Commentary Magazine


Topic: Bill de Blasio

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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Is Skyrocketing Gun Violence a Wake-Up Call for de Blasio?

Important caveats apply, but the news out of New York City on gun violence is not good. The New York Post reports:

The number of shooting victims has skyrocketed across the city this year — up 43 percent in just the last month — while fewer guns are coming off the streets, NYPD statistics reveal.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has repeatedly shifted the focus from shootings to a steep decline in homicides, and claims he is not worried about the gun violence.

But sources told The Post it will only get worse in the hotter summer months, and that the alarming trend is the result of a more “reactive” police force handicapped by the inability to use tactics like stop-and-frisk.

“Cops aren’t putting their hands on anyone,” a source said.

It’s early yet, and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is not entirely wrong, as a Post editorial concedes, that “Crime goes up, it goes down.” But as the Post also points out, crime fluctuates for a reason. There has always been a contradiction bordering on hypocrisy in liberal calls to crack down on legal gun ownership and Second Amendment rights to reduce gun violence while tying the hands of the police and impeding the proven–and constitutional–efforts to actually reduce gun violence.

Part of the left’s argument against the NYPD was that its “stop and frisk” policy resulted in relatively few arrests. They took this to mean that in such cases the stops themselves were unnecessary. It’s easy to spot the logical flaw here: the point was not to fill the prisons but to prevent crime. Which is exactly what the policy did:

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Important caveats apply, but the news out of New York City on gun violence is not good. The New York Post reports:

The number of shooting victims has skyrocketed across the city this year — up 43 percent in just the last month — while fewer guns are coming off the streets, NYPD statistics reveal.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has repeatedly shifted the focus from shootings to a steep decline in homicides, and claims he is not worried about the gun violence.

But sources told The Post it will only get worse in the hotter summer months, and that the alarming trend is the result of a more “reactive” police force handicapped by the inability to use tactics like stop-and-frisk.

“Cops aren’t putting their hands on anyone,” a source said.

It’s early yet, and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is not entirely wrong, as a Post editorial concedes, that “Crime goes up, it goes down.” But as the Post also points out, crime fluctuates for a reason. There has always been a contradiction bordering on hypocrisy in liberal calls to crack down on legal gun ownership and Second Amendment rights to reduce gun violence while tying the hands of the police and impeding the proven–and constitutional–efforts to actually reduce gun violence.

Part of the left’s argument against the NYPD was that its “stop and frisk” policy resulted in relatively few arrests. They took this to mean that in such cases the stops themselves were unnecessary. It’s easy to spot the logical flaw here: the point was not to fill the prisons but to prevent crime. Which is exactly what the policy did:

Research has converged on the conclusion that a shift from reactive to proactive policing by the N.Y.P.D. has played the crucial role in what the criminologist Franklin Zimring called a “Guinness Book of World Records crime drop.” Starting with community policing under Mayor David Dinkins, and greatly intensifying under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani with the Compstat system’s intensive monitoring of crime, the city flouted the leading theory that police cannot reduce crime but can only respond to it.

While crime rose in many large cities over the past decade, it continued to decline in New York City. Zimring singles out the use of focused vigilance with “hot spot” policing, which began in 2002, as a particularly plausible explanation. Our research shows that a central element of that approach is the increased use of stop and frisk in high-crime neighborhoods.

Yet activist judge Shira Scheindlin embraced the very same logical flaw that the left was trying to push against the NYPD, and dramatically escalated the left’s war-on-the-war-on-crime by including it in a ruling outlawing the practice. That gave ammunition to those seeking to oust the successful police commissioner Ray Kelly, and far-leftist Bill de Blasio’s victory in the mayoral election sealed Kelly’s fate.

Getting rid of Kelly was only an element of the plan to discard the strategies that had helped bring down crime and save the lives of countless New Yorkers, especially those in minority neighborhoods. Now the NYPD is on the defensive because gun confiscation is down and gun violence is up.

Bratton’s spin includes bragging about the fact that while shootings are up, homicides are down. This, as California police officer “Jack Dunphy” (a pseudonym) writes, is not due to police work:

The fact that more people are being shot but fewer of them are dying is more of a testament to the state of emergency medicine in New York than to anything Bratton might be doing. Those two lines on the graph cannot diverge for long, and with the police effectively neutered, the criminal class surely will take advantage.

