By Deroy Murdock October 29, 2014 6:20 PM National Review Online
When it comes to race cards, Letitia James played the ace of spades.
“We have a far-Right Republican, someone who reminds me of Bull Connor in the 1960s,” New York’s Public Advocate said Saturday at a Bedford-Stuyvesant rally for the Women’s Equality Party. “His name is Rick Astorino, and he is more aligned with the Tea Party than our values,” she added.
James most likely meant GOP gubernatorial nominee Rob, not Rick, Astorino.
In a truly baseless, hideous, and racially incendiary rhetorical flourish, James compared Westchester’s county executive to Theophilus Eugene “Bull” Connor. As Birmingham, Alabama’s Commissioner of Public Safety in 1963, Connor notoriously deployed fire hoses and German Shepherds against peaceful marchers for desegregation.
“All you gotta do is tell them you’re going to bring the dogs,” Connor said back at the time. “Look at ’em run. I want to see the dogs work.”
Like James and Governor Andrew Cuomo — who stood beside her and has not condemned her slurs — Bull Connor was a proud, lifelong Democrat. In fact, he was a member of the Democratic National Committee. He also led Alabama’s delegation as it stormed out of the 1948 Democratic National Convention after it adopted a pro-civil-rights platform plank.
How did Rick, er, Rob Astorino trigger James’s outrageous outburst?
Westchester County is fighting off the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In what it calls a “grand experiment” that it aspires to roll out across America, HUD essentially aims to nationalize local land use and zoning laws to increase the prosperous suburb’s low-income housing and ethnic diversity.
“We are the fourth most diverse county in all of New York State,” Astorino tells me. “Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Westchester.” What keeps minorities from some areas, he says, is not race, but income. Astorino sees dynamic growth and higher wages as the paths that they can follow into more exclusive addresses. As he puts it: “If you can afford a neighborhood, move into that neighborhood.”
This battle pre-dates Astorino’s tenure. Indeed, according to the New York Observer’s Will Bredderman, when none other than Cuomo advisor Larry Schwartz was Westchester’s deputy county executive, he denounced HUD’s “garbage lawsuit.”
Reasonable people can debate HUD’s policy. But James is not reasonable. Rather than explain why she supports this federal power grab, James swung into the race-baiting equivalent of DEFCON 1. Perhaps she hoped to energize turnout among black voters who may feel disappointed with Obama’s performance.
And how stupid.
James at least should have been savvy enough not to call a bigot a man with so many minority supporters.
If Astorino really were Bull Connor Jr. would he choose as his running mate New York State Sheriffs Association president Chris Moss, who is black? Indeed, Moss is now the first black Republican ever to run statewide in New York.
What sort of segregationist would appear in public to accept the endorsement of state senator Ruben Diaz Sr., a Hispanic Democrat from the non-lily-white Bronx? “In Rob Astorino, we will have a Governor who will be open to all New Yorkers,” Diaz recently e-mailed his constituents. “Women, Men, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Gay, Straight, Religious, Atheists, Conservative, and Liberal. He will never tell anyone they are not welcome in the State of New York.” In contrast, Cuomo last January announced that traditionalists, “if they are extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York.’’
When he ran for reelection last year, Astorino earned praise from prominent blacks in Westchester.
“These are tight times, and Mr. Astorino works tirelessly to lessen the pain and support the neediest in our county,” said Bishop C. Nathan Edwers, president of United Black Clergy.
“Westchester County is best served by a leader who understands that safe communities, excellent schools, and good paying jobs are all derived from a steady, responsible leader with the right values,” declared Ronald H. Williams, president of the New Rochelle NAACP. “Rob Astorino has shown those values, and I urge my membership and other Westchester voters — of all political parties — to give him a second term in November.”
“I am a lifelong Democrat and a committed community leader,” said the Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson. “I’m backing Rob Astorino because he has been accessible and supportive of our community.” As chairman of the National Action Network, Dr. Richardson is Al Sharpton’s boss.
Such alliances, and Astorino’s campaigning in minority neighborhoods — including stumping in his fluent Spanish in Hispanic precincts — helped Astorino win four more years last November. He secured 25 percent of black ballots and a majority of Hispanic votes.
Clearly, James’s comments were pure bull.
Because of City Hall’s line of succession, Letitia James is just one heartbeat away from becoming mayor of New York. So, three cheers for Bill de Blasio’s pulse.
— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News Contributor and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. A version of this piece appears in the New York Post.