Commentary Magazine


Topic: Bill de Blasio

The Democratic Civil War in New York

The once private and plausibly deniable feud between fellow Empire State Democrats Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has spilled out into the public square. The battle for the soul and the future of the Democratic Party in New York City has attracted national attention, and both figures are coming to represent camps within the party that will shape its future. The ultimate outcome of this internecine clash could have far-reaching implications for the future of a Democratic Party that is struggling to determine its course in the post-Obama era: will it moderate or continue to drift leftward at an ever accelerating pace.  Read More

The once private and plausibly deniable feud between fellow Empire State Democrats Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has spilled out into the public square. The battle for the soul and the future of the Democratic Party in New York City has attracted national attention, and both figures are coming to represent camps within the party that will shape its future. The ultimate outcome of this internecine clash could have far-reaching implications for the future of a Democratic Party that is struggling to determine its course in the post-Obama era: will it moderate or continue to drift leftward at an ever accelerating pace. 

The drama unfolding between Cuomo and de Blasio has all the hallmarks of a Shakespearean tragedy, particularly within the context of the 2016 presidential race. Both Democrats came up under the wing of Hillary Clinton; de Blasio served as her campaign manager during her 2000 U.S. Senate run in New York State and governor, scion of the dynasty Cuomo, was among her most prominent (and controversial, at times) backers during the caustic 2008 Democratic presidential primary. “This will be the best relationship between a mayor and governor in modern political history,” the governor declared in February. Surely he was surprised by the enmity that has come to characterize their relationship.

While Cuomo flirted with making a break with the prohibitive Democratic nominee as recently as early last year, he declined to challenge her for the Democratic nomination and has positioned himself as loyal party man. De Blasio, by contrast, embraced the role as liberal foil to and thorn in the side of Hillary Clinton. The limelight-seeking, self-described champion of progressive politics in Gracie Mansion soon began to clash with his state’s governor, but the tensions have only increased as the fissure separating the Democratic Party’s moderates from its radical progressives has grown into a chasm.

By the summer of 2015, these two former allies were very publicly at each other’s throats. The New York Times blamed legislative inaction in Albany on the growing feud between the two figures, and quoted one connected Democratic figure who contended that the activist mayor’s “mission-driven” style clashed with Albany’s culture of transactional politics. “[A]llies of the mayor argue that Mr. Cuomo’s behavior went beyond the usual hardball tactics and entered the realm of the vindictive, even the irrational,” the Times reported, noting that the arrest of the two most powerful lawmakers in New York on corruption charges sapped the governor of much of his political capital.

At a speech in April, the governor seemed to invite officials outside of Albany, including the real-estate industry, to work out their own plan for 421-a, the tax incentive program to encourage developers to create affordable housing that was set to expire this year. Mr. de Blasio did just that, surprising some supporters by proposing a compromise plan supported by the Real Estate Board of New York, a traditional Cuomo ally. (The mayor was willing to give tax breaks to developers in exchange for a tax on some pricey apartment sales.)

Mr. Cuomo responded with claws out: Rather than welcome the plan, he attacked the liberal mayor as a turncoat to the left, saying the plan was a giveaway to real estate and a betrayal of union labor. (Mr. de Blasio called that attack “disingenuous.”)

By the end of June, Gov. Cuomo was taking the extraordinary step of providing to reporters anonymous quotes accusing Mayor de Blasio of carelessly souring his relationship with Albany and imperiling the city he runs. “He is more politically oriented in terms of his approach … and then he makes it almost impossible for him to achieve success,” an “anonymous Cuomo official” told the New York Daily News. That anonymous official was likely the governor himself.

De Blasio has not played the shrinking violet in his confrontation with the governor. In July, the progressive firebrand who had sought tougher rent stabilization measures and an overhaul of tax breaks for real estate developers than what passed out of Albany said Cuomo had “disappointed at every turn.”

“I started a year and a half ago with the hope of a very strong partnership,” de Blasio told NY1 reporters. “What we’ve often seen is if someone disagrees with him openly, some kind of revenge or vendetta follows.”

Some might dismiss this dynamic as just more of New York state’s famously esoteric politics; an almost naturally occurring facet of the tensions that have arisen between upstate and downstate Democrats since Franklin Delano Roosevelt began to wrest control of his party away from Al Smith, if not earlier. But the public’s response to this increasingly personal dispute is indicative of a dynamic that might have broader implications.

When Sienna College asked New Yorkers if they counted themselves members of Cuomo’s or de Blasio’s camp, a solid plurality of the state’s voters said they backed the state’s governor. “Statewide, by a two-to-one margin voters say Cuomo is more effective than New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and a plurality says Cuomo is more trustworthy and his political beliefs are closer to theirs,” read a summary of Sienna’s findings. By 39 to 28 percent, New York residents chose Cuomo over de Blasio despite the governor’s precipitously declining job approval and favorability ratings.

The exception was, perhaps expectedly, in New York City where a narrow plurality of city residents backed their mayor over the governor. In the city, de Blasio is still viewed positively by nearly 60 percent of respondents. Outside the boroughs, however, de Blasio’s popularity has plummeted. “De Blasio has a negative 37-43 percent favorability rating statewide, down sharply from 41-27 percent in November 2013, immediately after his election,” Sienna College pollster Steven Greenberg revealed.

Among Democrats, an old source of family tensions is again spilling out into the streets. Urban versus rural; radicalism versus gradualism; progressive versus conservative — many of these conflicts date back to the turn of the 20th Century. Cuomo, a figure who inspires little love and is viewed as a scheming fixer, still maintains the support of the public over the upstart, idealistic demagogue. It’s a dynamic similar to that which is playing out on the national stage as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton fends off a surprisingly robust challenge from  Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders who is casting himself as an uncompromising populist demagogue. And, as is the case in New York, the outcome of the presidential primary is likely to be the same; through gritted teeth, perhaps, Democrats will cast their vote for unloved administrative competence over aspiration and admiration.

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Last Gasp in Paris

Writing in Hypervocal in March, Havas Media’s Tom Goodwin opened with a jarring observation. “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles,” he wrote. “Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.” The old ways that are not already dead are dying. Those organisms that thrived in a bygone period must evolve or go extinct. But rather than go gentle, those who were for so long coddled by a state that insulated them from life’s harsher realities have opted to rage violently in response to their suddenly suboptimal circumstances. Read More

Writing in Hypervocal in March, Havas Media’s Tom Goodwin opened with a jarring observation. “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles,” he wrote. “Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.” The old ways that are not already dead are dying. Those organisms that thrived in a bygone period must evolve or go extinct. But rather than go gentle, those who were for so long coddled by a state that insulated them from life’s harsher realities have opted to rage violently in response to their suddenly suboptimal circumstances.

The West Bank of the Seine more closely resembled the West Bank of the Jordan this week when hundreds of masked protesters took the streets of Paris intent on engaging in violence. Rioters burned tires, flipped over cars, attacked passersby, and barricaded roads leading to Charles de Gaulle Airport. Those cars that remained in the roads were pelted from overpasses with potentially deadly projectiles. “[T]hey’ve ambushed our car and are holding our driver hostage. They’re beating the cars with metal bats,” Tweeted a distraught Courtney Love who was caught up in the chaos. “[T]his is France?? I’m safer in Baghdad.”

Surely, these were members of the disaffected underclass raging against imperialism, inequality, institutional racism, or any of the other phantoms that haunt the left’s collective imagination? Not quite. These were taxi drivers, members of the Collectif des Taxis Parisiens union, in fact. They were reacting with violence to the entry of Uber Technologies vehicles into a marketplace in which they had once enjoyed a monopoly. What’s more, their grievance was not with a government that is unduly accommodating toward Uber. President Francois Hollande’s administration has gone out of its way to limit Uber’s freedom of action in France by making it harder for non-union drivers to operate a taxi service. They were rioting because the government has not banned the service outright.

“The government will never accept the law of the jungle,” Hollande told his fellow Frenchman in a televised address on Thursday night. But, of course, the jungle won out in the end. The country’s interior minister soon banned the use of the driving service inside Paris city limits. “France ordered a nationwide clampdown on UberPOP [the mobile application’s European version] on Thursday, siding with taxi drivers who blockaded major transport hubs in angry protests against the popular online ride-sharing service, Reuters reported. “[Hollande] also ordered local police chiefs and prosecutors to clamp down on what he said was a failure by Uber to pay social and tax charges in France.”

The mob’s veto once again carried the day, although the French president’s refusal to banish the service from his country entirely will continue to agitate the aspiring totalitarians terrorizing Parisian streets.

“The escalating fight in France comes as Uber is facing regulatory opposition in markets across the world,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “Courts in Spain, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands have banned UberPOP. Earlier this week, Indonesian police said they had opened an investigation into the firm.”

Such a childish outburst of violence from modernity’s losers might seem unthinkable in the United States, but there are those in positions of authority here who are equally indebted to unions and would forestall the unpleasant effects of consumers’ choices on their privileged constituents. In May, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the self-styled champion of all that represents progress, moved to block Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft Inc., and other firms that would steal business from the city’s livery union and car-for-hire companies from innovating at their current pace. His proposal would force these firms to request and obtain city approval each time they update their mobile applications, and to pay the city $1,000 for the privilege each time they do so.

In an Orwellian twist, Ira Goldstein, executive director of the Black Car Assistance Corp., told Bloomberg News that the proposed rule would “help level the playing field” against the upstart competitor that has only secured roughly 20 percent of hired driver business in New York City.

“We now have a clear choice as to how our future will look: Will it resemble the taxi commissions and the labor unions and the government departments that were founded in the 1930s, or will it resemble Silicon Valley?” National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke asked last month. The choice is, unfortunately, far more stark. The Uber genie can no more be put back in the bottle than can the splitting of the atom. Uber’s business model, as well as that of firms like Alibaba, Facebook, and Airbnb, is self-evidently viable; it cannot be done away with but through state-sponsored coercion or the invention of the better mousetrap. The latter is anathema to the Parisian rioters and their sympathizers, so it must be the former. But history suggests that innovation in a free society can only be temporarily contained. In Paris, two incompatible creatures are competing with one another over the same space, and one is far more adapted to the present environment than the other. The ultimate outcome of this brutal Darwinian arithmetic can only be forestalled for so long.

