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9/22: The Political Climate Leading Up To the Midterm Elections

By John Sparks

Will a record number of incumbents go down in defeat in this November’s midterm elections?  Will Republicans regain control of the Senate?  What impact will the Tea Party have on the election?  Will its candidates who won primary victories over Republicans be able defeat Democrats in the general election?  Is President Obama in trouble?  Veteran news correspondent Bonnie Angelo discusses the upcoming election with the Marist Poll’s John Sparks.

Bonnie Angelo, author of "First Families: The Impact of the White House on Their Lives" and "First Mothers: The Women Who Shaped the Presidents" (courtesy HarperCollins).

Bonnie Angelo, author of “First Families: The Impact of the White House on Their Lives” and “First Mothers: The Women Who Shaped the Presidents” (courtesy HarperCollins).

John Sparks
Bonnie, the latest New York Times poll tells us there is a widespread dissatisfaction with President Obama and Congress.  We’re on the eve of the midterm elections, and typically I think of those as a time when the party out of power makes gains against the party in power.  Many times I think of it as a referendum on the President if his party has the majority in Congress. But based on the primaries that have led up to this November, it doesn’t seem that simple as it was in years past.  What do you think is going on?

Bonnie Angelo
Well, I think there’s a general sourness that sort of permeates this country right now.  Don’t know exactly why.  Things are not going badly, but there is a tendency, I think, to just be negative without even knowing why, and I think that’s what they… If they were opposed by people, then you’d get a more accurate fix on how the voters felt about it. But, I think this is just a way of saying, “Oh, we don’t like what you’re doing,” and that goes for anybody.  I mean there’s neither side that’s getting pluses.

John Sparks
Yes, I was going to say that it seems to indicate that folks want the current crop of representatives thrown out whether they’re a Democrat or a Republican.

Bonnie Angelo
That’s right.  That’s right.

John Sparks
Do you think that we’ll see a record number of incumbents actually losing their seats?

Bonnie Angelo
We’ve got quite a little bit of time to deal with, well some time, time enough, a little bit, for things to gel. I do believe that some people who grumble, when it comes close to just really going in the booth, may be saying, “But this fellow or this woman is better than the other one.”  And so…  but we may have a low turnout.

John Sparks
You know these Tea Party candidates who have prevailed in some of the Republican primaries this year, do you think that their victories reflect a disenchantment with President Obama and the Democrats or more of a disenchantment with the Republican Party and its candidates?

Bonnie Angelo
I have a feeling that it’s reflecting, as you’re saying, disenchantment with the whole swath of politics. There’s something that’s –maybe people see it up close too much now, because politics is –when you see too much of it, it can kind of turn you sour on it, and that may be part of it. They’ve had too much of it.

John Sparks
Well, you think President Obama is in trouble?

Bonnie Angelo
No.  I don’t. I think there’s nobody… You can… It’s easy to knock somebody when there’s not anybody else on the scene.  If there was somebody else really catching on, then you might think. But on the other hand, this is just a halfway mark. He’s got… He would have time to do many things between now and the real election.

John Sparks
Do you think…

Bonnie Angelo
But, where’s the face that’s really coming in to overpower him?  That’s what’s hard to find.

John Sparks
Do you think that the Republicans have any chance at all of regaining the Senate in November?

Bonnie Angelo
That will be a hard one for them because there’s quite a great discrepancy in the numbers now, much more than in some times.  I think a lot of it really depends on how they conduct their campaigns.  I don’t believe that really negative campaigning goes over so well in this country now.  Perhaps, I’m saying that because I don’t like negative campaigning. I think you ought to be excited for somebody, if possible, or, at least, choose one over the other for what he or she stands for.  I feel that the negative campaigning doesn’t help anybody.

John Sparks
So what do you think of the Tea Party? Is it another third party like we’ve seen over the years, or do you think it stands a chance of changing our two-party structure?

