Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Donald and The Times

You would have to be coming back from 9 months at the Space Station, or just emerging from a coma--medically induced or not--not to know that the NYT and President Donald Trump are not buddies. And that's definitely understating the enmity between the two.

The Times didn't like him as a primary Republican presidential candidate; they didn't like him as a presidential candidate; they didn't like him as president-elect, and since January 20th came and went with no cataclysm, other than who was taking office, the Times doesn't like Donald Trump as president. Without saying it directly, the only good thing about a given day, is that it is one less day they have to envision him in office.

There is a daily barrage of words that come out against President Trump. But to frame a story around what a now deceased mayor had to say about him 30 odd years ago is taking the cause and raising it from the dead. Literally.

In today's A section there is a story from the veteran reporter Sam Roberts, the NYC maven of the newsroom who has written about New York City, and whose book, 'A History of New York in 101 Objects' someone was thoughtful enough to give me one Christmas. I was happy to see he included a public school door knob as one of the objects. I got a custodian to filch one for me years ago and I use it as a paper weight--solid brass with the wording 'Public School' on one door knob, and 'Public School City of New York' on its mate. Growing up, I don't know how many times my hands touched one of those knobs.

Mr. Roberts has joined the obituary desk and does duty informing us about the departed, so a story with quotes from a deceased seems to fit right in with his daily assignments. A seance of sorts has been held.

Anyone who lived through the Koch years knows that Mr. Roberts's lede is true gold: "When former Mayor Koch was alive, he was so unconstrained that he was considered unavoidable for comment." The story appears on page 20 today, under the tells-everything-headline: "Even in Death, Koch Shows Contempt for Trump: 'One of the Least Likable People.'"

There is the photo of  The Donald, cutting a handsome, almost boyish pose with his first wife Ivanka, shaking hands with the mayor, in 1983. There is a photo of the ribbon cutting ceremony at the newly restored Wollman ice skating rink, a project that dragged on for over a decade with a series of failed contractors until The Donald said he could do it, and do it on time. It was done swiftly, and under budget. Friction emerged when The Donald suggested they rename the rink after him. That didn't happen.

Mayor Koch passed away in 2013. He has mayor for 12 years, after having been a congressman, then went to work for a law firm. He passed away at 88, without ever really having retired. My wife, when asked when she might retire tells everyone, "I'm like Mayor Koch." Most people don't know what he hell she means.

So, here we have a highly liked mayor being quoted from his papers about someone he really didn't like--Donald Trump. And we are reminded that Trump had a mouth on him even then, when he expressed disappointment with the mayor: "He's presided over an administration that is both pervasively corrupt and totally incompetent." (The mayor did have some scandals that plagued his years, notably the Parking Violation Bureau one that led to a borough president committing suicide, but that's another tale.)

Koch's papers got a fresh review from his family, and out jumped some beauts about The Donald. The era that their paths intersected saw Trump become a major player in Manhattan real estate development, with strong desires to get his name on everything he touched.

The story highlights several events that saw the two sparring with each other, but the absolute gem is one not from Hizzoner himself, but one he affirmed of something a deputy mayor said, Peter Townsend about The Donald's credibility and integrity: "I wouldn't believe Donald Trump if his tongue were notarized."

Some things are too good not to remember.


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