Even in nations like France, where cradle-to-grave entitlements and freedom from laborious exertion is perceived as a birthright, this clash could not be prevented forever. The choice ahead of Americans might not be between Silicon Valley or the Tennessee Valley but civilization and Paris.

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The Small Man in Gracie Mansion

If Vox.com were granted the divine power to craft their perfect politician from scratch, the famously self-assured liberal website could still not have conceived of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. A little man somehow occupying a grand office, the mayor occupies himself with every manner of minutia and frivolities – all of which he appears to think are of more importance than managing the affairs of the city he was elected to govern. Read More

If Vox.com were granted the divine power to craft their perfect politician from scratch, the famously self-assured liberal website could still not have conceived of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. A little man somehow occupying a grand office, the mayor occupies himself with every manner of minutia and frivolities – all of which he appears to think are of more importance than managing the affairs of the city he was elected to govern.The progressive’s progressive, de Blasio wages a relentless war on progress. The latest front in the battle to contain the excesses of innovation comes in the form of the mayor’s determination to regulate the competing ride-hailing services Lyft and Uber. In a gift to the city’s Paleolithic livery drivers’ union, de Blasio has proposed compelling these services to cough up $1,000 to the city in order to get approval to upgrade the user interface on their smartphone applications. The proposal is a stab at the heart of these services’ ability to innovate. What is today a process that develops at the speed of thought and ingenuity would, under the mayor’s proposal, become a draconian slog through a bureaucratic morass.

And what problem is the mayor addressing? Only something as comparatively trivial as political constituency maintenance. “The spat puts de Blasio in the middle of a fight between the technology industry, which accounts for about 300,000 jobs and $30 billion in yearly wages, and cab companies that contributed more than $500,000 of the $10.6 million he raised in his campaign,” Bloomberg reported. The aim is not to help the majority of New York City residents make use of this service, but to prevent them from accessing it.

“I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: The Bill de Blasios of the world are now The Man; the Ubers and Lyfts of the world are the rebels,” National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke opined. “We now have a clear choice as to how our future will look: Will it resemble the taxi commissions and the labor unions and the government departments that were founded in the 1930s, or will it resemble Silicon Valley?”

But that’s not the only minor irritation presently consuming parochial liberal bloggers that New York City is compelled to address. A report in the website Gothamist revealed that the latest paranoid fad of the feminist left has actually become something of a policing priority. The Police Reform Organizing Project revealed recently that the NYPD recently arrested two men for the crime of “man spreading,” or the scourge of men failing to demurely close their knees, while riding on the subway.

“On a recent visit to the arraignment part in Brooklyn’s criminal court, PROP volunteers observed that police officers had arrested two Latino men on the charge of ‘man spreading’ on the subway, presumably because they were taking up more than one seat and therefore inconveniencing other riders,” the organization’s report read. “Before issuing an [adjournment contemplating dismissal] for both men, the judge expressed her skepticism about the charge because of the time of the arrests: ‘12:11AM, I can’t believe there were many people on the subway’”

The trivialities that serve as prohibitive preoccupations for outrage-stoking Jezebel bloggers are now the subject of quality of life policing. All the while, actual quality of life policing cannot be performed, lest the city and its police force be accused by those same peevish scribes of some or another form of racism, classism, or “hobophobia.”

A source of graver concern for this mayor should be the spiking homicide rate; a statistic on the rise not merely in the outer boroughs alone. “Murders are way up so far this year in Manhattan,” the New York Post reported this week. “Sixteen people were killed around the borough between the first of the year and Sunday. Over the same period last year, the figure was 11. That’s an increase of about 45 percent. Shootings in the borough have also soared.”

In a city in which the mayor and his police force are forever at odds – a conflict that led to a veritable police strike in protest – you might think that de Blasio would be wracked with concern over the city’s future. You would be wrong.

“After 16 months as mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio seems determined to escape the confines of his day job and to prompt a national liberal movement — even as he leaves himself open to criticism that he is not making problems at home a priority,” the New York Times reported last month. The city’s mayor today spends his time crafting liberal manifestos with the likes of Susan Sarandon and Van Jones, giving mock presidential campaign speeches in Iowa, and reveling in the attention lavished upon him by a brazenly left-of-center press.

Great cities deserve great mayors, and they have a way of making petty men appear that much smaller. Today, it should be perfectly apparent to most observers that there is a very small man in Gracie Mansion.

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The Real Reason Bill de Blasio Hasn’t Endorsed Hillary

Bill de Blasio got a reminder this week that neither the Clintons nor the mainstream press have changed at all on their pursuit of total loyalty to the Democratic elite. After declining to endorse Hillary Clinton before she even announced her candidacy on Sunday, the New York mayor was threatened on Twitter by a Clinton ally and has been pestered by the media on the question ever since. But the truth is, it actually makes a great deal of sense for de Blasio to play hard-to-get, a fact that’s easy to understand once you get some distance from the Hillary-centric view of so many Democrats.

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Bill de Blasio got a reminder this week that neither the Clintons nor the mainstream press have changed at all on their pursuit of total loyalty to the Democratic elite. After declining to endorse Hillary Clinton before she even announced her candidacy on Sunday, the New York mayor was threatened on Twitter by a Clinton ally and has been pestered by the media on the question ever since. But the truth is, it actually makes a great deal of sense for de Blasio to play hard-to-get, a fact that’s easy to understand once you get some distance from the Hillary-centric view of so many Democrats.

To recap, here’s what de Blasio said when asked directly about endorsing Hillary on Meet the Press:

CHUCK TODD:

Well, in the last quarter century, they’ll have had a Clinton as president for eight years of that last quarter century, so that’s going to be difficult. Let me ask you this, are you for her now, unequivocally? Or do you want to wait to see if she takes your advice on moving to a more progressive agenda?

BILL DE BLASIO:

I think like a lot of people in this country, I want to see a vision. And again, that would be true of candidates on all levels. It’s time to see a clear, bold vision for progressives–

CHUCK TODD:

But you’re technically not yet endorsing her?

BILL DE BLASIO:

No, not until I see, and again, I would say this about any candidate, until I see an actual vision of where they want to go. I think she’s a tremendous public servant. I think she is one of the most qualified people to ever run for this office. And by the way, thoroughly vetted, we can say that. But we need to see the substance.

The Clintons demand loyalty above all else, and de Blasio was Hillary’s campaign manager for the Senate in 2000. So this certainly looked to some in Clintonland like a betrayal. Clinton ally Hilary Rosen responded angrily on Twitter, with a classic Clintonian threat:

The whole thing was, I thought, blown way out of proportion. But reporters spent the next couple days asking de Blasio if perhaps he had reconsidered his comments about the Central Committee chairwoman. Politico reports this morning that he’s sticking to his story:

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is standing by his remarks on “Meet the Press” that he is not yet ready to endorse Hillary Clinton for president. …

“It’s the same things I’ve said publicly: progressive taxation, raising wages and benefits, investment in infrastructure and education, the willingness to tax the wealthy so we have the resources to actually change the dynamic in this country,” the progressive Democratic mayor said.

This obstinacy has inspired some quizzical looks. Who shrugs off the horse’s head in the bed? What’s de Blasio up to?

In fact, there is a very good reason for Bill de Blasio to keep his initial distance from Hillary: self-preservation. Hillary Clinton, and the crony capitalist aristocracy she represents, is a direct threat to de Blasio’s career.

Remember, de Blasio was swept into office on the combined power of one good television ad and the tide of left-wing populism that sought to turn the animating ideas behind Occupy Wall Street into something productive. The Tea Partiers didn’t just rage against the government (they also didn’t defecate on police cars, as their liberal counterparts did); they got involved, ran candidates for office, formed a congressional caucus, and shaped legislation.

So as terrible as the policy preferences of de Blasio and Elizabeth Warren are, and as shallow as their understanding of basic economics continues to be, there was at least something healthy about their elections: it showed left-wingers re-engaging with the democratic process. Warren has secured a place for herself as a national figure. She occupies a safe Senate seat and sits on the banking committee, and even has a legion of fans who want her to run for president. She demonstrated her transformation into the Democrats’ Ted Cruz with her recent attempt to shut down the federal government over a policy dispute. Elizabeth Warren isn’t going anywhere.

The same is not necessarily true of de Blasio. That’s why he scheduled a trip to Iowa to talk about inequality, and why he continues to act as though he’s a single-issue activist instead of an influential political executive.

But far more of a danger to de Blasio is the looming success of a Hillary Clinton candidacy. As Ben Domenech wrote in the September issue of COMMENTARY, the populist base of the Democratic Party will be one casualty of Hillary’s coronation: “She is still the Hillary who spent six years on the Walmart board of directors; the Hillary at her most comfortable rubbing elbows in Aspen, the Hamptons, and Davos; the Hillary whose family foundation depends on the donations of big banks and held its annual donor briefing in the auditorium of Goldman Sachs, which reportedly paid her $400,000 for two speeches last year,” Domenech wrote, adding: “The past few years have been better for Wall Street than anybody, and when it comes to the battles over regulation, taxation, and trade policy, the progressive base seems ready to concede defeat.”

De Blasio isn’t, however. Elizabeth Warren could survive the receding tide of liberal populism because she has transitioned seamlessly into a progressive cog in the bureaucratic statist machine. Warren sold out the moment she was presented with the opportunity to wield state power to settle scores.

De Blasio, however, has no such job security and no obvious fallback plan. What de Blasio has instead is the great media megaphone of New York City. And he intends to use it.

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Bill de Blasio Is a Terrible Messenger for an Anti-Inequality Campaign

Capital New York reports that Mayor Bill de Blasio, seeking to increase his national profile, will go where such politicians always go to raise their name-ID: Iowa. The theme of de Blasio’s trip will be to “highlight inequality.” This is more appropriate than even de Blasio knows, just not for the reasons he might think. Bill de Blasio not only governs a city with high inequality; he’s also a purveyor of the kind of liberal ideology that ensures such inequality will continue, and increase. If you want to highlight inequality, you couldn’t do much better than its mascot Bill de Blasio. Which is what makes him a terrible messenger for the anti-inequality brigades.

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Capital New York reports that Mayor Bill de Blasio, seeking to increase his national profile, will go where such politicians always go to raise their name-ID: Iowa. The theme of de Blasio’s trip will be to “highlight inequality.” This is more appropriate than even de Blasio knows, just not for the reasons he might think. Bill de Blasio not only governs a city with high inequality; he’s also a purveyor of the kind of liberal ideology that ensures such inequality will continue, and increase. If you want to highlight inequality, you couldn’t do much better than its mascot Bill de Blasio. Which is what makes him a terrible messenger for the anti-inequality brigades.