It’s great that a combination of emergency medicine and, probably, luck has kept the homicide rate from spiking along with the gun violence. But de Blasio must know–and Bratton surely knows–that if the numbers don’t improve soon, or if they get worse, the NYPD better have a strategy to turn things around.

As I’ve written in the past, the success of Rudy Giuliani’s administration may have helped get de Blasio elected by taking a problem off the table for the Democrats, but it will, for the same reason, likely make the voters less willing to give de Blasio a break if things head south. After the Giuliani and Bloomberg years, New Yorkers have had two decades of steadily improving quality of life and have come to expect a degree of safety in the city streets.

Those who have been in the city long enough to remember the situation Giuliani inherited will see its return coming a mile away, and vote accordingly (with their feet if necessary, by leaving the city). Those who have never known a less safe New York may very well panic at the first sign of disintegrating public safety. Either way, de Blasio and Bratton don’t have much room for error. If these numbers are not a fluke, New Yorkers will know precisely who to blame.

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Turning a Blind Eye to Homegrown Terror

On Tuesday, Americans commemorated the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing with solemn ceremonies and appropriate vows to not forget the victims. But in an ironic juxtaposition that few noted, the anniversary fell on the day when it became known that the New York City Police Department had abandoned an effort that was directly aimed at preventing more such instances of homegrown Islamist terrorism. As the New York Times noted in a news story and then celebrated in an editorial, the administration of new Mayor Bill de Blasio has disbanded the NYPD’s Demographics Unit that had the responsibility of monitoring extremists in the local Muslim community. For the Times and de Blasio, the decision by Police Commissioner William Bratton is a campaign promise vindicated and a victory for civil rights. They viewed the surveillance activities of the NYPD as a violation of the rights of Muslims and an unnecessary intrusion into that community’s affairs that amounted to illegal profiling.

But the notion that the NYPD’s efforts “undermined the fight against terrorism” is a noxious myth promulgated by radical Muslim groups who regard any scrutiny of Islamists as a threat to all Muslims rather than a prudent measure aimed at keeping tabs on preachers and groups that help incite hatred and violence. The decision of the NYPD to abandon the intelligence work that had helped keep the city safe in the last decade is not only yet another indication of the country’s return to a September 10th mentality. It is a case of willful blindness about the roots of homegrown terrorism that may, as the slip-ups in the investigation of the Boston bombers demonstrated, prove to be a costly mistake.

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On Tuesday, Americans commemorated the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing with solemn ceremonies and appropriate vows to not forget the victims. But in an ironic juxtaposition that few noted, the anniversary fell on the day when it became known that the New York City Police Department had abandoned an effort that was directly aimed at preventing more such instances of homegrown Islamist terrorism. As the New York Times noted in a news story and then celebrated in an editorial, the administration of new Mayor Bill de Blasio has disbanded the NYPD’s Demographics Unit that had the responsibility of monitoring extremists in the local Muslim community. For the Times and de Blasio, the decision by Police Commissioner William Bratton is a campaign promise vindicated and a victory for civil rights. They viewed the surveillance activities of the NYPD as a violation of the rights of Muslims and an unnecessary intrusion into that community’s affairs that amounted to illegal profiling.

But the notion that the NYPD’s efforts “undermined the fight against terrorism” is a noxious myth promulgated by radical Muslim groups who regard any scrutiny of Islamists as a threat to all Muslims rather than a prudent measure aimed at keeping tabs on preachers and groups that help incite hatred and violence. The decision of the NYPD to abandon the intelligence work that had helped keep the city safe in the last decade is not only yet another indication of the country’s return to a September 10th mentality. It is a case of willful blindness about the roots of homegrown terrorism that may, as the slip-ups in the investigation of the Boston bombers demonstrated, prove to be a costly mistake.

As I wrote last year when former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly came under fire for these surveillance tactics as a result of a lawsuit and a book that claimed the department had wronged Muslims, the charges were unfounded. Not only was the work of the Demographics Unit all authorized by the courts and completely legal, much of the criticism of its efforts stemmed as much from a rivalry with the FBI, some of whose agents resented the fact that the NYPD was infringing on what they considered to be their turf. Such turf battles were part of the reason that the 9/11 plotters succeeded, but years later the same lamentable trends in American law enforcement have resurfaced. Yet rather than sit back and wait for the feds to do their jobs, after 9/11 New York cops rightly decided they had to do whatever was necessary to ensure that they were not surprised again.

