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Will the Dorismond Shooting Be the Undoing of Rudy Giuliani?

Aired April 7, 2000 - 7:30 p.m. ET


MARY MATALIN, CO-HOST: Tonight, a new poll shows Hillary Clinton catapulting ahead of Rudy Giuliani in the New York Senate race. Did Hillary do something right? Or did Rudy do something wrong?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE.

On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Mary Matalin.

In the CROSSFIRE, in New York, Democratic Congress Jerrold Nadler, a Hillary Clinton supporter and Republican New York State Assemblyman John Ravitz, a supporter of Rudy Giuliani.

MATALIN: Good evening, and welcome to CROSSFIRE.

In a race as heavily watched and hotly contested as the presidential, New York Senate contenders Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton have flipped positions. After 14 months of a solid lead, the New York City mayor, for the first time, trailed the first lady 49 to 41 percent according to a "New York Times"/CBS News poll. His drop is widely attributed to his response to a police shooting of an unarmed Haitian, Patrick Dorismond, in a scuffle. Clinton's supporters, including one of our guests tonight, called on the Justice Department today to investigate the mayor's release of Dorismond's juvenile record which showed a propensity for violence, which Giuliani said, was mitigating in the charge of indiscriminate police activity.


UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR: Both dedicated to replacing fear with optimism, intolerance with understanding, insincerity with truth, the New York campaign of Rudy Giuliani, real leadership for all New York.


MATALIN: Tonight in the CROSSFIRE, the big race in the Big Apple. Will the Dorismond incident be the undoing of Giuliani, or is this reversal reversible? It's a long way from today to Election Day. And joining us on that journey tonight and in the future, Democratic strategist, the mild-mannered, soft-spoken former New Yorker Bob Beckel.

BOB BECKEL, GUEST CO-HOST: Mary, it's so nice to be back with you again. Assemblyman Ravitz, I know that you and other Giuliani supporters have said that Democrats have politicized the Dorismond issue and the mayor's reaction to it, but if you wouldn't mind me just reading you a few others. Amadou Diallo, unarmed, committing no crime, black, shot 41 times, and then smeared by Giuliani and police. Gideon Bush, mentally ill, no crime, shot, killed by -- excuse me -- wounded by police, killed by police, smeared by Giuliani and the police department. Dante Johnson , black, unarmed, committing no crime, shot by police, smeared by Giuliani and the police. Nathaniel Green, unarmed, committing no crime, shot and killed by police, smeared by Giuliani and the police department. Not to mention Louima, who was sodomized.

Now even a Martian can see pattern there. Don't you see one?

JOHN RAVITZ (R), NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLYMAN: Well, you use the word "smear" so lightly. And one of the things I think is quite alarming about what's been happening over the last few months is we've had some isolated tragedies that no one can deny, and these are tragedies that we have to try to correct and make sure never happen again. But what's happening is you're having this daily deluge of pile-ons of press conferences, asking for federal investigations, in which basically that we're saying that the New York City Police Department has this huge black cloud over its head, and that can't be -- that's the furthest thing from the truth. We have seen such a reduction in crime in every community of New York City over the last seven years, and I think one of the things that's quite alarming is that people want to ignore the facts, and the facts are that we have seen not only just that reduction in crime across the board in every community of this city, but we've also seen our numbers in terms of the major urban cities in this country -- we are the lowest of any urban city in which police officers have killed civilians. So again, the numbers don't build up.

BECKEL: Well, with all due respect, Senator, you say a black cloud over the police department in New York. It's more like a high- density tornado, frankly.

But look, one of my favorite definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Now Rudy Giuliani, therefore, qualifies under that, because he doesn't seem to learn his lesson. These are not isolated incidents. These are regular incidents by a police department out of control and allowed to be out of control by a mayor who is out of control. Now if you dismiss this as some sort of, you know, once-in-a-while thing, Assemblyman Ravitz, you are not, frankly, being too terribly straight with our audience?

RAVITZ: What I said was -- and I'll repeat what I said -- these are tragedies that we can't see happen again. But you just used the comment the police department is out of control. You know, I think if you go into police precincts and see the works that the men and women of our police department do on a daily basis, whether it be the C-pop officers, whether it be the youth officers trying to engage our youth and help them get through some very tough, tough years in certain areas, I don't think you would say that they were out of control. So I think what we need to do, and we need to do it in a responsible way. is the rhetoric needs to tone down, and we can't say the police department is out of control, because that's just not fact.

Have there been tragedies that have to be stopped? Yes. Can we do that in a responsible way, yes, we can. But don't make the statements that say that the New York City Police Department is out of control, because it's just not true.