According to recent data, New York City is the sixth-most unequal city in the country, though Manhattan individually tops the charts. Last year’s landmark Brookings Institution study shed a great deal of light on the subject, and they updated the data two weeks ago. As I wrote at the time the study was released, from 2007-2012 inequality increased despite the fact that rich households were less rich, not because the rich were going in one direction and the poor another. Dramatic increases in inequality happened in places where lower-income Americans were hit harder by the economic downturn.

That seems to have continued, as Brookings notes: “Despite positive trends in some cities from 2012 to 2013, lower-income households in the majority (31) of the 50 largest cities had lower incomes in 2013 than they did in 2007.” What the poor needed, and continue to need, are jobs. As the study had noted last year, dynamic economies were also unequal economies. The focus on inequality can at times be more than a distraction; it can harm those at the lower end of the spectrum by focusing on regulation and redistribution at the expense of economic growth.

Additionally, New York is a good example of how liberal policy exacerbates inequality (and why liberal demagogues focus so much on income inequality instead of real inequality). Among the many effective critiques of Thomas Piketty’s treatise on inequality was that of a graduate student at MIT named Matthew Rognlie, who has now expanded his criticism into a paper. The Economist notes:

Second, Mr Rognlie finds that higher returns to wealth have not been distributed equally across all investments. The return on assets other than housing has been remarkably stable since 1970. In fact, surging house prices are almost entirely responsible for growing returns on capital.

Third, the idea that workers’ share of wealth can continue to decline rests on the assumption that it is easy to substitute capital (ie, robots) for workers. But if lots of the capital in question is tied up in houses, then this switch would be far harder than Mr Piketty suggests.

Why it matters:

For one thing, homeowners are a much bigger and more lovable group than hedge-fund managers. Moreover, if housing is the biggest source of rising inequality, then the wealth tax Mr Piketty advocates is the wrong response. Policymakers should instead try to reduce the planning restrictions which, by inhibiting new construction, allow homeowners to earn such big returns on their assets.

Good idea! In fact, let’s expand on this. The larger problem with such restrictions is not that homeowners earn such big returns per se, but that they do so because such regulation drives up prices in the first place. In 2010, viewers of the New York gubernatorial debate were captivated by Jimmy McMillan, leader of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party. His main concern was, well it’s all there in the name.

And he’s right: rent is high in New York. Why is it high? In July 2013, Josh Barro wrote a piece for Business Insider listing eight reasons rent in New York is so high. Each had an explanation, but here are the eight reasons as listed:

  1. There’s only so much space.
  2. Zoning rules inhibit supply.
  3. Rent control raises your rent if you’re not rent controlled.
  4. Property taxes are very high.
  5. High construction costs.
  6. Affordable-housing set asides.
  7. Minimum parking requirements.
  8. Tenant-friendly laws.

Most of these are self-explanatory. The effects of heavyhanded regulation are clear. But it’s worth expanding briefly on two of them. Barro adds, for example, with regard to zoning rules:

Incidentally, contra Hamilton Nolan, this is a reason non-rich New Yorkers should cheer the construction of “superluxury condos.” Wealthy people are going to buy in New York one way or another. When we limit their ability to build shiny new towers in Manhattan, they come over to Brooklyn and bid up the prices of brownstones that used to be almost affordable.

It’s counterintuitive, but another example of why the eat-the-rich attitude toward regulation and policymaking can have all sorts of unintended, and negative, effects on the less well-off. And it’s not just strict regulation, either. As Barro explains under the “construction costs” heading, in addition to the regulatory burden, “there are no non-union crane operators in New York City, meaning any construction project tall enough to require a crane must be built with union labor. That adds costs; union work rules require overstaffing, according to the Real Estate Board of New York, and some crane operators in the city make over $500,000 a year including overtime and benefits.”

Liberal policy and inequality go hand in hand. It’s what makes de Blasio such an ironic ambassador for economic policy. It’s true that he has real-world experience with inequality, but that’s because he’s the arsonist here, not the firefighter.

And then there’s the other question of what kind of national Democratic figure de Blasio thinks he might be. It’s true that he was swept into office in a wave of leftist populism. And that populism hasn’t gone away–witness the fans of Elizabeth Warren. But the intervening midterm elections have made it clear that the economic justice warriors like de Blasio tend to be an occasional passing fad. Support for the leftist from Brooklyn is, perhaps appropriately, political hipsterism.

And it’s unclear where de Blasio could go from here anyway. His rocky relationship with the NYPD ended his political honeymoon. And he’d be more likely to try for another office before going national–by, say, running for governor before running for Congress. Either way, his appeal will be limited and will grow more so over time. In that sense, maybe his Iowa trip makes sense now. He might as well accept the invitations now and not assume they’ll still be arriving in his inbox in the future.

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De Blasio’s Unforced Errors Pile Up

Bill de Blasio has just completed his first year in office, but his press clips are starting to make him sound like a lame duck. Today’s New York Times story on de Blasio’s deteriorating relationship with the police is based on “dozens of interviews in recent weeks” with police officers and “senior police leadership.” But in a classic sign of a political team already looking to shift blame, the most damaging anecdote is the one that begins the story, and it clearly signals discomfort within the mayor’s team.

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Bill de Blasio has just completed his first year in office, but his press clips are starting to make him sound like a lame duck. Today’s New York Times story on de Blasio’s deteriorating relationship with the police is based on “dozens of interviews in recent weeks” with police officers and “senior police leadership.” But in a classic sign of a political team already looking to shift blame, the most damaging anecdote is the one that begins the story, and it clearly signals discomfort within the mayor’s team.

The story is headlined “In Police Rift, Mayor de Blasio’s Missteps Included Thinking It Would Pass,” which really does sum up the in-depth piece quite well. But it also signifies a sense of frustration from those around the mayor that too many of his errors are unforced, and that his lack of focus is materially damaging the administration’s image. Here is how the story opens:

Not long after Mayor Bill de Blasio sat beside the Rev. Al Sharpton at a July summit meeting on police reform, a political adviser gave the mayor a blunt assessment: You have a problem with the cops.

Rank-and-file officers felt disrespected by the mayor, the adviser explained, and were dismayed to see Mr. Sharpton, a longtime critic of the New York Police Department, embraced at City Hall.

But Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, rejected the notion that officers disliked him. His message, the adviser later recalled, was clear: Everything was under control.

Everything was not under control, but de Blasio didn’t seem to understand how easily it could have been. In one sense, the exasperation of the mayor’s defenders–especially among those on the mayor’s team who don’t want de Blasio’s anti-cop reputation to stick to them–is understandable. Crime is down, and even the mayor’s critics among the political class, such as former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, plainly reject the accusation that recent police deaths are on de Blasio’s head.

And yet, the police could turn that back on the mayor. After all, they have changed tactics as ordered and have still been able to keep crime low, showing they can adjust to a very different view of police work in the mayor’s office than the view that has prevailed for two decades. (Though to be fair, current Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was commissioner for a spell during that time as well, so there is some continuity–or at least familiarity.)

Giving de Blasio the benefit of the doubt, then, he might not have believed there was a burgeoning crisis between him and the defenders of public safety because there was no crisis in public safety. As far as he was concerned, there was no sign personal animosity behind the scenes was endangering New Yorkers.

Which is why the pattern of seemingly gratuitous mayoral swipes at the police were so baffling. And they undermined the sense that if there were a crisis of some sort, the mayor would have the NYPD’s back. In other words, if the two sides couldn’t get along when the streets were quiet, what would happen when the quiet dissipated? It’s easy to see why the police felt the groundwork was being laid to scapegoat them if need be. The Times explains the relationship from the NYPD’s perspective:

Some bristled when Ms. Noerdlinger, the former Sharpton aide, was named chief of staff to the mayor’s wife, Chirlane McCray. And when a television reporter caught the mayor’s city-issued S.U.V. speeding, other officers noticed, Mr. de Blasio failed to take responsibility, implicitly faulting his police detail.

And in November, when Mr. de Blasio arrived late to a memorial ceremony in the Rockaways, in Queens, his aides said his police boat had been delayed by fog. The mayor later conceded he had overslept. The incidents left an impression that Mr. de Blasio could undermine the police.

The unease that had been simmering first boiled over in July, after Eric Garner, an unarmed black Staten Island man, died after being placed in a police chokehold. Eager to address the furor, Mr. de Blasio invited journalists to attend a round-table discussion at City Hall, intended as the sort of “come together” moment that he prides himself on.

That’s when things really went off the rails. The Times, which has been supportive of de Blasio, admits “the stagecraft was odd from the start. On the mayor’s right sat Mr. Bratton; on his left was Mr. Sharpton, the symmetry suggesting the two held equal sway in the administration. When Mr. Sharpton began a broadside on law enforcement, the mayor silently looked on.”

The New York Times story is probably intended as a wake-up call. Thanks to his maladroit, and at times just plain lazy, management of city affairs, de Blasio is begging for a primary challenger. The fact that crime has stayed low would help him fend off a Republican, but Democratic mayors of New York don’t usually lose in the general; they get primaried. (Starting with Abe Beame in 1977, three consecutive Democratic mayors were unseated in primaries. Beame didn’t even make it to the runoff that year, in which Ed Koch beat Mario Cuomo.)

And ironically enough, the maintenance of public safety makes it easier for de Blasio to get challenged from the left. This is because the election wouldn’t be about law and order; it would take security for granted, enabling the conversation to focus on things like inequality and social justice. Actually, they would only ostensibly be about those things. In reality, a primary challenge to de Blasio would simply be about identity politics.

The reason the last Democratic mayoral primary wasn’t totally about identity politics is because the strongest candidate archetype was the role played by Anthony Weiner: a candidate with an authentic “from the boroughs” persona. But Anthony Weiner couldn’t get out of his own way, and never gave the voters reason to believe he was a changed man.

De Blasio’s ineptness, if it continues, will almost surely attract serious Democratic opposition. He needs to turn around his public image. But to do that, he’d have to listen to the advice he’s getting. And that would be a change indeed.

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Standing with the Cops Against de Blasio

According to this story in the New York Times, the number of murders in New York City dropped to 328 in 2014. That’s the lowest figure since at least 1963, when the Police Department began collecting reliable statistics.