What the NYPD did was not an effort to besmirch all American Muslims, the vast majority of whom are law-abiding citizens. But it did seek to go after Islamists who do pose a threat to U.S. security where they congregate: at religious institutions led by individuals who encourage support for extreme Islamist views. Though the FBI has been heavily influenced by criticism from radical groups like CAIR—which masquerades as a civil-rights group despite its origins as a political front for Hamas terrorist fundraisers—and has treated homegrown Islamists with kid gloves, the NYPD was more tough-minded. As the Wall Street Journal noted earlier this week, this effort paid off to help make New York safer. But the department was lambasted by those who regard counter-terrorism intelligence work as intrinsically wrong because it is directed at the minority of Muslims who do pose a threat to public safety.

Much of this stems from the much-ballyhooed myth of a post-9/11 backlash that alleged American Muslims were subjected to discrimination and a wave of attacks. Though there is no proof that such a backlash ever existed, the notion that attention paid to the actual sources of Islamist hate is somehow intrinsically prejudicial has taken hold and helped to chip away at support for necessary police work. Even as Americans sadly remembered the horrors of the Boston bombing, the demonization of counter-terrorism continued on various fronts. Edward Snowden’s collaborators won a Pulitzer for their help in undermining U.S. intelligence work. But the celebration of the disarming of the NYPD demonstrates just how insidious the myth of the post-9/11 backlash has been in treating commonsense precautions as an affront to all those who wish to pretend that radical Islam is not a threat.

New Yorkers must now pray that their security has not been sacrificed on the altar of misguided political correctness based in fictions spread by radical apologists for terror. If homegrown terrorists like the Boston bombers slip through the fingers of the police in the future, de Blasio, Bratton, their supporters at the Times, and others who have waged war on counter-terrorism will bear a great deal of responsibility for what follows.

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Class Warfare Has Its Limits

In his entertaining book on the societal impact of James Bond on Britain, Simon Winder describes the Depression-era part of Ian Fleming’s life as so elite and disproportionately privileged that it seemed less realistic than a Soviet satire of Western capitalism would be. “Fleming wandered through life as a sort of walking reproach to capitalism as a rational system based on competitive Darwinian struggle,” Winder writes. “In many cradles of European civilization it had been okay for at least a hundred and fifty years to carve up people like Fleming and set fire to their mansions as a legitimate form of central heating. Somehow in Britain they survived.”

The lack of sufficient desire to eat the rich earned Britain a stability that eventually played a key role in saving Western civilization. “And if this stability was bought at the price of a few thousand Ian Flemings then that was surely an acceptable price,” Winder writes, adding: “Nobody really wanted Buckingham Palace to become People’s Sausage Factory No. 1.”

We have no such tradition of carving up successful people in America, so the affluent in the U.S. generally have less reason to worry when the non-affluent start getting antsy. But it also means that when they warn of grave societal consequences of extreme class warfare they must reach for comparisons to a bygone era in European affairs, and that means they sound like they’ve taken leave of their senses. That’s happened a couple of times recently, and the latest is contained in today’s Politico story on the rich trying to mitigate the Democrats’ unhinged politics of resentment:

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In his entertaining book on the societal impact of James Bond on Britain, Simon Winder describes the Depression-era part of Ian Fleming’s life as so elite and disproportionately privileged that it seemed less realistic than a Soviet satire of Western capitalism would be. “Fleming wandered through life as a sort of walking reproach to capitalism as a rational system based on competitive Darwinian struggle,” Winder writes. “In many cradles of European civilization it had been okay for at least a hundred and fifty years to carve up people like Fleming and set fire to their mansions as a legitimate form of central heating. Somehow in Britain they survived.”

The lack of sufficient desire to eat the rich earned Britain a stability that eventually played a key role in saving Western civilization. “And if this stability was bought at the price of a few thousand Ian Flemings then that was surely an acceptable price,” Winder writes, adding: “Nobody really wanted Buckingham Palace to become People’s Sausage Factory No. 1.”