Bonnie Angelo
You know, I think the Tea Party is a fascinating phenomenon.  We’ve had, as you said, over the years, groups that come in and have an impact on the scene, but this one — this group is enormous, and it seems to be catching hold in all parts of the country, not just in say the South or the Farm Belt or whatever. It seems to be reaching out in a way that their issues are what’s bothering the American people. Now whether they can do anything about those issues, I’m not sure.  I feel that they by and large have too negative an approach to politics.  I think politics are best served by good people getting into the game and trying to say what they want to do rather than just attacking their opposition.

John Sparks
There’s quite a difference between a primary election and a general election. We’ve seen, I believe, in eight races since last spring where a Tea Party nominee has prevailed in a Republican primary, but what sort of chance do you give these Tea Party nominees against Democrats in November?

Bonnie Angelo
Not much. I just…  I think that they’re — they are too negative in their approach to politics to be –to cut much into a more positive kind of outlook that’s defined on the Democratic side. It might not be any better than the others, but I think they tend to be more activist, more positive.  Of course, we’ve got activist negatives as well.  It’s…  This is going to be a very interesting one.  We haven’t had a phenomenon like this in quite a long time, so it’s not just a passing — it seems to be not just a passing fancy. That… when they get closer to the voting, maybe some of these others who have been grumbling will come back to their native home either with the mainstream Republicans or with the — with their Democrats of whichever stripe they like. I believe that will be the case. But if not, we’re really seeing something deeply different and, I think, quite divisive in this country.

John Sparks
I know you’ve heard like I have about that 11th Commandment that Republicans used to talk about, and that was that they would not talk ill of another Republican during a primary campaign. Well, that’s out the window now, and I’m just wondering: Do Republicans need to bury the hatchet and unify now in order to be a viable force in November against Democrats?  And will they?  Will the… Will these Tea Party folks get the backing of the moderate Republicans?

Bonnie Angelo
Well, or would the Tea Party folks give their backing to moderate Republicans?  I don’t think you have to put them in the leading position where it’s almost an exception that they’re going to be the major factor in this election.  Although, it’s hard to tell in this country what’s rippling just below the surface.  The people that we hear and know are out there with a message and a commitment, but there’s an awful lot of Americans who just quietly sit back, many of which of whom will not vote in an off-year election, you know.  You almost need a president at the top of the ticket.

John Sparks
You know, I think it’s interesting that President Obama based his presidential campaign on change and now it’s the Tea Party members within the ranks of Republicans who are calling for change within the ranks of their own party.  Has change become everyone’s mantra these days?

Bonnie Angelo
Yes.  I think Americans like the idea of change I think, and so it’s a word that’s resonating now.  I think this — the Tea Party runs the risk of being seen as too much change or either perhaps too – I don’t want to say vicious, but maybe too harsh in its change. I think we’re not a country right now that likes to be at razors’ edge with the — on issues.

John Sparks
Were you surprised at the outcome of some of the primaries? I’m thinking like Mike Castle losing to Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Rick Lazio losing to Carl Paladino in New York. Did that surprise you?

Bonnie Angelo
Yes. Yes.  Both of them surprised me.  I thought because I haven’t really been out to watch these competitors on the stump, which is, you know, you get a whole different feeling than when you just read about people, but I think that there might be a sleeper group of voters out across the country that just says, “Well let’s do something different.  I don’t like what’s been happening.” But whether they will really turn out, it’s going to be a very interesting off year election. Some of them are not.  But this one I believe will be compelling and might point the way to a much bigger sort of change in this country.

John Sparks
We have certainly witnessed over the past few years what I call an increasing polarization certainly between Republicans and Democrats, this acrimony that’s so predominant on the Hill, but now we’re seeing what appears to be a polarization within certainly the Republican Party.  What affect is this having on how government is able to operate?

Bonnie Angelo
I think the — this concept of a government that has both parties able to come together, giving up a little bit on each — from each of them to come together to hammer out programs that are maybe centrist or, maybe, middle ground in terms of where they land politically, I’m not sure we’re going to be able to have that now.  Part of it, I think, is the media. These… The extremists are able to get much more media time than their numbers would have in the past, at any rate, suggested because they — you know the media likes something that stirs up the viewer…

John Sparks
Drama.