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According to this story in the New York Times, the number of murders in New York City dropped to 328 in 2014. That’s the lowest figure since at least 1963, when the Police Department began collecting reliable statistics.

As a reference point, in 1990, the number of murders was 2,245–roughly seven times what it is today. This drop in murders from 2013 (335) capped a year of lower numbers in nearly every major crime category.

This constitutes one of the most stunning social policy successes of the last 50 years, and it didn’t happen by accident. It’s the result of tremendous professionalism by the NYPD, from the quality of its police officers to crime-fighting approaches that include increased focus on the small number of people responsible for a majority of offenses and their patterns of criminal behavior; embracing the “Broken Windows” approach to fighting crime; and reliance on a data-driven management model referred to as CompStat, which is responsible for lowering the crime rate and improving the quality of life in New York City.

All of which makes the anti-cop narrative that has been advanced by people like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Attorney General Eric Holder, along with President Obama, so indefensible. Thanks to the sacrifices and excellence of police officers all across the United States, and especially in our large urban areas, our streets are far safer and the quality of life in our cities is far better than it was a quarter-century ago. This occurred despite the fact that many criminologists were predicting crime rates would sharply rise throughout the 1990s and beyond because of demographic reasons (a bulge in the number of young males) and because the percentage of children born out of wedlock continued to go up. Instead, rates of murder, violent crime, and overall crime have dropped dramatically. For example, from 2000 to 2012, the violent crime rate fell over 23 percent–and before that, from 1993 to 2000, the the rate fell 32 percent.

For people like de Blasio, Holder, and Obama to suggest that systemic racism is characteristic of our police departments and to constantly undermine confidence in cops is disgraceful, particularly given the tremendous achievements by police officers in protecting innocent people from harm and maintaining order in our streets. It tells you a very great deal about the progressive mind that those on the left are so eager to attack the police even when they are performing their duties with great distinction.

We live in a time during which cops should be praised and honored for their bravery and their accomplishments. Instead we have political leaders acting in ways that are undercutting and slandering law enforcement officers. The result is a poisonous climate in which a diseased and malignant mind like that of Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who wrote on an Instagram account, “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let’s take 2 of theirs,” can be catalyzed to lethal violence. Which explains why I’m supportive of police officers who have on several occasions now turned their backs on Mayor de Blasio. Their contempt for him is well-deserved. “We might be reaching a tipping point with the mind-set of officers, who are beginning to wonder if the risks they take to keep communities safe are event worth it anymore,” Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke said. “We’re seeing a natural recoil from … officers who don’t feel like certain people who need to have their backs have their backs.” (New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, when asked about the role of Obama and Holder in the current climate, said officers “feel that they are under attack from the federal government at the highest level.”)

It is all quite contemptible–and for the left, quite predictable.

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The Return of Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani never fully left the national political scene after his brief run for the Republican presidential nomination ahead of the 2008 election. New York is too newsworthy a place, and Giuliani too newsworthy a figure, for him to fade just yet. But it’s clear now that with the issue of policing minority communities in the news and with the NYPD at the center of it, Giuliani has become a prominent spokesman for the police once again. Hizzoner never shies away from a fight, and the media has gone looking for one. (Which may help explain why Rudy, and not the current mayor’s immediate predecessor Michael Bloomberg, has been the go-to pol on the issue.) And yet again, the press has gone looking for a fight it hasn’t figured out how to win.

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Rudy Giuliani never fully left the national political scene after his brief run for the Republican presidential nomination ahead of the 2008 election. New York is too newsworthy a place, and Giuliani too newsworthy a figure, for him to fade just yet. But it’s clear now that with the issue of policing minority communities in the news and with the NYPD at the center of it, Giuliani has become a prominent spokesman for the police once again. Hizzoner never shies away from a fight, and the media has gone looking for one. (Which may help explain why Rudy, and not the current mayor’s immediate predecessor Michael Bloomberg, has been the go-to pol on the issue.) And yet again, the press has gone looking for a fight it hasn’t figured out how to win.

The media’s beclowning at the hands of the man who played a major role in saving New York City from the left began, unsurprisingly, with the new breed of liberal columnists calling themselves “fact checkers.” The moniker is usually the columnists’ way of cutting corners on reporting and research and appealing to authority instead of to facts. The Washington Post’s Michelle Ye Hee Lee picked a fight with Rudy in late November and thoroughly embarrassed herself.

The background was that after the Ferguson, Missouri death of Michael Brown after a struggle with a police officer, Giuliani appeared on Meet the Press to talk about the often fraught relationship between the police and the communities they serve and protect. Giuliani doesn’t mince words, so when he made a comment about black-on-black crime, liberal grievance mongers perked up and went to work trying (unsuccessfully) to slime him. One of those was Michelle Ye Hee Lee.

The “fact-checked” comment was Giuliani’s claim that “93 percent of blacks are killed by other blacks.” The Post checked the numbers and found that Giuliani was correct. Case closed, right? Of course not. Citing a lack of “context” (more on that in a moment), the Post gave Giuliani’s 100-percent correct statement two Pinocchios. The explanation: “Ultimately, it is misleading for Giuliani to simplify this topic to the 93 percent statistic and then omit the corresponding statistic for intraracial white murders.”

This is exactly wrong. Giuliani was asked by Chuck Todd (as the Post noted in passing) about the racial makeup of police forces and the corresponding racial makeup of the communities they serve. The question was about whether a place like Ferguson was a powder keg because it has a police force much whiter than the town. In other words, would racial homogeneity be a solution? Giuliani’s response was perfectly on point: No, racial homogeneity does not reduce violence according to the government’s own statistics. Giuliani didn’t mention white-on-white crime because he wasn’t asked about it, but it also proves his point.

Giuliani would become something of a ubiquitous presence on cable news and political talk shows when the controversy made its way to New York, after an unarmed black man was killed by a police officer during an arrest and the officer was not indicted by the grand jury. Mass protests ensued, the relationship between Mayor Bill de Blasio—a former admirer of Marxist revolutionaries and an acidic critic of the police—deteriorated, and two police officers were executed on the job by a man claiming revenge for both recent police incidents.

Giuliani criticized de Blasio, whose handling of the situation (he lost influence among the leftist protesters as well, making him almost irrelevant to solving the escalating tensions) could hardly have been worse. He also criticized President Obama, who had been elevating the anti-Semitic extremist Al Sharpton in profile as an advisor on race. Giuliani was right, of course, but he actually defended de Blasio at times as well.

He refused to blame the political leadership for the murder of the two cops, rebutting the claim by some on the right that de Blasio had “blood on his hands.” He also criticized the police for turning their backs on de Blasio in public. But that didn’t stop the left from simply pretending Giuliani said things he didn’t.

Haaretz columnist Peter Beinart wrote a mildly delusional piece criticizing those who criticize incitement. This was Beinart’s way of furthering the deeply unintelligent meme that Benjamin Netanyahu belongs not in his own country but in America so he can join the Republican Party. But smearing Giuliani was also part of the argument. Early in the column, Beinart wrote:

Earlier this week, after a deranged African American man murdered two New York policemen, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani blamed “four months of propaganda,” led by U.S. President Barack Obama, which convinced the killer “that everybody should hate the police.”

In fact, the opposite is true. If you follow Beinart’s link (which shows that he must have known what he was writing was completely untrue), you come to a Politico story that debunks the accusation. The line just before saying who Giuliani blamed says that when Giuliani was specifically asked “if he had ever seen the city he once governed so divided, Giuliani shook his head and said, ‘I don’t think so.’”

Giuliani was pointing fingers at the political leadership over the divided atmosphere in the city, not the murders. When people started assigning blame to de Blasio, Giuliani fired back at his own side, telling them to dial down their rhetoric:

“Stop this stuff with ‘the blood is on his hands.’ The blood is not on his hands,” the former mayor told 1010 WINS. “I don’t think the mayor is responsible for this. I think that’s an incorrect and incendiary charge…I do think he should change some of his policies.”

So why are people spreading easily disproved fabrications about Giuliani? The answer might lie in his latest date with the Washington Post’s fact checkers. Just before the year was out, Michelle Ye Hee Lee took one more swing at Hizzoner, and missed badly. The statement being fact checked was Giuliani’s claim that Obama “has had Al Sharpton to the White House 80, 85 times. … You make Al Sharpton a close adviser, you are going to turn the police in America against you.”

The Post again checked Rudy’s stats, and again found them to be correct. But he still received one Pinocchio for the part about Sharpton being a close advisor. Giuliani was referencing reporting that Obama had made Sharpton just such an advisor on race issues. He was right again. But the Post disagreed because … well, because they didn’t want him to be right.

Giuliani has a habit of saying the truth in the least-equivocating way possible. It sounds inflammatory, and he is forever offering uncomfortable truths. If you accurately report what he says, you undercut, if not demolish completely, the left’s argument. And so those with an agenda appear incapable of telling the truth when it means they agree with Rudy Giuliani.

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De Blasio Can’t Turn His Back on Sharpton

Today, both New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani termed the reaction of cops to the appearance of Mayor Bill de Blasio at the funeral of one of two assassinated policemen as “inappropriate.” The decision of police officers to turn their backs to the mayor en masse was a dramatic illustration of their lack of confidence in his leadership and a sign of the crisis for law enforcement that has been exposed by recent events. Nevertheless the rift between the mayor and the police could be healed by, as Giuliani also noted today, by a clear apology that shows he understands that he was wrong to join the gang tackle of the cops after Ferguson and the Eric Garner incident. But anyone expecting that to happen understands nothing about de Blasio or contemporary liberalism, which is waiting impatiently for the second murdered officer to be buried before trying to turn the national conversation back to a false narrative of racism from one of the left’s ideological war on the police.

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Today, both New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani termed the reaction of cops to the appearance of Mayor Bill de Blasio at the funeral of one of two assassinated policemen as “inappropriate.” The decision of police officers to turn their backs to the mayor en masse was a dramatic illustration of their lack of confidence in his leadership and a sign of the crisis for law enforcement that has been exposed by recent events. Nevertheless the rift between the mayor and the police could be healed by, as Giuliani also noted today, by a clear apology that shows he understands that he was wrong to join the gang tackle of the cops after Ferguson and the Eric Garner incident. But anyone expecting that to happen understands nothing about de Blasio or contemporary liberalism, which is waiting impatiently for the second murdered officer to be buried before trying to turn the national conversation back to a false narrative of racism from one of the left’s ideological war on the police.

