Part of the frustrating nature of the continuing debate about Andrew Cuomo’s purported involvement in the 1977 Mayoral campaign’s infamous “Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo” posters is that the ambiguities in the story prevent serious discussion of the underlying question about how long the statute of limitations runs for candidate “bad acts”, and whether the statute should ever run. Instead we focus on questions like: Did the posters exist? If so, did Andrew have anything to do with them? If he did, should we hold this against a 19 year old 29 years later? If Andrew knew, how could Mario not? And, if Mario knew, how could people outraged in 1977, forgive and back Mario in 1982 (Allen Roskoff, this means you), and then hold it against Andrew in 2006?
Almost as an exercise, I recently raised a six year old (cleverly disguised) slur as an issue in a local Assembly race, but was immediately informed by the candidate’s supporters of the alternative arguments “that only a psychotic prig would take the remark as a slur”, and that “the candidate had sincerely and humbly apologized for the remark and had learned his lesson and would never do it again”. If we are ever to get an answer to the question of how long these things should matter, we will need to analyze what would be the proper response to an unambiguous statement reeking of bigotry, made by a grown adult and recorded in a irrefutable and undeniable form. How about this one?:
“Dov Hikind was born in New York on June 30, 1950. As a child, he lived with his parent, who were survivors of the Nazi concentration camps, in Williamsburgh, and moved to Crown Heights in 1965 because of the disintegration in the former neighborhood. Crown Heights, too began to decline, and after his marriage he moved to Flatbush. This personal history has made him keenly aware of the plight of neighborhoods in our city. Mr. Hikind is sensitive to the precarious position in which his district now sits, and he knows the fears of its citizens that it too will become a “changing neighborhood”. – From Dov Hikind’s biography in the 1983-84 and 1985-86 Legislative Red Books.
Can anyone come up with an innocent explanation for this statement? Mr. Hikind, what did you mean when you said it? Changing neighborhood? Changing to what, pray tell? Do you stand buy this statement? If not, do you now repudiate it? Do you feel you owe anyone an apology for making it? How would you feel if such a statement was made by a Bensonhurst Italian, speaking of what became of the Borough Park he grew up in and has since abandoned? I’ve heard such statements made by blacks, Latinos and whites talking about Orthodox Jews taking over their neighborhoods; how would you feel if young Jewish children came across similar remarks about Jews while looking up their legislators in a public library?
Perhaps we should ask the question of a candidate now supported by Mr. Hikind, Carl Andrews. Do you agree with this statement? Isn’t this the type of thing that you went into politics to fight (before you discovered the existence of the Surrogate’s office and the Supreme Court)? As a Crown Heights resident, doesn’t it make you want to take a shower? Are you going to ask your friend Dov if he still feels this way the next time you see him? How will you respond when people ask you how you can accept support from people who make such statements?
How about you Mr. Spitzer? You stand idly by while your supporters condemn Tom Suozzi for consorting with the likes of Ruben Diaz (not that your office hasn’t made it owns efforts not to offend Mr. Diaz); can you differentiate why consorting with the likes of Dov Hikind is acceptable, given such statements? Will you be asking Mr. Hikind to publicly clarify his views on this matter? If he doesn’t, will you repudiate him?
Perhaps some of those who bring up the Cuomo stuff are hypocrites. I don’t recall Roskoff being so concerned when Cuomo ran against Carl McCall, possibly because Roskoff was already supporting the Green Party’s Stanley Aronowitz (a topic for another discussion, although I’ll admit that if the Greens had instead run Aronowitz’s wife, Ellen Willis, the most brilliant left of liberal political writer in America, I might have joined him). But, if the Cuomo matter had a smoking gun and involved a grown adult, I might concede their point. By contrast, in the Hikind matter, the obscenity in question is a matter of public record, and was propounded by a 32 year-old elected official while acting in his governmental capacity.
To my knowledge, this issue has never been raised in public, not even by those like Maurice Gumbs who’ve actively gone out looking for information to portray Hikind as a racist. There has never been acknowledgement, explanation, apology or atonement. Hikind is regularly venerated as a hero by politicians of all parties and ideological stripes. Every election cycle, newspapers regularly run headlines about how “Democrat” Hikind crossed party lines to endorse a Republican, as if there were a story there. Guys, it’s not a story when dog bites man; it would be a story when Hikind endorses a Democrat (Spitzer being the lucky exception, a Democrat whose victory is so presumptive that even Hikind supports him).
Dov Hikind is not really a legislator; he’s not even served on a legislative committee since 1995. And he’s not a Democrat, despite his position on the Democratic State Committee, and the Kings County Democratic Executive Committee, where he regularly votes to endorse candidates he’s already opposing in the general election. He is rather, a racialist tribal chieftain for hire; a Jewish Al Sharpton (like Hikind, an active participant in the support of Al D’Amato, George Pataki and the Republican majority in the State Senate). But, every time Sharpton opens his mouth, he is still appropriately being asked to justify his actions in the Brawley case amongst other atrocities and (when he is not helping the Republican) Sharpton is often used by Republicans as the rope they can use to hang the Democrats (no wonder Roger Stone helped finance his race for the White House). Meanwhile, Dov Hikind’s sewer-mouthed racist remarks from the same era never get raised at all. Hikind, a fierce critic of affirmative action, calls himself a “spokesman against discrimination of any kind”. Perhaps he should then join me in asking that he and Al Sharpton be judged by the same standard under which they have both proved so lacking.