MATALIN: Let me pick it up there, Congressman Nadler, because the responsible way to do anything in politics is to try to resist demagoguery and race baiting and all of that and let's look at the facts, and let's put it in context. These so-called intentional shootings have reduced by 71 percent under Giuliani. Let's go some -- through some of the facts instead of some of the high-profile tragedies. They've declined by 77 percent. The New York Police Department has a stellar record on restraint, that is holding fire. There are over twice as many intentional shootings in the Dinkins administration as there were under Giuliani. These were tragedies, but they are not even anywhere near -- as nearly prolific as they were in the Dinkins administration, and no one said his administration was out of control. And in fact, in his administration, the crime rate was not reduced -- the murder reduced by 70 percent and overall crime reduced by 50 percent as they are in the Giuliani administration. So could we give this some context instead of demagoguery?

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Well first of all, some of your facts are correct and some are not, and I am not here to criticize the mayor or defend Mayor Dinkins. I said something very different this morning, but let's have a few facts first. The fact is, that starting in the latter part of the Dinkins administration, they adopted community policing. Mayor Giuliani, when he was inaugurated, increased the community policing and adopted the so- called "broken window" strategy that had been promoted by a number of criminologists, and these two strategies combined had a great effect in reducing crime rates, for which I think the mayor deserves great deal of credit.

In the current administration, since the, I'd say the beginning of '97, he seems to have abandoned the broken-window strategy and gone to a zero-tolerance strategy of just arresting as many people as possible for minor crimes, with no discretion, and this has led to increasing conflicts with local communities, especially minority communities, as there are increasing numbers, 45,000 stop and frisks of which resulted in 10,000 arrests, which meant 35,000 people who were innocent were stopped and frisked. And this is causing a lot of problems.

In these instances that we're talking about here -- and I wish the mayor would return to the strategy he originally adopted, which was very successful in reducing crime. But the instances that we're talking about here are instances -- and I am not blaming the police necessarily or saying they did anything wrong. Maybe they did and maybe they didn't. But I am saying something else: When we know in these cases, in at least five recent cases, where it is clear that the people who were shot by the police were innocent of anything, it was a mistake on the part of the police, clearly, no one denies that. No one denies that Amadou Diallo was doing anything exempt reaching for his wallet. No one denies that Patrick Dorismond was anything except saying, no, I don't want to get involved in selling drugs.

MATALIN: OK, we're not going to page by page, Congressman. Come on.

NADLER: No, we're not.

But what happened after each of these, what happened after each of these cases is that the mayor, or the police commissioner or the department -- generally, the mayor and the police commissioner -- then tried to defame the innocent victim by dredging up information, some of which turned out to be false, about their pasts, and that is inexcusable.

MATALIN: OK, Congressman, but also, in every single instance, Al Sharpton and those thugs, all his cronies, whom Hillary Clinton is out there campaigning with and kissing the ring of, marched in the streets, beat up on the police, did all kinds of defaming of the police department, which is why Giuliani feels like he has to be supportive on the other side before the whole city melts down.

NADLER: Being -- look, being supportive is one thing. Answering defamation, assuming it is defamation, with defamation is another. Al Sharpton is not the mayor of the city of New York. Rudy Giuliani is, and Mr. Safir is the police commissioner. They have to behave responsibly. And the fact is that it is irresponsible, and it is a violation I think of civil rights to defame with false information in many of these cases people who are innocent victims and are dead, who can't answer back.

BECKEL: Jerry, let me jump back in here Assemblyman Ravitz.

First of all, if Al Sharpton is a thug, then Rudy Giuliani is the Darth Vader of thugs. The -- Mr. Ravitz, the difference here, as Mary cited the unintentional shootings, that is not the issue. It's what Jerry just said about the release of information, the smearing, the defaming of these people in order to get public attention away from the illegal, in many cases, activity of the police department.

Now, let me ask you a straight question, you apparently are a straight man. If this Mr. Dorismond had been a white kid from the upper east side of Manhattan who was a contributor to the Giuliani campaign, do you think Giuliani would have illegally released his minor record?

RAVITZ: Well, you know, the one thing that, again...

BECKEL: Please try to answer my question.

RAVITZ: Well no, I'll answer your question, but it's -- with all due respect, it's a question that doesn't help this city.

BECKEL: I don't care if it helps your city or not. I want an answer. RAVITZ: Well, I do care what helps the city, because I think this city -- the rhetoric needs to calm down in this city, and we don't need to be pitting communities against communities. Your fictional scenario is something that doesn't help the constructiveness of changing the way we need to do things.