Giuliani, who had many run-ins with the police during his eight years at City Hall over contractual issues, rightly understands how dangerous the breech between the police and the political leadership of the city can be for public safety. Thus, his plea for De Blasio to swallow his pride was good advice: “Mayor de Blasio, please say you’re sorry to them for having created a false impression of them.”

Giuliani was also right when he said what de Blasio most needed to do right now was to disassociate himself from Al Sharpton, the nation’s current racial huckster in chief. Sharpton has earned the obloquy of the nation with a lifetime of incitement and lies. But he was a crucial supporter of de Blasio’s mayoral campaign last year and has become an unexpected power broker in the Obama administration that has come to view the former sidewalk rabble-rouser and current MSNBC host as their go-to person on race issues.

But while the lame duck Obama may think there is no cost to his associating with Sharpton, de Blasio has a great deal to lose by doing so even if he doesn’t appear to understand this fact.

After only a year in office, de Blasio finds himself in a crisis largely of his won making. Having won by a landslide last year as the overwhelmingly liberal city elected its first Democrat in 24 years, the mayor clearly thought he had carte blanche to govern from the left. On many issues, he might well have gotten away with that decision. But having antagonized the police by campaigning against stop and frisk policies, he went a bridge too far when he joined in the chorus of those treating law enforcement as the enemy after Ferguson and then the non-indictment of the officer accused of choking Garner. That rhetoric created the impression that de Blasio agreed with those who have come to view police officers as guilty until proven innocent when it comes to accusations of racism or violence against minorities.

The police are not perfect and can, like politicians, make terrible mistakes. But the problem with the post-Ferguson/Garner critique that was relentlessly plugged by racial inciters, the liberal media and prominent political leaders such as Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder is that it cherry picked two extraordinary and very different incidents and wove it seamlessly into a highly misleading narrative about racism that might have been applicable in Selma, Alabama in 1965 but doesn’t reflect the reality of America in 2014. That this argument has roiled the nation and harmed racial understanding in a country that elected and then re-elected an African-American to the White House goes without saying. But the assassination of the two cops revealed that the cost of this egregious piece of incitement could be deadly.

That’s why it is past time for de Blasio to break ranks with Sharpton and his crowd and begin a process of healing that will save his city and his administration much grief in the next three years.

But the problem here is not just that de Blasio owes Sharpton and rightly fears what would if he chose to make an enemy of him. It’s that de Blasio, an aging radical who doesn’t particularly like to listen to advice from those who don’t already agree with him (a personal flaw that he shares with President Obama) is an ideologue that actually believes in the skewed racial worldview that an unscrupulous racial profiteer like Sharpton promotes. This inability to meet the police and the citizens they protect may well doom the city to years of racial strife and a rightly discontented police force. This could all be averted if de Blasio were wise enough to drop Sharpton and begin speaking as if he was mayor of all the people rather than just his considerable left-wing base. But even if it could allow him to better govern the city, de Blasio is no more capable of moving to the center than the president.

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My Appearance on C-SPAN

This morning I was on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, talking about the mood of America and its causes, economic trends, the Obama presidency and the Affordable Care Act, the 2016 presidential race, and the anti-police bias of Mayor de Blasio, Attorney General Holder, and President Obama. All in roughly 45 minutes. For those interested, the link can be found here.

This morning I was on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, talking about the mood of America and its causes, economic trends, the Obama presidency and the Affordable Care Act, the 2016 presidential race, and the anti-police bias of Mayor de Blasio, Attorney General Holder, and President Obama. All in roughly 45 minutes. For those interested, the link can be found here.

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Even the NY Times Can’t Save de Blasio

It’s been an awful week for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The man who was elected in 2013 on a platform of cop bashing has faced the fury of the police and the public after the murder of two members of the force exposed the ugly face of the post-Ferguson/Eric Garner protests. Like most politicians backed into a corner, de Blasio has lashed out at the media while proving unable to either make peace with the cops or to control his leftist allies who continue to conduct anti-police demonstrations. But de Blasio is not completely without friends. He still has the New York Times, which weighed in today with an embarrassing piece of flummery intended to reassure New Yorkers that everything was OK because the mayor was “calm.” If that’s the best they can do, de Blasio may be in even more trouble than his critics thought.

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It’s been an awful week for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The man who was elected in 2013 on a platform of cop bashing has faced the fury of the police and the public after the murder of two members of the force exposed the ugly face of the post-Ferguson/Eric Garner protests. Like most politicians backed into a corner, de Blasio has lashed out at the media while proving unable to either make peace with the cops or to control his leftist allies who continue to conduct anti-police demonstrations. But de Blasio is not completely without friends. He still has the New York Times, which weighed in today with an embarrassing piece of flummery intended to reassure New Yorkers that everything was OK because the mayor was “calm.” If that’s the best they can do, de Blasio may be in even more trouble than his critics thought.

The conceit of the piece is that de Blasio’s personal approach to the crisis that has threatened to tear the city apart while the rank and file of the NYPD are openly displaying their contempt and anger at the mayor is so deft that he is overcoming all obstacles. But even a casual reader can tell that the only people saying such things are close de Blasio allies whose comments are then slavishly taken down and published by the Times.

It is only in such an article at a time in which de Blasio has seemed to be out of control and losing his ability to influence events that you can read some of the following things about the mayor:

He has acted like himself: a confident but mercurial leader whose singular political style has not wavered.

Mr. de Blasio, a political professional who promised a warmer, friendlier City Hall, is approaching the fallout from the shooting deaths of two police officers with an operative’s touch, and a healthy dose of the personal.

Or this piece of flummery:

“His response is measured; it’s being respectful of everyone,” said Bertha Lewis, a longtime friend and adviser to the mayor, who, like another ally interviewed for this article, volunteered the phrase “pitch perfect” to describe his approach.

Ms. Lewis said the call to suspend protests and tough talk would give all sides a chance to calm down. “Making that middle-of-the-road statement is a good idea as mayor,” she said.

Are they kidding? On Planet New York Times, the spectacle of an ultra-liberal mayor lashing out at the mainstream press for merely reporting the anti-cop death threats chanted at demonstrations he supports may be “pitch perfect,” but in the rest of the galaxy, that’s the sort of thing that is generally considered tone deaf.

To be fair to the paper, part of de Blasio’s problem is conveyed in the article. It notes that while a more able leader would be spending this week reaching out to allies as well as foes in order to try to unify the city, de Blasio isn’t bothering with such conventional tactics:

And where other politicians are quick to line up allies to reinforce their message, Mr. de Blasio has been relatively insular. The mayor who recently boasted “I never need rescuing” has conferred only with a small group of close advisers since the shooting.

Mr. de Blasio has not spoken with Senator Charles E. Schumer or Representative Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn, in whose district the shootings took place. Nor, apart from a brief exchange of texts, has he spoken with Eric L. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president.

Arrogance and insularity are not generally the sort of leadership traits that are associated with success. Even worse is the conviction that comes across from the mayor and his allies that the problem is merely a passing fancy that the public will soon forget about.

That’s the sort of foolish, self-deceiving optimism that failed leaders always latch onto while sinking into permanent dysfunction. To the contrary, as the first major crisis of his administration, this is the moment when the public’s impressions of his ability to lead inevitably become more a matter of evaluating performance than of promises or potential. And on that score, he is in big trouble. De Blasio didn’t create this mess by himself. President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and racial hucksters like Al Sharpton deserve a major share of the blame too for weaving the Ferguson and Garner cases into a false narrative about police violence and racism. But de Blasio, who won election by highlighting his criticisms of the successful efforts of the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations to lower crime, was already in a difficult relationship with the police when he joined in the gang tackle of law enforcement personnel after the Ferguson and the Garner cases. His unwillingness to back down and his instinct to attack those who point out what his allies are saying has exacerbated the situation. The notion, as the Times claims, that all this can “catalyze an ultimately productive conversation about race and the police” is sheer fantasy.

That’s especially true when Sharpton, whose close White House ties (as our Pete Wehner reminded us earlier today) make him a more influential national player than the mayor, chose to defy the mayor’s call for a temporary end to police protests. Put simply, a New York mayor who is simultaneously being brutally attacked by the head of the police union while being snubbed by the city’s leading African-American race baiter is a man marooned on an island and I don’t mean the island of Manhattan.

The Times can be an important ally for any New York mayor. But articles that attempt to put forward an image of the mayor as someone embodying “practiced calm” at such a moment is more likely to generate scorn rather than support. De Blasio may yet recover from this disaster but the insular, foolish man portrayed in this article needs more help than even his media cheering section can provide.

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The President, Al Sharpton, and the Corruption of Modern Liberalism

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, with his city roiling in the aftermath of the assassination of two NYPD officers, is imploring protesters–who until now he’s supported–to wait until after the funerals of two policemen before resuming their anti-police rallies. Al Sharpton–excuse me, the Reverend Al Sharpton–has declined. Which should come as a surprise to precisely no one. After all, what would a day in Gotham be without protesters shouting, “What do we want? Dead cops. When do we want it? Now.”

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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, with his city roiling in the aftermath of the assassination of two NYPD officers, is imploring protesters–who until now he’s supported–to wait until after the funerals of two policemen before resuming their anti-police rallies. Al Sharpton–excuse me, the Reverend Al Sharpton–has declined. Which should come as a surprise to precisely no one. After all, what would a day in Gotham be without protesters shouting, “What do we want? Dead cops. When do we want it? Now.”

It tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the president and his White House and their views toward law enforcement and race relations that Sharpton is, in the words of Politico, “Obama’s go-to man on race.” He has direct contact with White House adviser and First Friend Valerie Jarrett, we’re told. He’s visited the White House at least 61 times since 2009, including meeting one on one with the president, who has publicly praised Sharpton, including sending an aide to read a message at a recent event commending Sharpton’s “dedication to the righteous cause of perfecting our union.” Sharpton was among a small group at the White House when the president announced his nomination of Loretta E. Lynch, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, to become the next attorney general.

“There’s a trust factor with The Rev from the Oval Office on down,” a White House official familiar with their dealings told reporter Glenn Thrush. “He gets it, and he’s got credibility in the community that nobody else has got. There’s really no one else out there who does what he does.”

