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Only Mayor Mike Can Save The City? Nuts!

October 6, 2008

Given the recent behavior of Mayor Mike, it may be time for a history refresher.

Congress passed the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution on Mar. 21, 1947, limiting the President of the United States to two terms.

Lawmakers sought to prevent future presidents from amassing the power of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had been elected to an unprecedented four terms.

Whether in politics, the police department or the board room, the words of the 19th century British historian Lord Acton resonate: “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Mayor Mike seems to have forgotten this. In a stunning reversal, born of nothing but ego, he wants to rewrite the same term limit law he long supported so that he can run a third time.

His justification: he says he’s the only person who can lead the city through impending financial turmoil.

Oh, yes, we’ve heard this before. Rudy Giuliani also believed he was irreplaceable after 9/11 when he tried to extend his term another three months. Ed Koch got it right then. He said that if Giuliani was so concerned about the city he should stay on — as an advisor to the new mayor.

Just think! Had there not been a two-term limit law in 2001, Rudy would certainly have won re-election to a third term. Bernie Kerik might still be police commissioner, denying Ray Kelly his second act. For that matter, all the good that Mayor Mike has accomplished might never have come to pass if there had been Rudy III.

But why worry for Mayor Mike? His current ego trip has the support of a lot of rich and influential people like himself. This includes Koch, the owners of the city’s three daily newspapers and cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder, the power behind the two-term limits law, who has now lost his way, if not his principles.

Lauder seemed to remember why he had supported term limits, telling the Times last week, “I did this because I thought it was vital to bring new blood into city government and avoid stagnation, corruption and the creation of imperial politicians.”

Like Mayor Mike, Lauder has now reversed his position. He now supports a “one-time exception” so Mayor Mike can run for a third-term. Even a dope like Lauder must realize that a one-time exception means the end of term limits. Period. Game over.

Your Humble Servant remembers when Lauder made a fool of himself in the 1989 Republican mayoral primary against Giuliani when Lauder was a shill for Senator Alphonse D’Amato, who spared no effort to defeat Giuliani, his arch-enemy.

Although Lauder proved as dumb as a stone [confirmed when he spoke], he served D’Amato’s purpose. His candidacy may have been responsible for Giuliani’s defeat by David Dinkins in the general election.

Your Humble Servant can’t prove it but the two-term limits law that Lauder fathered first in 1993, then again in 1996, was probably aimed specifically at preventing Giuliani from running for a third term.

History, though, has a perverse way of delivering payback. Although the 22nd Amendment was passed by a Republican Congress as a reaction to FDR, the first president affected by it was a Republican — Dwight David Eisenhower [1952-1960]. The World War II hero was popular enough that he would probably have won re-election to a third term.

Should Mayor Mike’s term-limit extension pass, let’s watch what fate has in store for him.

Steve's Farewell.
So this is where Ray Kelly ends up, having antagonized virtually every credible reporter in town who has come to know him in his second term as police commissioner — at a farewell party for the Post’s Steve Dunleavy.

This is no knock on Steve, who in his day was as good as it gets. Unfortunately, in recent years, he has been a parody of himself, praising every cop as a hero, no matter the egregiousness of his offense. In so doing, Dunleavy allied himself with some of the department’s darkest elements.

Ex-cop Chuck Schwarz may well not have been the second man in the 70th precinct’s bathroom when police officer Justin Volpe sodomized Abner Louima with a broom handle. But Schwarz was convicted of perjury for acting in his mind as a stand-up guy and never disclosing the full truth of who participated in or knew about that torture session, which blackened the NYPD’s image like nothing else, past or present.

Instead, Dunleavy made Schwarz — who attended his party — out to be a martyr.

Perhaps it is fitting that Sgt. John Hynes, the Ceremonial Unit sergeant, who came to Dunleavy’s party to facilitate Kelly appearance, ended up later that night charged with being drunk and shooting up an ATM machine.

Had Dunleavy written the story, he probably would have described Hynes as a “hero cop.”

The Taser Tragedy.
The new head of the Lieutenants’ Benevolent Association Thomas R. Sullivan spoke the most poignant words about the suicide of Lieu. Michael Pigott. “It is worth remembering that our police officers are not supermen, but rather flesh and blood human beings who deal with life and death situations that most of us cannot even imagine on a daily basis,” Sullivan said.

Pigott gave the order last week to Taser an emotionally disturbed man, who then fell to his death. Apparently fearing criminal prosecution, he committed suicide after the department suspended him. Criminal prosecution, as it turns out, seems unlikely.

According to the Daily News, Pigott’s family didn’t want Assistant Chief Charles Kammerdener or Kelly at the wake or funeral, blaming them for ordering the suspension, thus ignoring the successes of the lieutenant’s stellar 21-year career.

The article added that the department, in turn, was making it difficult for Emergency Service Unit colleagues to attend the services.

While Kelly is known to retaliate for personal slights, a police source pointed out that it is not uncommon for the families of officers who commit suicide or die in the line of duty to express “displaced anger,” and initially blame the department brass and the police commissioner.

Usually, said the source, that anger dissipates so that by the day of the wake or the funeral, the brass and commissioner are welcome.

Such forgiveness appears to have happened here. Kelly paid his respects at Pigott’s wake this weekend.

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Copyright © 2008 Leonard Levitt