We have no such tradition of carving up successful people in America, so the affluent in the U.S. generally have less reason to worry when the non-affluent start getting antsy. But it also means that when they warn of grave societal consequences of extreme class warfare they must reach for comparisons to a bygone era in European affairs, and that means they sound like they’ve taken leave of their senses. That’s happened a couple of times recently, and the latest is contained in today’s Politico story on the rich trying to mitigate the Democrats’ unhinged politics of resentment:

In two-dozen interviews, the denizens of Wall Street and wealthy precincts around the nation said they are still plenty worried about the shift in tone toward top earners and the popularity of class-based appeals. On the right, the rise of populists including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz still makes wealthy donors eyeing 2016 uncomfortable. But wealthy Republicans — who were having a collective meltdown just two months ago — also say they see signs that the political zeitgeist may be shifting back their way and hope the trend continues.

“I hope it’s not working,” Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot and major GOP donor, said of populist political appeals. “Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.”

There are a great many foolish and irresponsible populist politicians in America, but they are not Nazis and they are not looking to put Ken Langone and his friends in camps. The class warfare, waged mostly by Democrats, is quite harmful enough without possessing any Hitlerite parallels. And certainly the well-to-do will not help their public image by casting themselves as victims.

But if successful Americans have begun to see the tide of class war retreat a bit, as the Politico story claims, perhaps it has something to do with the fact that their accusers on the left must themselves resort to demented behavior to try to sufficiently rile up their base because in America, like in Fleming’s Britain, the people just generally do not feel like murdering their neighbors. And this rhetorical excess does plenty on its own to dull its effects, because Americans are also not lunatics, and so are less susceptible to some of the petty frauds trying to stir up hate on a massive scale in order to remain in power.

Like Harry Reid, for example. Pete has discussed Reid’s McCarthyite campaign to tar politically conservative activists as “un-American”–a very important milestone in the Obama-era left’s use of government to assault the lives and careers of Americans who dare exercise their right to participate in the political process. Reid’s latest bout of conspiracist paranoia was to blame the Koch brothers for the American government’s debate over aid to Ukraine.

And so I have no doubt that, as Politico writes, American business owners are working to defend themselves from the creepy behavior of the Harry Reid/Elizabeth Warren/Bill de Blasio Democrats in power. But I would also submit that such attacks have limited purchase in the United States. There were not enough Harry Reids in Ian Fleming’s Britain to turn Buckingham Palace into People’s Sausage Factory No. 1, and I have enough faith in Americans to believe there aren’t enough Harry Reids here to do the same to the Kochs’ philanthropic empire.

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Playing Politics with NYC’s Magnet Schools

Eight of the specialized public high schools in New York City, including Stuyvesant High School, The Bronx High School of Science, and Brooklyn Tech, rely on a standardized admissions exam. Mayor Bill de Blasio said during his campaign that this system, although it treats every student the same, is unfair, because it does not allow a sufficient number of minority candidates to prevail. This year, just 8 black students and 21 Latino students were admitted to Stuyvesant High School (disclosure: I attended Stuyvesant in the 1980s), leading de Blasio to repeat his claim that admission should be based on a range of factors, including recommendations and grades. Blacks and Hispanics, who make up about 70 percent of the city’s eighth grade class, make up only about 12 percent of the group of students admitted to the elite schools that use the exam.

To judge the controversy, it is worth reading this New York Times story from last year, which observes that at least one minority has enjoyed great success on the admissions exam: 72 percent of Stuyvesant’s students at that time were Asian. The story begins with Ting Shi, who, for his first two years in the States, “slept in a bunk bed in the same room with his grandparents and a cousin in Chinatown.” Because his parents worked 12-hour shifts, he “saw them only on Sundays.” After two years of test prep, including after-school and summer classes, Ting scored well enough on the exam to get into Stuyvesant.

The public magnet schools have been a means for non-affluent families to get an education on par with the education they would receive at a first-rate private school. You would think that people on the left would view the success of Asians in the system as a sign of the triumph of merit over racial and, in many cases, economic privilege. But Asians are the wrong kind of minority, and their success, far from meriting celebration, apparently needs to be rolled back.

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Eight of the specialized public high schools in New York City, including Stuyvesant High School, The Bronx High School of Science, and Brooklyn Tech, rely on a standardized admissions exam. Mayor Bill de Blasio said during his campaign that this system, although it treats every student the same, is unfair, because it does not allow a sufficient number of minority candidates to prevail. This year, just 8 black students and 21 Latino students were admitted to Stuyvesant High School (disclosure: I attended Stuyvesant in the 1980s), leading de Blasio to repeat his claim that admission should be based on a range of factors, including recommendations and grades. Blacks and Hispanics, who make up about 70 percent of the city’s eighth grade class, make up only about 12 percent of the group of students admitted to the elite schools that use the exam.