That last statement is true; there isn’t anyone out there who does what Sharpton does quite the way he does it.

Al Sharpton is a person who lives for the purpose of stoking racial hatreds. He was convicted of defaming a New York prosecutor, Steven A. Pagones, in the notorious Tawana Brawley affair, in which Brawley falsely accused Pagones of raping her. During the 1991 Crown Heights riots in Brooklyn, Sharpton fueled black rage after a Hasidic Jewish driver accidentally killed a seven-year-old black child with his car. (A young talmudic scholar, Yankel Rosenbaum, was stabbed to death by a mob shouting “Kill the Jew.”) Sharpton has made numerous anti-Semitic comments. He’s characterized black people who disagreed with him as “yellow niggers” and called white people “crackers.” He constantly casts the police as racists when there’s no evidence to support the charge. And on top of that he’s a tax cheat, having been convicted of tax evasion and, according to the New York Times, with more than $4.5 million in current state and federal tax liens against him and his for-profit businesses.

Sharpton, then, is a notorious and demagogic figure. He’s anti-cop. He’s anti-Semitic. And he’s an enemy of racial reconciliation, having done incalculable damage to race relations in America. That such a loathsome individual would be allowed into the White House is itself stunning; and the fact that he’s Barack Obama’s “go-to man on race” is shameful and discrediting. These are the depths to which modern liberalism has descended.

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The Progressive Movement’s Anti-Cop Narrative

I don’t believe New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has “blood on his hands,” which is the accusation made by Patrick Lynch, president of the largest and most influential union of the New York City Police Department, in the aftermath of the horrific assassinations of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. The killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, was a wicked and deeply disturbed person. It’s simply wrong to blame public figures for words or actions, even unwise ones, that might conceivably trigger deranged people to commit violence. That was true when Bill Clinton blamed conservatives for the actions of Timothy McVeigh and when liberals blamed Sarah Palin for the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

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I don’t believe New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has “blood on his hands,” which is the accusation made by Patrick Lynch, president of the largest and most influential union of the New York City Police Department, in the aftermath of the horrific assassinations of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. The killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, was a wicked and deeply disturbed person. It’s simply wrong to blame public figures for words or actions, even unwise ones, that might conceivably trigger deranged people to commit violence. That was true when Bill Clinton blamed conservatives for the actions of Timothy McVeigh and when liberals blamed Sarah Palin for the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

But here’s what I do believe: Mayor de Blasio, along with Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, have spoken in ways that have created a false and pernicious narrative, one that would lead you to believe that race was a factor in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island–and, more broadly, that (a) racism is a prominent problem in many of America’s 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies in the United States; (b) African-Americans are frequently targeted by cops because of bigotry; and (c) the main problem facing inner-city blacks is white cops. None of that is true. That doesn’t mean that now and then there aren’t racists cops; nor does it mean that mistakes aren’t made. But the storyline itself is at its core a lie–and rather than challenge the lie, de Blasio, Holder, and Obama have given it oxygen.

There’s very little question that to varying degrees Messrs. de Blasio, Holder, and Obama have lent their voices and moral authority in ways that have created greater distrust toward the police, from President Obama wrongly accusing the Cambridge police of acting “stupidly” after a run-in with Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. to the attorney general sending in federal agents as a way of signaling his unhappiness with grand jury verdicts that sided with the police to Mayor de Blasio linking the death of Mr. Garner to systematic police racism. (I recommend this fine editorial by National Review on Mayor de Blasio, saying he has “repeatedly given voice to unfounded allegations of racial bias in the police department.”)

I will repeat what I’ve said before: Cops are not only by and large impressive and admirable individuals who do very difficult jobs with skill and professionalism; they are among the best friends that communities, most especially inner-city communities, have. It would be nice if our political leaders would say that more than they now do, without the constant caveats slyly inserted to erode support for law enforcement officials.

It isn’t a good thing when the president of the United States, the attorney general, and the mayor of New York City grant more esteem and deference to a divisive and dishonest charlatan like Al Sharpton than they do to the police. (This Politico story refers to Sharpton as the president’s “go-to man on race.”) But that is what the progressive movement in America has given to us. Our communities and race relations are worse because of it; and so is our nation.

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After Cops Die, de Blasio Can’t Blame Media for False Racist Narrative

Backed into a corner by the backlash against those who have fed a campaign of hate against police after the murders of two cops over the weekend, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio resorted to the last ditch of all failing politicians: blame the media. But like all such attempts, this one won’t divert public attention away from the hateful atmosphere toward police created by his statements as well as those of other politicians, media figures, and racial hucksters who turned the Ferguson, Missouri incident and the death of Eric Garner into an excuse for cop-bashing.

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Backed into a corner by the backlash against those who have fed a campaign of hate against police after the murders of two cops over the weekend, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio resorted to the last ditch of all failing politicians: blame the media. But like all such attempts, this one won’t divert public attention away from the hateful atmosphere toward police created by his statements as well as those of other politicians, media figures, and racial hucksters who turned the Ferguson, Missouri incident and the death of Eric Garner into an excuse for cop-bashing.

During a press conference with Police Commissioner William Bratton, de Blasio was asked by reporter Tony Aiello of CBS New York about the torrent of abuse directed at police by protesters at rallies he and other liberal politicians supported. His response was not only to minimize the problem but to blame journalists for highlighting the chants and threats aimed at cops. Here’s what the mayor said when asked about the hateful chants and whether he would be comfortable with members of his household—whom he had featured in comments highly critical of the police—using such language:

Of course not. We’ve talked about this so many times and I’m not going to talk about it again. And now the question now is, what are you guys going to do? What are you guys going to do? Are you going to keep dividing us? I am telling you over again again, that’s how you want to portray the world but we know a different reality. There are people who do that. It’s wrong. It’s wrong. They shouldn’t do that. It’s immoral, it’s wrong, it’s nasty, it’s negative. They should not do that but they, my friend, are not the majority. Stop portraying them as the majority.

It’s possible to argue that the people in the streets calling for the deaths of policemen are not the majority of those who have protested the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But for de Blasio to claim that it is the media who have divided Americans is worse than a joke. It’s a big lie intended to divert attention away from what the mayor, the president, the attorney general, and media figures like Al Sharpton who have been dividing us, have done.

Having spent the last four months doing their best to establish a narrative that seemed to claim that all white police personnel were a threat to the safety of African-Americans, these left-wingers are in no position to be complaining about divisive statements. Nor can they credibly gripe about taking incidents out of context and call for us to focus on the big picture of the protests they helped spark.

Though the mayor deserves credit for calling for an end to demonstrations in the wake of the anti-police violence, an honest assessment of his own role in fomenting resentment of New York’s Finest should take into account that he was elected to his office in no small measure because of his attacks on the cops. Since taking office he has clashed repeatedly with the police and then joined in the gang tackle on them after Ferguson and the Garner death.

The whole point of his critique was to create division and anger in which the police were not only the objects of angry protest but also blamed for perpetuating a Jim Crow-style racism of the past that died long before most of today’s policemen were born.

Even more to the point, the mayor’s complaints about taking things out of context could better be applied to his attempts, along with those of others on the left, to take two very different and unusual incidents with tragic outcomes and then weave them together into a narrative in which police were seen as racists bent on shooting and strangling innocent blacks.

Though the mayor may think anti-police threats are bad, by stoking those unreasonable fears with incendiary comments about teaching his son to fear the police, he bears a degree of responsibility for an atmosphere in which it seems possible to say just about anything about cops.

It’s true that some elements of the media do deserve blame. But it’s not those who rightly covered the “pigs in a blanket” and “dead cops” chants and brought them to public attention. Rather, it’s the racial hucksters who speak from their bully pulpits on MSNBC, CNN, and the broadcast networks who have incited hatred against the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to protect minority populations and neighborhoods as well as everyone else.

For decades, liberals have mocked conservatives who complain about media bias in favor of the left. So perhaps it’s understandable that de Blasio is angry with some in the press corps who think they shouldn’t be the bodyguards of the left. If de Blasio thinks he can get away with such a transparent ploy, he’s not quite as ready for prime time as he thinks. Those in law enforcement deserved de Blasio’s support when the mob was baying for the blood. Instead, de Blasio, Obama, and Holder were egging on the protesters. It’s too late for the mayor to evade responsibility for that failure by blaming those journalists who are doing their jobs.

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As Police Die, Racism Narrative Unravels

Any conversation about the murders of two New York City Police officers this weekend must start by acknowledging the ordinary heroism of law enforcement personnel that puts them in harm’s way every day. We should then acknowledge that all those who have criticized police actions in Ferguson, Missouri and New York after the controversial deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner are not responsible for the slaying of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. We don’t know yet who or what may have influenced the reportedly mentally disturbed shooter, who was apparently bent on “revenge” for Brown and Garner. But we do know this. After four months of non-stop condemnations of the police and the justice system for both racism and deliberately targeting African Americans for violence, it is time for the race hucksters and their political enablers such as President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to stop the campaign of incitement against the police.

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Any conversation about the murders of two New York City Police officers this weekend must start by acknowledging the ordinary heroism of law enforcement personnel that puts them in harm’s way every day. We should then acknowledge that all those who have criticized police actions in Ferguson, Missouri and New York after the controversial deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner are not responsible for the slaying of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. We don’t know yet who or what may have influenced the reportedly mentally disturbed shooter, who was apparently bent on “revenge” for Brown and Garner. But we do know this. After four months of non-stop condemnations of the police and the justice system for both racism and deliberately targeting African Americans for violence, it is time for the race hucksters and their political enablers such as President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to stop the campaign of incitement against the police.

Conservatives know very well that attempts to politicize violence on the part of the mentally ill is deeply unfair. They know that liberal claims that either the Tea Party or conservatives such as Sarah Palin were somehow responsible for the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was sheer slander. If some angry supporters of the police now try to say Obama, Holder, or de Blasio approved or countenanced the actions of Ismaaiyl Brinsley, they are just as wrong. Obama, Holder, and de Blasio have all rightly condemned the murder of the two officers.

But once we acknowledge that, we cannot ignore the fact that the discussion about race and the police in this country has gotten out of control in recent months and that these same political leaders who should have been seeking to restrain the public from drawing extreme and general conclusions about two very extraordinary cases instead kept the pot boiling for political advantage.

