Boston Bill vows it's Apple forever
April 10, 1996
For better or for worse, for richer or poorer (and clearly, he hopes it will be the former), outgoing Police Commissioner William Bratton says he'll be with us in the Big Apple until the end of his days.
"I will remain a citizen of this city for the rest of my life," the Boston native who still says "New Yawk" with a Beantown accent announced to 100 fat-cat police supporters, who coughed up a total of $15,000 at a Police Foundation fund-raising breakfast yesterday to see Bratton as commissioner for the last time.
The breakfast's keynote speaker at the Regency was former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, whose appearance Bratton had engineered. Befriending people like Kissinger had been one of the perks of his job as commissioner that Bratton had exploited. This had so infuriated his boss, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, that Giuliani forced Bratton's resignation last month and, his aides believe, then leaked details of Bratton's out-of-town freebie trips paid for by other influential New Yorkers.
Giuliani was not invited to the breakfast, although Giuliani's designee as Bratton's successor, Howard Safir attended.
Kissinger, meanwhile, after thanking his friend "Bill," riveted his audience for nearly an hour, roaming seamlessly between Bosnia and China, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union.
Some of The Doctor's thoughts: Of China, he said that "democracy was incompatible with Confucianism."
"I've known every Chinese leader. I've been to dinner with all of them. But I don't have a clue how they make their decisions about leadership." His prognosis: It is unlikely that the Chinese will ever become truely democratic or capitalistic.
On the Middle East: Despite having avoided negotiating with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for 20 years, Kissinger pronounced himself "fairly hopeful" over the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
Of the Soviet Union, Kissinger said that Americans had worked themselves into such a fear of Soviet nuclear capability that we had allowed ourselves to feel Russia was superior to us militarily. Anyone, he said, who'd ever driven in from Moscow's airport could see how far-fetched it was to believe that the Soviet Union could have launched a nuclear attack against us without first hitting themselves.
Then glancing at both Bratton and Safir, Kissinger offered some advice. When leaders, whether local or international, are presented with a "hot potato," they have a tendency to focus on the hot potato. As Kissinger put it, "Don't let the urgent overwhelm the important."
Then it was Bratton's turn.
"Howard," he said to his successor, "I hope you have half the fun I did." He then mentioned that he'd been permitted by Police Foundation member Dick Grasso to ring Monday's opening bell at the New York Stock exchange, of which Grasso is chairman.
And, he added, putting on his best face, "With my newest venture, maybe I'll be able to invest in the stock market." Despite promises that he would never accept a "Joe Blow security job," Bratton is leaving the department April 15 to become the head of a Boston-based guard agency.
Bratton then thanked the Police Foundation for its generosity (which has included awarding hundreds of thousands of dollars to his cronies and more recently, to refurbishing the waiting area outside the commissioner's office to create a period piece room of the time of Theodore Roosevelt, who Bratton likes to compare himself to.)
Then, in a kind of valedictory of his 27 months as commissioner, which has been known for its steep reductions in crime, Bratton said to Safir: "Howard, keep your eye on the prize."
Just as we had allowed ourselves to believe the Russians were superior to us militarily, said Bratton, paraphrasing Kissinger's remarks, we had allowed ourselves to believe we could not stop crime. And just as we had defeated the Russians, he said, "We showed we could do something about crime."
Email Leonard Levitt at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 1996 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.