To judge the controversy, it is worth reading this New York Times story from last year, which observes that at least one minority has enjoyed great success on the admissions exam: 72 percent of Stuyvesant’s students at that time were Asian. The story begins with Ting Shi, who, for his first two years in the States, “slept in a bunk bed in the same room with his grandparents and a cousin in Chinatown.” Because his parents worked 12-hour shifts, he “saw them only on Sundays.” After two years of test prep, including after-school and summer classes, Ting scored well enough on the exam to get into Stuyvesant.

The public magnet schools have been a means for non-affluent families to get an education on par with the education they would receive at a first-rate private school. You would think that people on the left would view the success of Asians in the system as a sign of the triumph of merit over racial and, in many cases, economic privilege. But Asians are the wrong kind of minority, and their success, far from meriting celebration, apparently needs to be rolled back.

It must be acknowledged that, although the city has made free test prep available and is engaged in outreach efforts, children in better school systems on average have a better chance of scoring well on the test. Children in “lower-income families have less access to high-quality elementary and middle schools.” But this argument proves too much. Since the quality of one’s elementary and middle school education presumably has something to do with one’s preparation for high school, the claim that standardized tests are imperfect indicators of merit, which is true enough, is a front for a call to lower admissions standards. Any standard that fails to admit a sufficient number of blacks and Hispanics will be denounced as, in the words of Lazar Treschan of the Community Service Society of New York, “academic apartheid.”

To see that this complaint–that the tests don’t really measure merit–is a front, one has only to imagine what would follow if New York took the route of considering recommendations in admissions, which, incidentally, would mean that someone would have to be paid to read all those recommendations. It seems likely that this standard would benefit children in affluent school districts whose parents will push for such recommendations and whose teachers will have more time and resources to devote to identifying and helping promising students. If, after adopting this more expensive admissions system, we found that no more or only a few more black and Hispanic students were admitted, a new measure of merit would have to be found. The sole guide to whether or not a system is gauging merit, for those who object to the admissions exams, is whether an unspecified target number of blacks and Hispanics are admitted.

Asian parents and students compelled to defend the tests have been “puzzled about having to defend a process they viewed as a vital steppingstone for immigrants. And more than a few see the criticism of the test as an attack on their cultures.” While one should hesitate to characterize “Asian culture,” there is no question that attitudes toward test taking play a role in this debate. Students interviewed by the Times asserted that “rigorous testing was generally an accepted practice in their home countries.” In contrast, those who object to the exams on “philosophical grounds” argue that “you shouldn’t have to prep Sunday to Sunday, to get into a good high school.”

Although I agree that deploying so much industriousness to pass a standardized exam is not the best possible use of an eighth graders’s time, I suspect that this time is better used than that of parents and children struggling to game the more holistic standards used for admission to private schools. However that may be, once we concede what seems undeniably true: that children are not responsible for the families they were born into or the school districts in which they happen to reside, we also have to acknowledge what attempting to rectify that unfairness at the level of admissions standards requires: not developing a new merit system, but doing away with merit systems altogether.

State Assemblyman Karim Camara, a Democrat from Brooklyn, plans to introduce legislation that would give the city power to change the admissions criteria for the specialized schools (the admissions criteria for three of the schools are fixed by state law) and “specify what other admissions criteria should be used.” This move, which affects only the small percentage of New York City’s students who attend public magnets and seeks to replace a system that has worked for students like Ting Shi, is unlikely to improve New York City’s school system in any way. But it is certainly, as Mayor de Blasio has shown, good politics.

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The Rabbis Who Attacked AIPAC and the Congregants Who Hit Back

It has become a commonplace observation in some portions of the organized Jewish community to complain that American rabbis are afraid to discuss Israel with their congregations. The assumption underlying this claim is that to criticize the State of Israel is the kiss of death for Jewish clergy who live in fear of offending wealthy donors. It’s all very sad but, in fact, completely untrue. Critics of Israel aren’t shunned in American Jewish life. If anything, they have a much better chance of being heard in the secular media—and given space on the opinion pages of major newspapers such as the New York Times—than those who attempt to defend the Jewish state against the slanders that are hurled at it by both its Arab foes and Jews who adopt a “more in sorrow than in anger” pose.

