Tuesday, September 24, 2013

De Blasio Attacked for Past Support of Sandinistas. Does it Matter?

By Claudio Iván Remeseira | Posted on Tuesday, September 24, 2013, at 5:00 p.m. ET. Last revised, Wed., September 25 at 2:50 p.m. ET
On the same day the New York Times published an article on Bill de Blasio's past as a young admirer of Nicaragua's Sandinista Revolution, the Democratic candidate for New York City mayor took heavy flak from his competitors in the race. The setting was a news conference organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York to criticize Iran and show support for Israel on occasion of the United Nations General Assembly.

The attacks on de Blasio were predictable, and also a little bit over the top. “It’s pretty obvious we think very, very differently about the way the governments of the world should work,” said GOP nominee Joseph J. Lhota. So far so god; that's what a Republican candidate is expected to say about this topic. But then, Mr. Lohta added: “In his own words, he called himself a ‘democratic socialist.’ It’s really unfortunate that that’s the level that we’ve come to in this city.”  

'Socialist' is a word that still scares lots of people in the U.S. But accusing de Blasio of being a 'democratic socialist'like France's President François Hollande or former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero, to name a few world leaders— is quite an unsophisticated accusation to be laid by a man who aspires to govern the so-called Capital of the World.

Former Bronx president and Independent Party candidate Adolfo Carrión Jr. went even further when he tried to drag de Blasio's prestige through the mud by comparing his juvenile ardor for the Sandinistas to a scene from George Orwell's Animal Farm (I wonder what animal he would compare de Blasio toA red giraffe, perhaps?) 

The NYT's article was questioned as red-baiting by columnist Ed Morales, who blogged a "corrective" to the piece (and which would merit some corrections of its own, but that's a different discussion). Yet it is not clear how much harm can de Blasio's left-wing sympathies do him among New York City's liberal voters, even among his Wall Street backers (de Blasio is edging Lhota in the donors race). 

According to the NYT, after the press conference de Blasio eluded reporters who wanted to get his response to Lhota's and Carrión's attacks. Later, on a campaign stop at Queens Borough Hall, de Blasio made some middle-of-the-road remarks, somehow distancing himself from his younger self while at the same time reaffirming his long-time beliefs in social justice. 

But his real rebuttal came during an interview at Curtis Sliwa's AM 970 radio talk show on Monday. As Capital New York's Dana Rubinstein reports, when asked who he would consider as prospective police commissioner in case of getting elected as Mayor on November 5, de Blasio's answer was clear. He didn't choose a political commissar nurtured in the radical creed of a Daniel Ortega or Fidel Castro regime, not even an Hugo Chávez sympathizer. His pick was William J. Bratton, the same Bill Bratton who served as police commissioner under Rudy Giuliani, a mayor infamously associated (remember the tragic Amadou Diallo shooting) with the stop-and-frisk policy. De Blasio's second prospective candidate was Phillip Banks III, current NYPD's Chief of Department.

In fact, as Rubinstein points out in her article, it's been known for months that de Blasio had shortlisted Bratton for the post. Last week, Denis Hamill elaborated on this for the Daily News:
Bratton hasn’t been talking with the press since his name surfaced as a possible police commissioner under a Mayor de Blasio. But Bratton has said that if used properly, stop-and-frisk is a legitimate police tool. But he said a stop should be made only if a cop has a reasonable suspicion someone is a criminal or about to commit a crime. And a suspect should be frisked only if the cop has “fear” that the suspect might harm the officer or citizens. Bratton says this is a much different approach than Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s policy, which he likened to troop “surges” in Iraq. Bratton has expressed interest in returning as NYPD commissioner. So de Blasio must have talked with Bratton about retraining cops who use stop-and-frisk.Under a Mayor de Blasio, the days of racial profiling and slamming a random young man of color over a police car fender in front of his girlfriend would be over.
In any case, one can expect more hammering on the Nicaragua issue on the part of de Blasio's opponents, specially after de Blasio's campaign announced the endorsement of President Obama. What a better proof of revolutionary politics than the support from a Kenyan, outlandish Mau-Mau socialist? 
Bill de Blasio with his son, Dante, and President Obama at a fund-raiser, in a picture released in Twitter by de Blasio's campaign. Photo: Bill Hyers

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