BECKEL: Smearing innocent people is not doing your city any good.

RAVITZ: You throw that word "smear" around very, very lightly.

BECKEL: What else do you call it?

RAVITZ: And I think one of the things that we have to do if we're going to be serious about not having a repeat of these tragedies, is instead of asking for federal investigations, instead of having daily press conferences, we need to have strong lies of communication within each police precinct, with churches, with business leaders, with youth officers, with the youth leaders in the community-based organizations in which many of our kids go to after school. That's what has to happen now. We can continue talking about things that happened two or three weeks ago. That's not going to solve the problem. If you're serious about solving the problem, we're not going to keep talking about smearing. We're going to be talking about not seeing these type of things...

BECKEL: We clearly view this differently, and I sort of feel like, Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore.

We're going to take a break here and come back and talk about the Senate campaign.

But before we do, we're going to show you a clip of Bill Clinton at a dinner last night for journalists where he mentioned his wife, and others.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's not the only person who's uptight about this long form. Let me just read some of the questions that other prominent public officials refused to answer. What is the deal with your hair?


CLINTON: Trent Lott refused to answer that.


CLINTON: Then again, so did Hillary.



(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BECKEL: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. I am Bob Beckel, sitting in for Bill Press.

We're talking tonight about the New York Senate race, where for the first time, Hillary Clinton pulled ahead of New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the polls. The credit for Hillary's surge belongs not to her, but to Mayor Giuliani. In the aftermath of yet another botched performance by the mayor after another police shooting death of another minority.

Our guests, New York State Assemblyman John Ravitz and Congressman Jerrold Nadler -- Mary.

MATALIN: And with that even-tempered, even-keeled introduction there, Congressman Nadler...

BECKEL: I thought it was quite calm.

MATALIN: ... Let me broaden out a little bit here, because you have been a supporter of Mrs. Clinton's from the very beginning, and it seems of late, the campaign has focused on exploiting -- and I will concede that Giuliani didn't handle this politically very well. I am not going concede the other. But let's talk about what is Mrs. Clinton's campaign doing, because it's very important to understand whether these polls are changing because she's doing better or he's had a little temporary slip here. Forget about what she's going to do for New York -- what is her record? What has she ever done? The things she likes point to, her supporters like to point to is that she was the education czar in Arkansas, and before -- after Hillary Clinton and her reforms in Arkansas, the state dropped the number of high school graduates, and the number of higher education enrollment and the SAT scores.

What is her record that indicates she might be of some service to New York?

NADLER: Well, I think she has an extensive record on the board of the Children's Defense Fund. She's been involved in many different things for children and for education, and even for health care, as much as people try to demonize the health care attempt which she made, an honest and good attempt, which unfortunately, was defeated, to have a comprehensive health care program to ensure it was then 38 million, it's now 45 million Americans who have no health insurance, and working people for the most part. And she's been involved with the Family Medical Leave Act, as I recall. So she's got a record.

But I want to say the following: I didn't come here -- I didn't know this show was about the political campaign. I thought it was about the criticism that I made this morning of the mayor's and the police commissioner's defaming of innocent victims after their -- after they were killed. And I want to say the following: The mayor has a duty, and the police commissioner to a lesser extent, of trying to keep the city calm, trying to keep peace in relationships between the police department and citizenry, and by defaming these victims, they're doing exactly the opposite, as well as -- you know, the mayor said after Patrick Dorismond was shot that we should all sit back and wait for the facts to come out and not rush to judgment, and he was right, and then the police commissioner rushed to judgment and the mayor followed. And I think that this is not helpful.

And I should say one other thing: Patrick Dorismond was minding his own business...

MATALIN: OK, you know what, Congressman, we're sorry for your misunderstanding. We thought you would want to have an opportunity to broaden out and talk about Hillary.

NADLER: That's fine.

MATALIN: But if you want to go back to this and you want to know how the citizens of New York city feel about their personal safety under the Giuliani administration, let's look at some polls. They all feel that these cases are tragic, which is evidenced in the drop in Giuliani's polls, but when you ask them is New York City more safe or less safe, by 54 to 10 they say more safe, and that has Democrats and independents.

NADLER: Well, I agree.

MATALIN: If you ask if they approve or disapprove of the way the police are doing the job, overwhelming, 67 to 28 percent, with equal numbers -- even greater numbers of Democrats and independents, who aren't Giuliani's first supporters, suggesting they feel safer and the police are doing a good job, so they are keeping it under control.