Consider the rabbis at a prominent synagogue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, B’nai Jeshurun. Two of them, Rolando Matalon and Felicia Sol, signed a letter (as this story in New York’s Jewish Week reported) attacking New York City mayor Bill de Blasio for speaking at an AIPAC event where he said, “City Hall will always be open to AIPAC. When you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call and I’ll answer it happily ’cause that’s my job.” The letter they signed said the following: “The needs and concerns of many of your constituents–U.S. Jews like us among them–are not aligned with those of AIPAC, and no, your job is not to do AIPAC’s bidding when they call you to do so. AIPAC speaks for Israel’s hard-line government and its right-wing supporters, and for them alone; it does not speak for us.”

As it happens, B’nai Jeshurun’s congregants include a number of people who are deeply involved with AIPAC. They are predominantly liberal themselves, as well as predominantly Democratic Party voters, and as such, they give the lie to the idea that AIPAC is a right-wing cabal. They have issued a public letter of their own, expressing their profound distress at their rabbinical leaders for their spurious attack:

Please understand that your words, besides being factually incorrect, are offensive to many of your congregants. As our rabbis, your public comments reflect on our synagogue and on us. We are proud supporters of AIPAC, and we object to the way you mischaracterize the work that AIPAC does and the diverse political affiliation of its many members. Your letter is divisive and contains false and unsubstantiated statements. By attempting to paint AIPAC into an ideological corner, you have injured AIPAC’s ability to continue its bipartisan efforts, and in so doing have hurt the State of Israel as well.

You can read the rest of the letter here.

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It has become a commonplace observation in some portions of the organized Jewish community to complain that American rabbis are afraid to discuss Israel with their congregations. The assumption underlying this claim is that to criticize the State of Israel is the kiss of death for Jewish clergy who live in fear of offending wealthy donors. It’s all very sad but, in fact, completely untrue. Critics of Israel aren’t shunned in American Jewish life. If anything, they have a much better chance of being heard in the secular media—and given space on the opinion pages of major newspapers such as the New York Times—than those who attempt to defend the Jewish state against the slanders that are hurled at it by both its Arab foes and Jews who adopt a “more in sorrow than in anger” pose.

Consider the rabbis at a prominent synagogue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, B’nai Jeshurun. Two of them, Rolando Matalon and Felicia Sol, signed a letter (as this story in New York’s Jewish Week reported) attacking New York City mayor Bill de Blasio for speaking at an AIPAC event where he said, “City Hall will always be open to AIPAC. When you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call and I’ll answer it happily ’cause that’s my job.” The letter they signed said the following: “The needs and concerns of many of your constituents–U.S. Jews like us among them–are not aligned with those of AIPAC, and no, your job is not to do AIPAC’s bidding when they call you to do so. AIPAC speaks for Israel’s hard-line government and its right-wing supporters, and for them alone; it does not speak for us.”

As it happens, B’nai Jeshurun’s congregants include a number of people who are deeply involved with AIPAC. They are predominantly liberal themselves, as well as predominantly Democratic Party voters, and as such, they give the lie to the idea that AIPAC is a right-wing cabal. They have issued a public letter of their own, expressing their profound distress at their rabbinical leaders for their spurious attack:

Please understand that your words, besides being factually incorrect, are offensive to many of your congregants. As our rabbis, your public comments reflect on our synagogue and on us. We are proud supporters of AIPAC, and we object to the way you mischaracterize the work that AIPAC does and the diverse political affiliation of its many members. Your letter is divisive and contains false and unsubstantiated statements. By attempting to paint AIPAC into an ideological corner, you have injured AIPAC’s ability to continue its bipartisan efforts, and in so doing have hurt the State of Israel as well.

You can read the rest of the letter here.

This letter reveals a sobering truth: the most pressing problem for American Jews is not the failure of spiritual leaders to disassociate themselves from Israel and its backers but the scandalous impunity with which some prominent rabbis and Jewish organizational leaders use their pulpits to undermine the pro-Israel community and lend aid and comfort to those seeking to wage economic war on the Jewish state. It takes little courage these days to denounce the pro-Israel cause; the rewards of doing so are actually quite substantial. Rather than needing more tolerance for those who seek to support their disgraceful campaign of delegitimization, perhaps what is required is for more American Jews like the signatories of the letter opposing their rabbis’ statement to find the guts to start speaking out against those who seek to shout down the Jewish state’s defenders.

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