Commentary Magazine


Topic: New York City Police Department

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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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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Sacrificing Security for Mythical Backlash

After the Boston Marathon bombing there were questions as to how the FBI missed the threat from the Tsarnaev brothers despite warnings from the Russian security services about Chechen extremists. But just as alarming were the reports that the elder of the two terrorists had become an advocate of extremism within his mosque, creating scenes that scared and alienated fellow congregants. That story brought to mind the beating the New York City Police Department has taken in the last two years after it was revealed that the cops were devoting resources to monitor suspicious activities at local mosques that might be gathering places for terrorists. But instead of the example of the failure of Boston-area police to pick up on signs that the Tsarnaevs might be dangerous serving to bolster support for NYPD policies, the department finds itself under siege for seeking to do its job.

The New York Times issued another broadside against the NYPD today which expresses support for a lawsuit brought against the police in federal court for surveillance of Muslim sites. Like the attack on the department for its stop and frisk policy, the decision of the Times and other liberals to go all in on efforts to halt scrutiny of places where terror may be advocated approaches the issue with little concern for the safety of New Yorkers or for the Constitution. The NYPD’s actions are not only constitutional but also, as the Boston case illustrated, necessary. Just as important, the lawsuit seems rooted in the notion of a mythical post-9/11 backlash that remains unproven except in the minds of the liberal media and groups that purport to represent Muslims.

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After the Boston Marathon bombing there were questions as to how the FBI missed the threat from the Tsarnaev brothers despite warnings from the Russian security services about Chechen extremists. But just as alarming were the reports that the elder of the two terrorists had become an advocate of extremism within his mosque, creating scenes that scared and alienated fellow congregants. That story brought to mind the beating the New York City Police Department has taken in the last two years after it was revealed that the cops were devoting resources to monitor suspicious activities at local mosques that might be gathering places for terrorists. But instead of the example of the failure of Boston-area police to pick up on signs that the Tsarnaevs might be dangerous serving to bolster support for NYPD policies, the department finds itself under siege for seeking to do its job.

The New York Times issued another broadside against the NYPD today which expresses support for a lawsuit brought against the police in federal court for surveillance of Muslim sites. Like the attack on the department for its stop and frisk policy, the decision of the Times and other liberals to go all in on efforts to halt scrutiny of places where terror may be advocated approaches the issue with little concern for the safety of New Yorkers or for the Constitution. The NYPD’s actions are not only constitutional but also, as the Boston case illustrated, necessary. Just as important, the lawsuit seems rooted in the notion of a mythical post-9/11 backlash that remains unproven except in the minds of the liberal media and groups that purport to represent Muslims.

Contrary to the Times, these measures do not inspire “suspicion and distrust.” Instead, they are quite rational reactions to an unfortunate rash of religion-based terrorism in this country that can be traced directly back to a brand of extremist Islam. Try as they might, critics of the NYPD cannot pretend that a strain of Islamist practitioners has promoted hatred of the West and the United States. All too often, the United States has paid for its indifference to these terror promoters in the blood of its citizens as organized groups and loan wolves threaten mayhem.

It should be specified, as Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has often said, that the overwhelming majority of American Muslims are loyal and hardworking citizens. But asking the police to ignore major sources of terror in the name of restoring the country to its September 10, 2001 mindset is a recipe for potential disaster.

Kelly is absolutely right to dismiss criticisms of his anti-terror policies. The critics of the department have failed to prove that the investigations of some mosques have in any way hindered the First Amendment rights to freedom of religion of the congregants. What they have done is made it harder for extremists to hijack religious institutions for criminal purposes.

It is to be hoped that the courts will uphold the NYPD’s decisions, but the cumulative weight of efforts to curb the necessary scrutiny of terror on our home shores may yet overwhelm the efforts of those who have taken the responsibility to prevent such crimes. In this case the sympathies of the courts, as well as those of the American people, should be with those who are seeking to defend America, not those who are trying to stop them from doing their jobs.

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We May Learn Something, Finally

Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden stepped down from the No. 2 spot at the Justice Department. The reason, we are told, is that he really didn’t get along with the attorney general, the career lawyers, or the political appointees. And the White House didn’t care for him. Well, sometimes things just don’t work out.

But that means we’ll have a confirmation hearing for the position responsible for a great many things in the Justice Department, including criminal matters and “federal programs” (Guantanamo). A high-profile confirmation hearing provides the Senate with the opportunity to get some answers out of a very tight-lipped Justice Department.

For starters, what’s become of the internal investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility over the dismissal of the New Black Panthers voter-intimidation case? This week, Congressmen Frank Wolf and Lamar Smith penned a letter to Holder that read in part:

We remain concerned that the Justice Department is prolonging OPR’s investigation as a pretense to ignore inquiries from Congress and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights into the sudden and unexplained dismissal of voter intimidation charges against the New Black Panther Party. Any written report by OPR will be prepared exclusively for the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, with no guarantee that it will ever be made public.

After five months of unanswered questions, the American people can tell a cover up when they see one. If the Justice Department had any credible reason for dropping these charges, what do they have to hide by providing those answers to Congress?

Perhaps if the confirmation of DOJ’s No. 2 is at issue, Holder will cough up some answers. And by the way, why was the case dismissed?

Then there’s the decision to give KSM a civilian trial. It seems that other than the lefty lawyer brigade at DOJ, Holder didn’t consult with anyone but his wife and brother, not even the New York City Police Department or the Department of Homeland Security. What process does Justice go through? Was the White House really never consulted? Which lawyers were involved, and what consideration was given to the release of national-security data? A key confirmation hearing is the time to get some information. I’m sure the most transparent administration in history will be willing to share all.

There has been precious little oversight of the Holder Justice Department by the Democratic Congress. Now senators will have their opportunity to ask some hard questions. It is, as they say, a teachable moment.

Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden stepped down from the No. 2 spot at the Justice Department. The reason, we are told, is that he really didn’t get along with the attorney general, the career lawyers, or the political appointees. And the White House didn’t care for him. Well, sometimes things just don’t work out.

But that means we’ll have a confirmation hearing for the position responsible for a great many things in the Justice Department, including criminal matters and “federal programs” (Guantanamo). A high-profile confirmation hearing provides the Senate with the opportunity to get some answers out of a very tight-lipped Justice Department.

For starters, what’s become of the internal investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility over the dismissal of the New Black Panthers voter-intimidation case? This week, Congressmen Frank Wolf and Lamar Smith penned a letter to Holder that read in part:

We remain concerned that the Justice Department is prolonging OPR’s investigation as a pretense to ignore inquiries from Congress and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights into the sudden and unexplained dismissal of voter intimidation charges against the New Black Panther Party. Any written report by OPR will be prepared exclusively for the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, with no guarantee that it will ever be made public.

After five months of unanswered questions, the American people can tell a cover up when they see one. If the Justice Department had any credible reason for dropping these charges, what do they have to hide by providing those answers to Congress?

Perhaps if the confirmation of DOJ’s No. 2 is at issue, Holder will cough up some answers. And by the way, why was the case dismissed?

Then there’s the decision to give KSM a civilian trial. It seems that other than the lefty lawyer brigade at DOJ, Holder didn’t consult with anyone but his wife and brother, not even the New York City Police Department or the Department of Homeland Security. What process does Justice go through? Was the White House really never consulted? Which lawyers were involved, and what consideration was given to the release of national-security data? A key confirmation hearing is the time to get some information. I’m sure the most transparent administration in history will be willing to share all.

There has been precious little oversight of the Holder Justice Department by the Democratic Congress. Now senators will have their opportunity to ask some hard questions. It is, as they say, a teachable moment.

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