By Anna Merlan
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There've been 10 days of heavy grumbling and griping among Mark Green's erstwhile supporters since the liberal icon went along with Mayor Giuliani's demand for three extra months on the job. And like any major disappointment in life and love, a single regret illuminates the memory of scores of other defects, all once considered insignificant but which now loom as unforgettable and unforgivable. Green's political gaffe with Giuliani (even the candidate finally acknowledged last week that his move had been "politically hurtful") has people expressing, many for the first time, their annoyance at everything from his hair to his posture.
So, the least a newspaper that urged its readers to vote for Green in the primary can do is provide a guided tour through the arguments and explain why, at the end of the day, some of us are sticking with him anyway.
First things first. When Rudy Giuliani demanded an extra 90 days in office, Freddy Ferrer stood tall, and Mark Green pulled an el foldo. It's as simple as that, right?
Well, not quite. If you're going to slam Green for going along with Giuliani, then it's at least worthwhile to take a hard look at how Ferrer handled the matter. Unlike Green, who made an almost snap judgment, responding to Giuliani in less than four hours, Ferrer took his time. Although he later said he had decided the issue in his own mind as soon as he left the meeting with the mayor, he waited until late the next day before announcing his decision. In fact, he waited until after Green made his own announcement, thus clearing the way for his stand for, as he put it, "the majestic principles of democracy." Ferrer knew his decision was in sync with the black and Latino voters whose ballots had pushed him into first place on primary night. And having scored an anemic 7 percent of white voters in the primary, Ferrer also saw an opportunity to haul in a large catch of disaffected liberal Green supporters.
For most pro-Ferrer and pro-Green voters, the subtext of giving Giuliani additional time in office was that it would mean that much more in the way of repressive, anti-poor policies. But it's worth noting that Ferrer himself never said a word out loud about that. In a speech the next day, the Bronx borough president hailed Giuliani as "a shining example of what it means to be a leader in times of crisis." He added, "I did not say no to the mayor. I said yes to democracy."
That wasn't all Ferrer said. In lieu of the extension, Ferrer offered Giuliani the job of running the multibillion-dollar reconstruction agency, a post that packs enough potential clout to make Robert Moses drool. Giuliani declined, as Ferrer surely assumed he would. But if the central objection to giving Giuliani more time in office was that he would continue his anti-minority, anti-labor ways, why try to have it both ways by offering him even greater power in your administration, a post that would make Giuliani into a kind of shadow mayor, haunting whoever held City Hall?
Right, but none of that explains why Green caved in the first place.
The bottom-line reason why Green went along with the man he had spent the prior seven and a half years criticizing appears to be this: He wanted to. Ever since he entered the race, mainstream media pundits have labeled Green a wild-eyed radical posing as a moderate, an ultraliberal politician who shouldn't be trusted with the levers of power. Now, in the midst of the city's greatest crisis, he had what he perceived as an opportunity to prove himself responsible.
And despite all the talk that the city can do just fine without Giuliani and his crew come January 1, there are real reasons to make sure that there is what Green later dubbed "a seamless transition." For one thing, come the general election on November 6, the entire current administration is going to be outtahere, headed for whatever new jobs they can find. And as tempting as it may be to say, "good riddance," whoever wins that election is going to need a lot of support from the outgoing upper- and middle-level administrators, particularly given the immense rebuilding tasks ahead and the now far more complicated intertwining between city and federal assistance in the wake of the September 11 attack.
The most troubling aspect of Green's mistakeand that's what it wasis that he failed to consider the extent to which his decision would alienate the blacks (he took 35 percent of that group, polls showed) and Latinos who had voted for him. What does that say about him? It certainly mixes things up, but it shouldn't outweigh the extensive work he did as Public Advocate, critiquing Giuliani's budgets and exposing discriminatory police practices.
I'm not convinced. Green not only broke faith with those of us who voted for him on September 25, he willingly ceded additional power to Giuliani.