Who Hijacked Our Country

Friday, February 01, 2013

Ed Koch

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch — no relation to these dickwads — has passed away at age 88.

Being on the West Coast, I haven’t paid much attention to New York City politics, during or after Ed Koch’s tenure as Mayor.  But I was living in Connecticut during the summer of 1977 when Koch was one of several candidates vying for the Mayor’s office.  1977 was the Summer of Sam — when the serial killer “Son of Sam” was terrorizing the New York area.

Before running for mayor, Ed Koch had been a liberal congressman, with an almost 100% approval rating from a liberal watchdog group.  But he made maximum use of the public’s terror over Son of Sam during his mayoral campaign.  He came up with “law and order” and “death penalty” slogans that would have done any Republican proud.  Capital punishment was possibly his biggest campaign issue, even though the Mayor of New York City has no say whatsoever on the death penalty.  But he still got lots of mileage out of the issue.

Ed Koch became Mayor in 1978.  One of the candidates he defeated — Mario Cuomo — was elected Governor of New York four years later.

Ed Koch was outspoken and combative, but also very approachable and “of the people.”  He was famous for walking up to people on the street and saying “How’m I doing?”

He was originally an ally of Rudy Giuliani, and his endorsement helped Giuliani get elected Mayor in 1993.  But Koch later became alarmed at Giuliani’s authoritarian governing style.  He wrote a book titled “Giuliani:  Nasty Man.”

In 2008 he purchased a burial plot at the Trinity Church cemetery in Manhattan.  As he put it:

“I don't want to leave Manhattan, even when I'm gone. This is my home.  The thought of having to go to New Jersey was so distressing to me.”




Blogger Snave said...

Love him or hate him, he was sure a character! I always kind of enjoyed the guy.

February 1, 2013 at 8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was in New York when he was Mayor, and all they did was complain about him.

They used to call the Mayor of New York the 2nd hardest job in the Country.


February 2, 2013 at 5:14 AM  
Blogger S.W. Anderson said...

That period in the 1970's was backlash time against what many people -- notably poor and lower middle class -- perceived as judges and lawyers having become so caught up in ivory-tower sociological/psychological excuses for criminals and their crimes that even violent thugs were being coddled. It seemed hard to get thugs off the street and even harder to keep them off the street. And the street was where ordinary people, as opposed to judges and sociologists, lived, worked, walked and too often got mugged or hit by stray bullets. That resentment went hand in hand with resentment about limousine liberals who pushed for laws and policies whose bad side effects they were ignorant of and immune to, because they lived in exclusive apartments or the suburbs, well away from street thugs.

Hollywood played to the growing resentment with the Dirty Harry and Death Wish movies.

I think Koch's toughness was part and parcel of the growing resentment. I think it was very much a populist position for a NYC mayor to take at that time.

February 2, 2013 at 3:41 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Snave: You've gotta love somebody who comes right out and says what they mean and walks the walk.

Erik: They've called it that for a long time. I first heard that when "do nothing" Mayor Wagner got defeated by the fair haired boy John Lindsey in the mid 1960s. Wagner had kept everything running smoothly, and with Lindsey the city came apart with massive strikes and every other crisis imaginable.

SW: I never could tell whether crime was higher during that period or whether it was just public perception. But the NYC power outage of 1977 plus Son of Sam had an entire city on edge, for better or worse. More power to Ed Koch for making political capital out of it.

February 3, 2013 at 8:05 PM  
Blogger S.W. Anderson said...

Tom, street crime in and around NYC was definitely higher in that period. The increasing toughness in response by Koch, and later by Rudy Guiliani, ratcheted it down substantially.

February 4, 2013 at 12:01 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

SW: There was definitely a perception that street crime was higher and more random then ever, so I'm sure that perception was based on facts. I remember a Time Magazine cover in the summer of '77 that just about screamed how dangerous American cities were getting, and that random attacks were higher than ever.

February 4, 2013 at 3:36 PM  

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