Even worse than that, they have empowered and legitimized racial demagogues like Al Sharpton who have sought to profit from exploiting these tragedies to promote their own agendas. In turn, Sharpton and those like him who are given prominent air time on networks like MSNBC and CNN have encouraged protesters who have not only engaged in violence but often openly called for the killing of police, a stance that has been openly endorsed by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and other radicals.

The act of a single possibly mad gunman does not mean that Americans must never question the actions of police or ponder broader issues about race. It is misleading to claim that those who have raised such questions have given a green light to the murder of police officers. Yet those who have sought to take two very different and quite unusual incidents in Ferguson and New York and weave them into a neat narrative of racism and anti-black violence by police have done very much the same thing. The difference between the two is that the media spent much of the last four months seeking to establish that wrongheaded narrative as a fact while they will, quite rightly, give no credence or air time to those who will blame Obama for cop killers.

The narrative of incitement against the police in recent months was based on two misnomers.

One was the unquestioning acceptance of the narrative of police wrongdoing and racism in the killing of Brown and the far more questionable death of Garner by both the media and political leaders. This involved not only the willingness of both celebrities and lawmakers to treat myths, such as the claim that Brown had his hands up when he was shot, as fact. It also involved the casual acceptance of the charge of racism on the part of ordinary cops around the nation in the absence of any real proof as well as the shouting down of those like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani who sought to defend the role of the police in defending the black community rather than attacking it.

Just as reprehensible was the willingness to ignore the calls for violence against the police on the part of so many of those who took to the streets about Ferguson and Garner. While stray comments on the part of a handful of Tea Partiers became the foundation for conventional-wisdom dismissal of their movement as racist or violent, the anti-police chants at mass demonstrations were largely ignored, rationalized, or excused. The same is true of comments like those of Farrakhan delivered in Baltimore where the killer of the two policemen lived.

But just as the murder of two cops doesn’t necessarily excuse the actions of the police in the Garner case, neither should we forget that all too many public figures have accepted with very little evidence the assumptions about racism and violence that have done so much to besmirch the reputation of the police. Rather than working to connect the dots between the comments of the president, the attorney general, and the mayor to a murder that none of them wished for, sensible observers should instead be unraveling the even shakier narrative these figures helped create about police misbehavior and racism.

The unraveling of the false narrative of incitement against the police should not give rise to another that is also mistaken. But what happened in Ferguson, Staten Island, and the assassination of two police officers should teach us that simplistic, easily manipulated narratives that serve the interests of a few race inciters and politicians don’t deserve any more respect than conspiracy theories coming from the other end of the political spectrum. If there is any reproach today that should be laid at the feet of Obama, Holder, and de Blasio, it is that by helping to foster one false set of assumptions, they have now left themselves vulnerable to questions about their own willingness to accept and exploit calumnies against the police and the justice system.

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Sydney Siege and Monitoring Extremists

In the annals of terrorism, 2014 will be notable for two trends: the rise of ISIS, eclipsing al-Qaeda, and the rise of “lone wolf” terrorists carrying out heinous attacks with little if any help from anyone. The two trends are, in fact, related, because ISIS is now becoming as much an inspiration for violent fanatics as al-Qaeda once was.

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In the annals of terrorism, 2014 will be notable for two trends: the rise of ISIS, eclipsing al-Qaeda, and the rise of “lone wolf” terrorists carrying out heinous attacks with little if any help from anyone. The two trends are, in fact, related, because ISIS is now becoming as much an inspiration for violent fanatics as al-Qaeda once was.

Both trends are evident in Australia which saw a 16-hour siege of a cafe in Sydney carried out by a 50-year-old Iranian immigrant calling himself Man Haron Monis, a self-styled sheikh who has preached an extremist gospel and recently converted from Shiite to Sunni Islam. His own lawyer calls him a “damaged goods individual” who was apparently on bail in two different criminal cases–he is charged “with being an accessory before and after the fact in the murder of his ex-wife, Noleen Hayson Pal, who was stabbed and set on fire” and with “the indecent and sexual assault of a woman in western Sydney.” In yet another case, he “pleaded guilty in 2013 to 12 charges related to the sending of poison-pen letters to the families of Australian servicemen who were killed overseas.”

What a charmer. A marginal, criminal character, Monis was apparently spurred into taking hostages because he was exercised about Australian military actions, in cooperation with the U.S. and other allies, against ISIS.

There is little that anyone can do to anticipate such random attacks but there is more that can be done to monitor known extremists such as Monis. Unfortunately standing in the way is a misconceived reading of the freedom of religion which is a bedrock of any free society.

It’s absolutely true that anyone should have the freedom to practice any religion–as long as it doesn’t involve advocating or carrying out acts of violence. Extremists should not be able to hide in a mosque any more than in a synagogue or church. That is why it is deeply unfortunate that Mayor Bill de Blasio shut down a New York Police Department program that sent plainclothes officers to mosques, among other locations, to look for signs of terrorist plotting.

Shutting down this surveillance is a politically correct gesture that arises from the same mindset that had Australians tweeting “#IllRideWithYou” after the Sydney siege started to make clear they would accept taxi rides from drivers in traditional Muslim garb–as if the real problem that Australia faces is “Islamophobia” rather than Islamist terrorism. But while silly, the Sydney tweet campaign was also a harmless gesture. De Blasio’s actions are far more significant. They make New Yorkers less safe from the kind of lone wolf attack that just hit Sydney.

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De Blasio to Central Park: Your Money or Your Life

Imagine if New York City’s mayor ordered the Metropolitan Museum to turn over 20 percent of its income to other museums that he would designate. That’s exactly what New York Mayor Bill de Blasio had in mind with park conservancies. “During his campaign,” the New York Times reported, “Mr. de Blasio endorsed a plan to force the private groups that raise money for the city’s richest parks to hand over as much as a fifth of their budgets to needier parks.” He’s backed off from that, perhaps because it is blatantly unconstitutional, but, as the New York Post editorializes, “The public sector is putting our money where our mouth is,” de Blasio said. “We will…also turn to the major parks conservancies…[and] expect to get some real important contributions from the conservancies, as part of these processes.” Or, as the muggers who used to abound in Central Park would say, “Your money or your life.”

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Imagine if New York City’s mayor ordered the Metropolitan Museum to turn over 20 percent of its income to other museums that he would designate. That’s exactly what New York Mayor Bill de Blasio had in mind with park conservancies. “During his campaign,” the New York Times reported, “Mr. de Blasio endorsed a plan to force the private groups that raise money for the city’s richest parks to hand over as much as a fifth of their budgets to needier parks.” He’s backed off from that, perhaps because it is blatantly unconstitutional, but, as the New York Post editorializes, “The public sector is putting our money where our mouth is,” de Blasio said. “We will…also turn to the major parks conservancies…[and] expect to get some real important contributions from the conservancies, as part of these processes.” Or, as the muggers who used to abound in Central Park would say, “Your money or your life.”

Back in the bad old days of the 1970s, New York City’s Parks Department more or less collapsed. The system’s crown jewel, Central Park, was a graffiti- and crime-ridden mess. Half the benches couldn’t be sat on because they were in such disrepair. Vast stretches of the Sheep Meadow, the East Meadow, and the Great Lawn were barren dirt. Litter was everywhere. No water flowed in Bethesda Fountain and its great Angel of the Waters statue stared down at mud and worse.

But in 1980, the Central Park Conservancy was formed to take over maintenance of the park with contributions from surrounding buildings and their residents, foundations, and others. About $700 million and 34 years later, Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvin Vaux can rest easy. Their masterpiece, Central Park, one of the supreme artistic achievements of the 19th century in this country, is once again as it should be. The park is clean and safe, the lawns green. In spring vast drifts of daffodils can be seen “fluttering and dancing in the breeze.” The 9,000 benches have been restored, thanks to the Conservancy’s adopt-a-bench program. The many bridges (no two are alike) and other structures have been restored. Forty million visitors a year testify to the park’s magnificence.

The Conservancy supplies 75 percent of Central Park’s budget, freeing city funds for other parks. Its experts train Parks Department employees in best practices. It has restored, at its own expense, four small parks in Harlem. But, as the Post writes,  “Apparently it’s not enough for Bill de Blasio for people to be generous and make up for the city’s incompetence. He also wants the right to take your donations and spend them on what he wants.”

No wonder he and his wife honeymooned in Castro’s Cuba. Kleptocracy is Bill de Blasio’s preferred form of government.

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De Blasio vs. the NYPD–and Public Safety

If you were looking for a moment when the wheels truly seemed to be coming off the Bill de Blasio administration’s relationship with the NYPD, the late-August call by a prominent police union to oppose bringing the Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn is a good candidate. The idea had been floated for Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to host the DNC, but the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, Ed Mullins, had some choice–and public–words for the mayor:

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If you were looking for a moment when the wheels truly seemed to be coming off the Bill de Blasio administration’s relationship with the NYPD, the late-August call by a prominent police union to oppose bringing the Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn is a good candidate. The idea had been floated for Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to host the DNC, but the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, Ed Mullins, had some choice–and public–words for the mayor:

“While the Barclays Center is still new and glistening, the great city in which it stands is lurching backwards to the bad old days of high crime, danger-infested public spaces, and families that walk our streets worried for their safety,” Mullins wrote in an open letter running in Tuesday’s editions of the New York Post and The New York Times.

Mullins said de Blasio’s administration has made “dangerous choices” and as a result, the “degradation of our streets is on the rise.”

He added, sourly, “Right now, we don’t have a mayor who supports the police.” Mullins’s point was ostensibly that the NYPD shouldn’t have any additional burden put on it–indeed, that such a request would be chutzpahdik–while they’re being constantly second-guessed by a new administration. But it’s clear that the feeling had been building for some time and needed an outlet.

It’s worth keeping that moment in mind reading the latest news on the de Blasio administration’s ongoing power struggle with the NYPD. The background, briefly: de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, has been so involved with the administration that mayoral counsel Henry Berger is arguing she should legally be considered a consultant in order to shield her correspondence with the administration from reporters. McCray’s chief of staff, Rachel Noerdlinger, thus enjoys a high degree of access.

