By JAMES P. PINKERTON
LONG ISLAND NEWSDAY
Do you miss the good old days of rising crime in New York City? If so, don't worry: they're coming back -- courtesy, once again, of liberal judges and limousine politicians.
The mostly liberal New York media have deliberately underplayed the news that a federal judge ruled recently that city cops had violated the "constitutional rights" of "peaceful panhandlers." You know "peaceful panhandlers," don't you? All they want is to exercise their First Amendment freedom to speak and stare at you, so long as they don't actually assault you. Nothing wrong with that, right? And so justice was done, right?
That's what The New York Times thinks. A recent headline read, "Police Charged Panhandlers Under Unconstitutional Law." So in the Times' view of the world, which is the view from the back seat of a limousine, this court ruling is a victory for the Constitution, pure and simple. And what of the common-sense right of people to walk the streets unmolested? The lead plaintiff-panhandler, for example, is currently facing felony raps for crack cocaine. So best get a limo, because the judge, Shira Scheindlin, ordered the immediate release of anyone who might be in custody under the old rule.
In the words of Walter Olson, a scholar of litigation at the Manhattan Institute, the ultimate outcome of this case will be to "shower thugs with money" -- with their lawyers, no doubt, getting a big cut.
By the way, one might note that the judge who liberated the panhandlers was appointed by Bill Clinton. And back then there was a prominent female lawyer in the White House, one who wielded disproportionate influence over government proceedings. That would be, of course, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Surely her role in her husband's judicial picks, and her overall jurisprudential thinking, should be explored as she seeks re-election to the Senate and perhaps higher office in 2008.
Way of thinking
But the real issue isn't political party, it's overall philosophy. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is nominally a Republican, but he has inherited the thinking of two New York leaders of the 1960s -- former Mayor John Lindsay and former Gov. Nelson Rockefeller -- who were liberals first and Republicans second.
Lindsay wanted to ride limousine liberalism right into the White House. Rocky wanted to be president, too, although he also busied himself with costly construction projects. For his part, Bloomberg does not seem to have Washington ambitions, but as your average Upper East Side billionaire, he has a Lindsayan disinterest in the quality of life for ordinary New Yorkers, as well as a Rockefellerian preoccupation with building a sports stadium -- on the West Side, in Queens, anywhere. Anything to get the 2012 Olympics. What could be more fun for Bloomberg than to play host, seven years hence, to his fellow international jet-setters at a fancy new stadium?
But as Bloomberg seeks to secure a big monument to his otherwise middling mayoral reign, in the real world of real people, the clock is moving backward. Not that Bloomberg will ever notice as he looks out the window of his town house -- the lowlifes are being turned loose again. Fred Siegel, author of a new biography of Bloomberg's predecessor, "The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of American Life," says it boils down to worldview: "Giuliani woke up every morning asking himself, 'How can I reduce crime and revive neighborhoods?'" By contrast, Siegel continues, "Bloomberg wakes up every morning and asks, 'How can I help Woody Johnson?'" Or, now, Fred Wilpon.
And what about the Democrats who want Bloomberg's job? Would any of them do better? Siegel's one-word answer: "Fuhgeddaboudit."
So whoever wins this November, ordinary New Yorkers will have to wait for better law enforcement leadership. Out there, somewhere, is another Rudolph Giuliani -- a would-be mayor who would rather safeguard the streets than pander to big financial interests or turn-'em-loose lefty ideologues.
X Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service