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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Off Base


By Keith Schmitz

While my wife and I were on holiday last weekend in New York we took the "recommendation" of Bill O'Reilly and went up to Harlem to have the Gospel Brunch at Sylvia's Restaurant. When we emerged from the Red Line subway 125th St. stop at 11:00 Syliva's was about to open and there was already a line formed of people waiting to get in the place.

Turns out Sylvia's is somewhat large and the initial crowd was quickly seated.

We enjoyed a brunch off a rather savory plate of chicken livers and home fries for my wife and I did the ribs, black eyed peas and mashed potatoes. Both worth coming back for some other time.

We also had the pleasure to meet the diminutive soft spoken powerhouse Sylvia Woods.

Our server told us about how Sylvia struggled through the rough days of the 60's and 70's in Harlem, started to really make it in the 80's and 90's with somewhat of a setback just following 9/11 -- as suffered by other New York restaurants. Sylvia nevertheless supplied the first responders down at Ground Zero with her fine food. Sylvia's, who had just arrived from church, has the expressed protection of the Muslin Brotherhood.

Our server also mentioned that Bill O'Reilly has been good for business. Hopefully some of his audience made it up to Sylvia's for an education.

What they would see would be the main street of Harlem, Lenox Ave going through the process of gentrification with everything from a Starbucks and an Office Depot on the way up to Adam Clayton Powell's old church St. Abyssinian.

About 20 years ago many of us smartly wouldn't have wanted to make that journey, and the menu at Sylvia's pretty much said so. Among the mostly white crowd at the restaurant I talked to a number of international travelers including Brits, Germans and Swedes who are not Bill O'Reilly fans to say the least, but said Sylvia's is prominently mentioned in their Fodor's and DK guidebooks.

The leadership of Rudy Giuliani had a lot to do with the second Harlem Renaissance and the revival of the rest New York City. You have may agreed with his efforts to bring investment into New York City but troubled with his policing methods. But there were many places that were not safe in the city, including Times Square. Since the 90's investment and tourists have poured back in the Big Apple.

So why are we not hearing about this from his campaign?

Instead, his speeches have been diagnosed with being afflicted with 9/11 Tourette Syndrome, though lately Hillary Clinton Tourette Syndrome has crept into the spiel.

The answer in part lies in the fact that Rudy is desperate to become president, and he has to appeal to the base of the Republican base to get to the nomination.

In part this impugns on the people who are active in the Republican party who want to be treated like rubes. Yes, 9/11 was terrible, but 5,000 planes went up that day and 4997 planes landed, as have pretty much all the planes since 9/11.

Yes, there are people who want to kill around the world but there always have been people around the world who are so motivated. But it does us no good to be as irrational as they are. That to these old eyes looks like winning for the other side.

Rudy's ploy is not without risks. As formidable as the clueless inside the beltway feel Rudy is on his 9/11 "leadership," his actions of not fixing the first responder radio problems -- based on cronyism -- and locating the emergency response center at the WTC -- out of vanity -- leaves Rudy quite vulnerable should he make it to the general election. And don't think the even more desperate candidates in the GOP would go to these soft white underbelly issues.

Furthermore that authoritarian GOP base is going to look quite small versus those more numerous other voters who will be more skeptical.

It's too bad. This country is hungry for positive leadership, for vision and for our cities to be rebuilt. This is the type of boldness many of our Democratic leaders sad to say lack.

This is the type of leadership that a great country has, and Rudy could run on that if he didn't have to cater to those in his party who spout macho but who cower in fear when they see someone in a turban get on their plane. Rudy could do this but his die has been cast and it would be tough to shift gears at this point.

This fear that politicians have ginned up through this decade has cost us and squandered opportunity in ways we have yet to appreciate.

Don't look at this being in anyway an endorsement of this campaign, certainly not this fear-based juggernaut that has been rumbling through the primaries. But I'm open to any one who can get things done without compromising our principles.

Run on your record Rudy. Don't run like a record.

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