Noerdlinger, it was revealed by DNAinfo last week, is in a relationship with a man convicted of homicide and drug charges and who refers to police in derogatory language and nearly ran a cop off the road in New Jersey last year. De Blasio is sticking by Noerdlinger, who used to work for Al Sharpton. And now the Washington Free Beacon has unearthed something that New Yorkers probably had forgotten but the police groups might not have:

Rachel Noerdlinger, the controversial chief of staff to New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray, once called for boycotts of a local police union and all of its supporters, a position that could cause more headaches for Mayor Bill de Blasio as he seeks to minimize the fallout over Noerdlinger’s relationship with a convicted killer who has made disparaging comments about the police.

Noerdlinger, the longtime top aide to de Blasio’s wife, has been engulfed in controversy after it came to light that she is dating a convicted murderer and drug dealer who has called cops “pigs” and expressed distaste for white people.

The unearthing of these remarks by ex-con Hassaun McFarlan is said to have raised “serious concerns about Noerdlinger having a seat at top-level” New York Police Department (NYPD) meetings, according to the New York Daily News.

Noerdlinger in 2000, while working as Sharpton’s spokeswoman, called for the boycotting of companies that donated to the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which had been helping to pay for the defense of New York policemen acquitted on charges of murdering Amadou Diallo. The comments came at a time of high tensions in the city over the Diallo case.

As the New York Post reported at the time, Noerdlinger’s boycott call was made at the same time prominent Harlem Rev. Calvin Butts was stirring up public anger against both the police and then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani:

“There are many who are calling for calm, but I am not one,” he told The Post. “I think that people ought to be agitated, they ought to be active.”

Earlier in the day, Butts told worshippers, “There is an evil that permeates the place called City Hall,” and called on New Yorkers to stand up for their rights.

“There is no chance that your police will not be resisted. They must be resisted, they will be resisted,” he said in a sermon.

The benevolent associations, unions, and other police groups likely remember that controversy quite well. If so, they also remember the support they tended to get from the Giuliani administration, in stark contrast to the atmosphere of distrust building around de Blasio. The revelation that the administration now has someone on board who had been calling for a boycott of the PBA makes it easier to understand why someone like Mullins at the SBA sees a proliferation of red flags around this administration.

De Blasio has not proved successful at maintaining public safety while reining in police procedure. Actions have consequences, and a lot of New Yorkers remember well the consequences the last time distrust of the NYPD was allowed to drive public safety policymaking. And if de Blasio doesn’t remember that, he’s clearly got staffers who can remind him.

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De Blasio and the Left: Reality Bites

After Bill de Blasio’s landslide victory, I wrote that New York’s incoming mayor had benefited greatly from what I called “the Obama effect.” President Obama had developed the blueprints for an inexperienced far-left activist to win a general election: rely on lofty rhetoric, because no one believes it anyway. That is, no one believes a modern-day politician would be foolish or reckless enough to actually carry out all the left’s preferred economic and security policies. Today’s New York Times confirms that I was mostly right: I should have said “almost no one.”

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After Bill de Blasio’s landslide victory, I wrote that New York’s incoming mayor had benefited greatly from what I called “the Obama effect.” President Obama had developed the blueprints for an inexperienced far-left activist to win a general election: rely on lofty rhetoric, because no one believes it anyway. That is, no one believes a modern-day politician would be foolish or reckless enough to actually carry out all the left’s preferred economic and security policies. Today’s New York Times confirms that I was mostly right: I should have said “almost no one.”

It turns out that some delusional true believers really do expect liberal politicians to trash the private sector in the name of social “justice” and sacrifice public safety out of some deranged hatred of the police. And they are unhappy with de Blasio. The new mayor might have thought he earned a bit of patience from the left. After all, he has already restricted effective and legal policing, and the results are clear: shootings have increased as the police have taken fewer guns off the street.

But that appears to have only whetted the appetites of the city’s hard-leftists. They got a taste of mayhem, and want more of it:

The mayor who shot to fame denouncing stop-and-frisk tactics and luxury condominiums is now defending hard-nosed policing and cutting deals with developers, bowing to the realities of leading an unruly city but also angering an activist left that propelled his rise to the Democratic elite.

Impatience with the mayor is now spilling into outcry. On Wednesday, housing advocates will march in Harlem to highlight what they say is a too-weak effort by City Hall to build affordable homes. And the Rev. Al Sharpton is planning a march on Saturday to call for an end to aggressive policing in the wake of a black Staten Island man’s death after being placed in a chokehold during a routine arrest.

Mr. de Blasio, who advisers say is deeply concerned about disappointing his supporters, has struggled to explain that the lofty liberal rhetoric of his mayoral campaign cannot be imported wholesale into City Hall — that there may be a limit on how many affordable units can be extracted from developers, that the so-called broken-windows policing strategy often credited with helping to lower crime cannot be abandoned overnight.

Really the whole story is worth reading. De Blasio, of course, isn’t actually tough on crime–by normal standards, at least. Only in the fever swamps of the left is he taking a hard line. And in a way, you can’t blame them. He did tell them he was one of them. On the other hand, there was no reason to believe him–the idea that de Blasio was being completely honest on the campaign trail did not really occur to seasoned observers. De Blasio’s base wants him to govern as if he were insane. He’s not insane. Therefore they will continue to be disappointed.

But the fact that he’s not insane is not a high enough bar. Public safety has already receded, and some of the miraculous gains made by de Blasio’s predecessors are beginning–only beginning–to fade. He’s at a crossroads, but it does offer de Blasio an opportunity: he has plenty of time to correct his mistakes and keep New York City on an even keel for the rest of his term.

It’s early enough that the damage from de Blasio’s mistakes is far from irreversible. And I think the Times story is unfair to de Blasio when it says: “Yet at home, Mr. de Blasio, who swept into office on the promise that New York City could be governed from the left, is discovering that liberalism has its limits.”

Is it true that de Blasio is discovering that liberalism has limits? I doubt it. Surely de Blasio has some terrible ideas about governing, as would anyone who was inspired to public service by the Marxist Sandinistas. But the manifold failures of big-government liberalism throughout the last century make it unlikely that any politician smart enough to win a serious office like New York City mayor in a landslide is just learning, on the job, that liberalism has limits. Liberalism is nothing but limits.

What de Blasio is dealing with now is a sector of the left–grown increasingly louder and more numerous in recent years–that doesn’t consider the results of public policy to be relevant. For the dedicated left, the value in a policy is its intentions and the purity of its identity politics. Gun crime is up, and to the left it matters not. De Blasio is not learning that his policies reduce public safety. He’s learning that his left-wing base wants those policies anyway.

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The Soda Ban and Helicopter-Mayoring

Today the Michael Bloomberg era in New York City drew to a close. Not officially, of course; Bill de Blasio’s mayoralty was inaugurated at the beginning of January. But today it can begin in earnest, and in modest acclamation: the soda ban is dead. And with it exits a style of governing that will most indelibly be remembered for perhaps its greatest flaw: an obnoxious paternalism that told even the city’s starving homeless precisely what they can and cannot consume.

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Today the Michael Bloomberg era in New York City drew to a close. Not officially, of course; Bill de Blasio’s mayoralty was inaugurated at the beginning of January. But today it can begin in earnest, and in modest acclamation: the soda ban is dead. And with it exits a style of governing that will most indelibly be remembered for perhaps its greatest flaw: an obnoxious paternalism that told even the city’s starving homeless precisely what they can and cannot consume.

New York State’s highest court today rejected the final appeal to keep the ban on large sodas in place. The New York Times headline on the story is “City Loses Final Appeal on Limiting Sales of Large Sodas,” but I think we’re all winners here, the city included. Bloomberg is to be commended for some of his policies: the full-throated defense of public safety chief among them. But Bloomberg got caught up in paternalistic social engineering and the soda ban was one of the most invasive–and illegal–results. The Times reports:

In a 20-page opinion, Judge Eugene F. Pigott Jr. of the State Court of Appeals wrote that the city’s Board of Health “exceeded the scope of its regulatory authority” in enacting the proposal, which was championed by former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

The decision likely will be seen as a significant defeat for health advocates who have urged state and local governments to actively discourage the consumption of high-calorie beverages, saying the drinks are prime drivers of a nationwide epidemic of obesity.

Two lower courts had already sided against the city, saying it overreached in attempting to prohibit the purchase of sugared drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces, about the size of a medium coffee cup. By a 4 to 2 vote, the justices upheld the earlier rulings.

In that article, however, you can see who Bloomberg’s real constituents were: first and foremost, the media. Proponents of intrusive statist powers are, according to the Times, “health advocates.” Simply because they say so. Even though some of the schemes the “health advocates” have pursued have been shown to produce exactly the opposite result–that is, the population’s choices become less healthy. But as with most liberal projects, the intentions are all that matter. Who wouldn’t want to ban large sodas? Think of the children.

The irony of the Bloomberg administration’s overreach on sugary drinks is that such helicopter-mayoring overshadowed other policies and came to identify him. He’s been replaced by a much more liberal politician, who may actually restore some of Bloomberg’s reputation. Say what you will about Bloomberg’s nanny statism, but he did not acquire his inspiration for public service by watching the Marxist Sandinistas.

Bloomberg’s record on public safety threatens to be undone by de Blasio, whose election ended the era of hugely popular and undeniably successful police commissioner Ray Kelly, after which the police were instructed to stop gun violence by smiling at passersby. It’s too early to say if the resulting recent spike in violent crime is here to stay, but all indications are that de Blasio’s terrible ideas about public safety are just as irresponsible and unserious as they seemed when they began emanating from Planet Brooklyn during the campaign.

The biggest initial threat to de Blasio’s public approval was his staunch opposition to charter schools. De Blasio prefers to delegate his education policy to the unions, with the result that minority students have even fewer opportunities. De Blasio soon realized that trashing proven educational opportunities perhaps struck the wrong “tone.” (We can cut de Blasio some slack here though: it’s doubtful the Sandinistas had anything to say about charter schools, so the mayor was learning on the job.)

De Blasio represents a different kind of progressivism than Bloomberg’s version of city governance. For Bloomberg, that has advantages. Had he been followed by a more conservative mayor, his successor would have simply built on the better policies Bloomberg instituted while quietly scrapping the restrictions on fizzy bubblech. Instead, he’s being followed by an ideologue testing the limits the people will place on his airy radicalism, using New Yorkers as crash-test dummies.

That may leave New Yorkers pining for Bloomberg, but there’s a caveat: de Blasio has so far shown himself responsive to public opinion. If that ends up curtailing his leftist impulses, such populism will distinguish itself from the pompous elitism with which New Yorkers had in recent years been treated.

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