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He grabs his PalmPilot, a tiny handheld computer, and calls up a file slugged "Healing Hillary," a series of hypothetical 30-second campaign ads aimed at exploiting heightened black voter interest in a Clinton-Giuliani Senate contest. Sharpton never meant for its details to be made public, but in light of his divisive spat with Mrs. Clinton and her advisers, he's "airing" the spots so that her strategists can benefit from his political acumen.
This will show, after all, that he has the temperament and the personality to agitate on behalf of the would-be candidate. All of the ads feature Mrs. Clinton. Here are some of the talking points, as directed by Al Sharpton:
Commercial No. 1 presents Mrs. Clinton as a racial healer who finally has included Harlem in her listening tour and winds up at Sharpton's House of Justice answering provocative questions on issues such as police brutality and racial profiling before receiving Sharpton's endorsement.
Commercial No. 2 expands on the racial healer theme, dredging up the 1988 presidential primary in which then mayor Ed Koch declared that Jews would be crazy to vote for Jesse Jackson. But an announcer chimes in, saying, "We should never return to that ugly and polarizing era." The camera pans to a news conference in which Koch, Mrs. Clinton, and Sharpton are on the steps of City Hall talking unity and taking the high road.
SHARPTON: "Hillary Clinton can heal the city by bringing together those who were involved in the racial polarization of 10 years ago."
MRS. CLINTON: "I can bring Ed Koch and Al Sharpton in the same room. I can bring Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Al Sharpton in the same room. I'm not going to be like Rudy Giuliani, who says I'm not talking to certain people."
Koch then portrays Giuliani as a racial polarizer and plugs his book Giuliani, Nasty Man.
Commercial No. 3 exploits the mayor's troubled relationship with the city's blacks and Latinos. Then a voice declares that tensions have been running especially high since the fatal police shooting of Amadou Diallo. The ad features Mrs. Clinton outside the Bronx apartment building where Diallo was gunned down by four white undercover cops. She is surrounded by Sharpton and a bevy of black and Latino mothers who have lost their sons, allegedly to police brutality. The camera zooms in as Mrs. Clinton, tears streaming down her face, embraces Margarita Rosario, whose son, Anthony, 18, and his cousin Hilton Vega, 21, were shot to death in 1995 by police investigating a robbery.
SHARPTON: "I present to you our Healing Hillary."
MRS. CLINTON: "Rather than sympathize with a grieving mother, whether or not he agrees with her version of the events, Rudy Giuliani gets on his radio call-in show and suggests to Mrs. Rosario that maybe she raised her son to be a criminal, maybe its her fault that her son is dead. Where is the compassion, Rudy? There is a perception, Mr. Mayor, that some police officers are out of control."
Commercial No. 4 attacks Giuliani's policy of isolating those he disagrees with. Mrs. Clinton and Sharpton are gathered on the steps of City Hall flanked by Democratic members of the City Council, including its rising star Bill Perkins; Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields; and Carl McCall, the state comptroller and New York's highest elected black official.
MRS. CLINTON: "It took Rudy Giuliani four long years before he could sit down in a meeting with Comptroller McCall. He didn't meet with Borough President Fields until hundreds of peopleblacks, whites, Jewsstarted going to jail to protest his policies. How do you send a man like this to Washington, who won't see people, won't talk to people. Say no to the Prince of Polarization and give a resounding yes to the healer."
Since foreign policy often compels a U.S. senator to deal with foreign leaders he or she may not like, the ad also depicts Giuliani as xenophobic and rude. It shows a clip of the mayor gloating in an interview with reporters after confirming that he has thrown Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat out of Lincoln Center. The ad captures Giuliani implying that during the 1995 visit of Fidel Castro the Cuban president was not welcome in New York City.
SHARPTON: "Do we need a senator who brings people of differing nations together? Or do we need a senator who kicks a head of state out of Lincoln Center by the seat of his pants?"
In addition to the spots, Sharpton says he will fan out to the city's predominantly black housing developments, conducting teach-ins to drive home the devastating impact a Giuliani Senate victory would have on their lives.
"People must understand that a U.S. senator has the power to hurt us," he told the Voice. "I would tell them that a U.S. senator nominates federal prosecutors and judges; do we want Rudy Giuliani to have a say in who will replace [retiring U.S. Attorney] Zachary Carter, who successfully prosecuted police officers involved in the beating and sodomy of Abner Louima? If Rudy is elected it would take us another 30 years to get out from under the havoc he wreaked."