is rooted in continuing reduction of crime and drugs. When the public finds the police guilty without investigation, and gets away with it, he responds in defense of the cops without investigation, and cannot understand why he does not get away with it.
I voted for Mayor Rudolph Guiliani and got my vote’s worth. He delivered what I wanted for myself and wife the feeling he would concentrate on lowering crime, including drug use and peddling. He delivered the feeling, and the reality.
There is a short, narrow street off Third Avenue that leads to the Triboro Bridge ramp and Long Island. I was always trapped on it by squeegee men tapping a warning on my fender with their metal wipers. Now there are usually none. I call that street Giuliani Liberation Boulevard.
Blacks benefit even more from Giuliani successes against crime than whites, because so many live where crime is highest. He does not have to court Al Sharpton, like so many Democratic politicians running for office. The Giuliani-Sharpton mutual detestation is a medal for the mayor. I think it is too late for him to get many black votes. But for the city’s sake, however he defines reaching out, he should do it. Maybe more blacks and Hispanics will realize their worst enemy is crime, not the city’s chief crime fighter.
If he loses the election because some whites who had supported him walk away in irritation about his red-hot manners, he and they will have delivered all in the state unto years and years of Clintonian sermons. Among Americans who would rejoice at a Giuliani defeat are, of course, those who want to legalize drugs and destroy the drug war. (Hillary Clinton is not repeat, not part of that small but influential segment of society).
The use and sale of illegal narcotics are crimes. The mayor cracks down on them. Naturally, the legalizers can’t stand him. He is a leader in the war against drugs, which they are determined to kill by constantly saying it is already dead, leaping over proof that it is succeeding.
The legalizers and their organizations are almost all white and outside the neighborhoods made hell for parents and children by junkies and their suppliers. Organized opponents of the drug war carefully duck the word “legalization” and use nicey-nice ones like “reform,” “liberalization” and “harm reduction.”
I know legalizers I would not call enemies of society. That makes them even less excusable, because their movement is an enemy. It would multiply the number of addicts, and lift crime in a rocket. Addicts do not usually commit crimes to get money for drugs, but after they use them.
Now legalizers crow because Patrick Desmond, whose death aroused the fury, was killed during a police search for marijuana dealers but had no drugs on him. They say it shows the whole anti-drug war is useless and dead, dead you hear? I do not believe legalizers are stupid enough to believe that line. If they did, George Soros could fold the anti-drug war organizations he funds and put the money to decent use.
But legalizers think they can hit the mayor with their anti-drug war stick. Instead they whack themselves over the head. It is good for a laugh, the stuff of life.
Maybe that might loosen up some blacks and the mayor enough to remember that they have at least two great reachable goals in common for the city and are moving toward them. They are: less drugs, less crime, less and less.
A.M. Rosenthal is the former executive editor of the New York Times.