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A couple of days after Christmas 2000, the friends talked about George W. Bush's victory at the Supreme Court and his cabinet choices.
"Oh by the way, you have not said nor have I, but it took a lot but I am glad Bush won," typed Sawyers.
"Me too and a pretty good cabinet so far . . . too many moderates for my taste but pretty good," said Harding.
"Yes, I agree," said Sawyers. "But I do think he made a good choice with Powell."
"I don't," responded Harding. "I think it was a horrible choice that he will come to regret soon . . . he's black and will just throw around that black 'tude all of them have . . . and be a big black ass in the long run if you ask me."
"I don't, but I guess only time will tell."
"Yup . . . and i'll be right . . . he's black and trash," wrote Harding.
Two days later, on a Friday evening, both men were chatting about a major snowstorm that was threatening the Northeast. Harding, who lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side, explained to Sawyers why a big snowfall had a different effect on New York City than on a place like Indianapolis.
"We're all bracing here for 12-16 inches of snow. . . that's all that's on the news here," said Harding.
"I have been hearing that on the weather channel, and I was about to ask if you were all set in case you got snowed in," typed Sawyers.
"It's not the same as where you live . . . there are two 24-hour grocery stores within 1/2 block . . . so we never have to stock up on anything when they are predicting bad weather. in '96 we had 26 inches and the streets were clean the next day."
"That sounds good, I will have to keep that in mind with my looking at places when I move," wrote Sawyers, who talked off and on about his desire to move to New York or California.
"We don't fuck around in nyc," said Harding, adding "lol"cyber-speak for "laugh out loud."
"Send the plows here," wrote back Sawyers, who lives in a garden apartment complex on Indianapolis's outskirts. "They have not cleaned a street around me in days now and the sidewalks are even worse."
"I think you'll be looking at warm weather places [to move to]," said Harding. "No, manhattan is always clear . . . the other boros take a little longer . . . but then all that lives in those areas are the low class white trash or blacks . . . so no need to make things easy on them."
It was a common refrain for Harding. Even describing his job, where he headed an agency that floats millions of dollars in bonds to build affordable housing, Harding's stock phrase was that he was building "low class apartments," new homes "for the lower class."
There was nothing low-class about Harding's own lifestyle while he ran the housing corporation. The Voice has detailed his high-flying use of his corporate expense account at the housing agency, billing to the city stays at luxury resorts around the world and gifts to Sawyers and others. His conduct is currently being explored by the city's Department of Investigation.
To represent him, Harding has retained Gerald Shargel, one of the nation's top criminal defense attorneys, who has represented clients ranging from John Gotti to former Bronx Democratic leader Stanley Friedman.
"It is offensive that someone would reveal another person's personal ruminations in an Internet chat room," said Shargel. He declined further comment.
Related Stories by Tom Robbins:
"Harding's Hustle: Bonuses, Bargains, and Strip Clubs at the Housing Development Corporation"