NADLER: Well, I think first of all when you ask, do you think people are doing a good job? They mean in controlling crime. And I think they are. And as I said before, I think the mayor deserves a considerable amount of credit for getting the crime rates down. That's clearly been a success. And I'm not criticizing him about that, obviously.

I so think it's also the mayor's responsibility and the police commissioner's to try to make sure that these tragedies don't occur. You can't eliminate them all. Obviously they still will. But when they occur, you have to investigate them fairly, you have to see who's culpable, if anybody, if anybody, and what you can do to prevent them -- and not defame the victim.

BECKEL: Very reasonable statement.

Mr. Ravitz, I'm sorry. I apparently called you "Mr. Ravage," I hope that wasn't defaming you. So it's Ravitz.

RAVITZ: Not at all.

BECKEL: I'd like to switch gears quickly. You're in the assembly. In upstate New York is where you convene. Now besides learning recently that the Finger Lakes, it was not an obscene gesture, Rudy Giuliani spent eight years going upstate New York for one reason: going to Albany to ask for more money for New York City at the expense of upstate New Yorkers. Do you not think as a politician that's going to give a lot of ammunition to the Clinton campaign? RAVITZ: Well, I think what the Clinton campaign is going to have to deal with is a record of performance. And one of the things that I know, and Jerry -- when Jerry and I served together in the legislature, we served with people from upstate counties like Chemung, and Chenango and Oswego. And the people in those communities now want to hear the Rudy Giuliani story. They know the city he inherited eight years ago, and they've seen the transformation, the renaissance, that has...


RAVITZ: ... brought hundreds of thousands of jobs back to New York City, that has reformed welfare...

BECKEL: John...

RAVITZ: ... and gotten more and more people off welfare. And that's, I think, the type of success story that people are going to want to hear about...

BECKEL: OK, John, we're down to 30 seconds. Let me just quickly say, I give. The crime rate is down there, all over the United States, I assume...

RAVITZ: But we have -- right, right.

BECKEL: ... mayors should send Rudy Giuliani a thank-you card for that. And the economy getting so terrific, don't you think that Rudy ought to send Bill Clinton a thank-you card?

RAVITZ: No, because if we didn't have a mayor who was aggressively not just cutting taxes but cutting regulations, fighting to bring jobs back and to help jobs grow by helping to create in communities in which jobs had been dormant, to create new enterprises, that's something that the mayor has talk -- has done and performed very, very well on. And that's a record of performance that Mrs. Clinton is not going to be able to touch. And that's a record that people all across the state are going to get know about in the next six months. And that's why this campaign is...

BECKEL: That was a very good answer to a cheap question, OK.

MATALIN: And that is one of the many issues and why this race is going to stay hot, hot, hot.

Jerry Nadler, you did a great job, even if we got off topic. Thank you for joining us. John Ravitz, thank you so much. We'll see you again as this race unfolds. And the mild-mannered Bob and I will be back with our closing comments after this very brief break.

Stay with us.


MATALIN: Your candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has no record to speak of -- working on the Children's Defense Fund is not a record of accomplishment that she can show she can do anything in New York. But what she is doing is exploiting these tragedies to pump up the black vote. And you know what it's doing? It's demoralizing the cops. And a survey taken in the five bureaus say they're not arresting anymore, they're not aggressively pursuing crime, they're not stopping people. You don't think this community policing had any effect in reducing crime, watch what happens now.

BECKEL: Of course I do. But let me make a point. Rudy Giuliani -- you're a very good politician. You know the rule of thumb is Republicans statewide need to win 30 percent of the vote in New York City and make up the rest in the suburbs and upstate. And what they're not taking into account this time is minorities in New York City hate Rudy Giuliani -- I can't even say the guy's name -- so much -- not his sharkskin suits, but him -- so much that they'll turn out by estimates and good polling data I've seen, by 25 percent -- in fact, 25 percent more.

They will stand in the rain. For that matter, they'll stand in front of a hail of bullets to vote against Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani is toast.

MATALIN: Because she is race-baiting. She is being Al Sharpton. Do you think that's the way to unite a city? No.


MATALIN: She's divisive, just like her husband.

BECKEL: No, I don't think so -- or shooting, for that matter.

But it's been great to be with you.

From the left, I'm Bob Beckel, good night for CROSSFIRE -- did I do that right?

MATALIN: You did that perfectly, as always.

BECKEL: Thank you.

MATALIN: And from the right, I'm Mary Matalin.

Join us next week for many more editions of CROSSFIRE.

Have a great weekend.



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