Politics & Policy

Jonah Arrives in The Big Apple! Ticker-Tape Parade Scheduled


I am filing from New York today. That’s right, the land of divine pizza, assertive policing techniques, toilets so powerful they can swallow a human baby in a single flush. New York City — Metropolis for readers of early Superman, Gotham for readers of early Batman, Hymietown for readers of early Jesse Jackson. My home for readers of early me. In fact, if you would like to see some of my early œuvre, I’ve fished it out of my father’s closet. See the chiaroscuro of Mr. Cow? The subtle shadings of this pig, er, explosion thing. Brilliant, if I do say so myself.

But I am not writing today to dwell on past triumphs, or even to achieve new ones — which is where you probably expected that sentence to go. No, instead I am just looking to get the job done.

Since I am here I should probably write about goings-on in Noo Jork. Well, I’m eating my parents’ food and watching TV. File’s done. The police-killing of Amadou Diallo is the central preoccupation of the day. If you haven’t heard about it already, you will. Members of a non-career-track police squad, called the Street Crimes Unit, shot and killed a black, unarmed immigrant. Actually they shot and killed him — and then they shot him a lot more. The police fired 41 times, striking him 19. The killing of Diallo was just awful and these cops will likely pay for it.

But the response to the killing is another kind of overkill. The hardscrabble, intellectual, garbage-can-picking remnant of New York’s old coalition is using this tragedy to go after Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The fact that they are going after Giuliani is neither striking or new. The fact that it is working is quite remarkable and disturbing.

If I remember correctly, the police improperly shot and killed innocent people when crime rates were through the roof. Cops making mistakes — and getting punished for it — is nothing new in New York. What is new — at least since the 1950s — is the fact that people feel safe, I mean really safe, walking down the street. I won’t quote all the crime stats, but everything that you saw in Deathwish I, II, and III is down a lot or doesn’t happen anymore. Giuliani didn’t create the techniques that have proved so successful. But he did have the guts to implement them in America’s most hostile political climate.

The techniques were originally conceived by political scientists James Q. Wilson (the man I nominate for the guy with the most brain stuff in America) and George Kelling. The school they founded is called the “Broken Windows” theory. It says that small amounts of chaos can breed huge amounts of suffering. In the mayor’s first term, he applied the theory to great effect. For example, he said that fare jumpers in the subway would be prosecuted. The criminal lobby said, hey, wait, that’s not fair, who cares about people who save a buck jumping turnstyles? If I can get my guy off for eating the livers of old ladies…? Well, it turned out that people who jump turnstyles don’t respect the law generally. And people who don’t respect the law generally, get this: are disproportionately criminals. The cops would frisk the freeloaders and find really cool stuff, like guns, crack, Hillary Clinton’s billing records, and even fingerprints that could be linked to various unsolved murders and the like. Crime began plummeting. Unsafe (minority) neighborhoods became safe (minority neighborhoods).

But Giuliani’s critics don’t care, even though their constituencies have the most to gain and have gained the most. Every day there are protestors gathering downtown. Maybe you saw Susan Sarandon on the news? The protests are being led by Al Sharpton, a man who should still be in jail for the fraud of Tawana Brawley. What Sharpton and his merry band are trying to do is discredit the entire Giuliani project. It’s sort of like saying the My Lai massacre discredited not just Richard Nixon, not just the Vietnam War, but anti- Communism. Fighting crime is — by definition — the government’s first obligation. Today we have this notion that deterring teen cigarette smoking is a more central mission of the nanny state than ensuring that people, black, white, Hispanic people, don’t get shot.

As John Podhoretz, associate editor of the New York Post, writes in the current issue of The Weekly Standard, the aim of the protestors is to “discredit a certain kind of conservative governance whose success is a dagger pointed at the heart of American liberalism.”

The effort is also, I think, a dagger pointed at the heart of the First Lady’s likely opponent for the Senate race in 2000. But that’s another story.


The Jonah Poll The Mother of All Sweatiest Movies Poll

In the Heat of the Night

Raging Bull

The Rocky Movies

Bridge on the River Kwai

Cool Hand Luke


The Latest