Brian Lehrer's UN-Predictions

Monday, February 18, 2002

ANCHOR: In these last few days before new year’s, many commentators make predictions of things they expect to see in the new year. but wnyc’s brian lehrer has an ANTI-prediction: something he’s not SURE whether to expect in 2002.

BRIAN: I’m not sure whether to expect the following headline:

Bush to city: drop dead.

Anyone in new york during the 1970’s fiscal crisis remembers the classic daily news headline: FORD to city: drop dead.

In 2002 we’ll find out if president bush will keep the promise he made to the city just after september eleventh: 20-billion dollars in federal aid to rebuild new york.

Before adjourning for the year, congress approved barely half that much - most of it earmarked only for the cleanup of ground zero. But what would have been so bad about giving the full 20-billion to the city without delay? Or letting new yorkers decide how to spend it?

The president still promises that the city will get the entire 20-billion eventually. But not everyone is so sure.

(TAPE: marie coco q&a here, on the uncertainty of full funding, on bush not caring about a “drop dead” headline, and about how every need will be scrutinized)

BRIAN: newsday washington columnist marie coco. she has no doubt the city does need the money. she quotes this comparison originally made by governor pataki.

(TAPE: by now, we’ve lost the equiv. of every job in the city of atlanta)

BRIAN: but this is new york, politically irrelevent to president bush, and we're having it. so here’s ANOTHER anti-prediction for 2002. I’m not sure if we’ll see the following pataki for governor re-election photo. It’s a smiling president bush presenting a big cardboard check to the governor for the balance of the 20-billion.

It would be just the triumphant yet sober image to launch pataki into his bid for a third term. maybe even get him a few more new york city votes this time.

But the governor may actually have hurt the city’s chances of getting the help it deserves by asking washington for a 54-billion dollar wish list, much of which had nothing to DO with september eleventh. Credibility matters.

Party politics matter too. so we may yet see that photo-op, especially if pataki winds up in a close race.

But in politics, promises DON’T always matter, even after the september eleventh tragedy. So for now, we’ll just reserve a flexible sort of headline for sometime next year: bush to city: fill in the blank.

ANCHOR: WNYC's Brian Lehrer. You can hear his call-in program weekday mornings at 10 on am820 and 93.9fm WNYC.

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