The Bronx leg of Jonathan Tasini’s whirlwind five-borough tour looked like the rest of the labor lawyer’s quixotic bid against Sen. Hillary Clinton: It was a lackluster event ignored by the media. Tasini showed up to the main Bronx post office with two supporters, some placards, and an easel. His audience was yours truly and a local man who’s fighting plans to close the post office.
The connection between Operation Iraqi Freedom and the U.S. Postal Service, according to Tasini, is red ink. “The war costs and it either has to come from raising taxes or cutting things or both,” he said. In other words, if we brought our boys and girls home, the folks who live around 149th and Grand Concourse would still be able to buy their stamps there.
Tasini’s placards broke down the cost of the war in people and pennies. Of the 2,652 servicemembers killed to date, 36 hailed from the city (14 from Brooklyn, eight each from the Bronx and Manhattan, five from Queens and one from Staten Island). The total cost of the war is $318.5 billion, which translates to $10.6 billion for the city of New York, based on population. That breaks down to $1,297.69 per New Yorker, and with the war having lasted about 1,270 days, it means all that fun in Iraq is costing each of us just $1.02 a day. But for those of us who’ll do anything for a buck, that’s no insignificant sum—even before you add in the priceless people who’ll never come home.
Speaking of numbers, Tasini claims the upcoming election night results are “not irrelevant, but not the most important thing”—unless, he winks, he gets 50 percent plus one. He won’t, but he’s still satisfied with the race he’s run. “There’s no question that the war is the issue and we’ve made it the issue and Hillary Clinton has run and hid from the debate,” he said.
Of course, incumbents who are coasting to victory often avoid debates with insurgents. But Sen. Clinton has in recent weeks staked out a somewhat more critical stance on the war. That might be because of deteriorating conditions in Iraq, or it might be because of Tasini. It could also be that she is bracing for the looming liberal electorate who will decide Hillary’s fate in the 2008 presidential primaries. A glaring flaw in Tasini’s effort to really scare Clinton into opposing the war was that so few of those very anti-war stalwarts stood behind him on the campaign trail, e.g. today on his lonely foray to the Bronx.
Tasini says they were all too scared of Hillary to frighten her. “Too many progressive groups are afraid of her and give her a pass,” he says. “People don’t have a spine and don’t want to stand up to someone they need access to.”