From Hospital Bed, Koch Stews Over DNC Platform
Ed Koch is being treated for anemia at New York Presbyterian Hospital. The 87-year-old former NYC mayor has received several transfusions – two pints of blood in total – and is undergoing a battery of tests. He hopes to be released soon – perhaps as early as tomorrow.
But even in his weakened state, Koch still has politics on his mind, and his attention is focused on Charlotte, where the Democrats are gathered for the 2012 national convention.
“He’s very upset with the platform on Israel,” Koch spokesman George Arzt told me in the lobby of the New York delegation hotel this morning.
“The public officials who have called him from here – (NYC Council Speaker) Chris Quinn, (Reps.) Jerry Nadler, Eliot Engel – all he wants to do is talk to them about the platform and how this could have happened.”
“This” is the removal from the platform of three sentences that identified Jerusalem as the capital of Israel forever more. The 2008 platform included the following:
“Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”
Also removed was a reference to Hamas and a pledge to isolate the organization until it “renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel’s right to exist, and abides by past agreements.”
Israel has long been Koch’s chief policy concern. His anger over the Obama administration’s Israel policy caused him to endorse Republican Rep. Bob Turner over (Jewish) Assemblyman David Weprin in last year’s special election for former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s NY-9 Queens/Brooklyn seat (which doesn’t exist anymore, thanks to redistricting).
Koch made it clear his support of Turner, whose defeat of Weprin in a Democrat-dominated district was a big for the GOP with national implications, was intended to send a message to the administration.
The message was received loud and clear. Obama set about wooing Koch after Turner’s win. The former mayor didn’t need much convincing. He changed his tune on Obama, issuing him an early endorsement and agreeing to campaign for him in Florida this election season. (His health might prevent that from occurring now).
Arzt told me he sent Koch’s office a copy of the platform, and he was read the offending passages, which appear on page 38.
“He wants to see if this can be rectified,” Arzt said.
“They have already passed it, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be modified at a later time, or perhaps the president could say something about Israel in his speech. (Sen.) Chuck (Schumer) has been talking to (Obama advisor David) Axelrod on the issue.”
Arzt said it’s “too early” to say if Koch will be angry enough about this to rescind his endorsement of Obama.
And Koch isn’t the only one distressed. NYC Councilwoman Tish James, whose Brooklyn district includes several Hasidic neighborhoods, including Crown Heights, told me her constituents were “blowing up my email” as soon as they learned of what Democrats are insisting was an “omission, not a commission.”
James said she is assuring everyone who contacts her of Obama’s staunch support of Israel, but admitted the task is made more difficult by this platform dust-up.
She also said the omission, which was apparently done due to a desire by the platform committee to focus on economic, social and environmental issues and not foreign policy, has given the Republicans an “opportunity” on which to slam Democratic candidates – from Obama on down, something they are doing with zeal.
“I think President Obama has not said enough of what he has done for Israel,” James allowed. “He has not told his story, and that has been a liability for the administration. He really needs to get the narrative out and he needs for his deputies and for others to talk about all that he has done for Israel.”
This situation has forced a number of Democrats into a difficult position.
This morning, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, whose GOP opponent, Wendy Long, seized on the missing Israel lines right away, was forced to say she “disagrees” with the party platform, while simultaneously lauding the Obama administration.
An update on Koch’s health: According to Arzt, Koch “as a low level of oxygen in his blood, so he doesn’t think he’s going home today.” A final decision won’t be made until later this afternoon.
Arzt said the former mayor, who was known for “eating like a horse,” has been eating very lightly of late – “not like the Ed Koch of old” – and has also been complaining about a lack of strength.
“He’s expressed to me in the past how weak he was. He was saying he couldn’t even bring his briefcase to work, couldn’t carry his briefcase to work,” said Arzt, who told me Koch made peace several years ago with the idea that his time left on the planet might soon end. (He purchased a burial plot in Manhattan back in 2008).
“I think he’s comfortable with it in his own head,” Arzt said. “He talks about it a lot. But I think for us, the people who worked in his administration, you know, we’re not prepared to let him go yet.”
|Print article||This entry was posted by Liz Benjamin on September 5, 2012 at 1:25 pm, and is filed under 2012 DNC, Ed Koch, Uncategorized. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|