Bonnie Angelo
…and I think that have an effect on this.

John Sparks
I think of that drama and controversy the media thrives on, and I think we’ve had some characters, if you will, that have grown up out of this. I think of the Limbaughs of the world…

Bonnie Angelo
Yes.

John Sparks
…that I think are really entertainers, but they’re playing with rather serious subject matter and seem like they want to stir up the pond a little bit just for the sake of the drama and the devices that…

Bonnie Angelo
I think you’re right, but I think when you say “Rush Limbaugh,” I believe he indeed stirs up the… He, of course, has been doing that for a number of years, but it’s taken awhile for him to get seen and listened to on the major political stage and this –and now he really can demand it.  I think he doesn’t like the idea of coming together, finding a middle way. I think that there’s an attitude in this country that loves to be on the edges.

John Sparks
Jim Wright, the former House Speaker, told me one time that when he was first elected that Democrats and Republicans across the aisle from one another had a great deal of respect for one another, but they also genuinely liked one another…

Bonnie Angelo
Yes.

John Sparks
…and nothing could be further from the truth today.  And, I’m just wondering the dissention, the controversy that has spread with some of the radio talk shows like, I’m going to use Limbaugh again as an example, have we…

Bonnie Angelo
He’s the one that really turned it that way more than any other single person into…

John Sparks
True.

Bonnie Angelo
…the talk shows into a much more mean-spirited attack shows more than we’d ever known before.

John Sparks
Yes, and has this mean spiritedness…

Bonnie Angelo
Yes.

John Sparks
…now transferred to the very people that are being elected and sent to the hilltop?

Bonnie Angelo
I remember having heard many times political people saying, “Well, you know once the election’s over, once the votes are cast, then we just — we go back, and we can be friends together again,” and they’d have lunch together and blah, blah, blah.  Well, I don’t think that’s the case now, and I think part of it, maybe much of it, is a result of a very mean-spirited attitude that has come into our television talk shows.  We did not have that say 15 years ago.

John Sparks
What would it take to turn things around?

Bonnie Angelo
That’s an excellent question, and I don’t think anybody has an answer.   It would take a leader or multiple leaders with a great sense of reaching out once the votes were cast, and they won their positions, to reach out and find some compromises, to reach out and find some greater friends on the other side. That used to be the way it was done.  It has lost that mode of friendship and of trying not to be brutally harsh. I don’t know.  It plays so well on television, you know, to be really tough. I’m not sure whether we can put that horse back in the stall.

John Sparks
There’s been a lot of criticism about the media concentrating on the horse race. There you have drama and conflict also. Is it an inescapable trap that we’ve fallen into in covering elections because of all this technology and the way it’s changed the way elections are covered?

Bonnie Angelo
Well, of course the technology has made it so much more apparent how the horse race aspect is. There’s so many more avenues that can be galloped down.  But, let’s remember way back in 1960, there was with Nixon and Kennedy, there was a lot of harsh in the background kind of action then too.  I think maybe perhaps it didn’t get seen as much, or it did not get the exposure on television because, one, television really was nothing back then, and now, that’s the way people make their mark on television is to be just push the borders as far as you can.

John Sparks
You recall back in 1994, the Contract with America and when the Republicans gained a majority in the House and the Senate.  Do you foresee something like this happening with this evolvement of Tea Party?

Bonnie Angelo
You know, that’s an issue that I think everybody that’s interested in politics is wondering.  How is this going to play out?

John Sparks
You know we’re six weeks away from the November election.  I want to project even further and look in your crystal ball and tell me what we’re going to see two years down the road when we vie again for the highest office in the land?

Bonnie Angelo
I just don’t think you can project that far now because we are in such a – – we’re of the moment to such a degree.

John Sparks
Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Bonnie Angelo
I’ve been interested in, as we see this campaign unroll, that the role that women play is much more crucial than it has ever been before.  Women have been making greater progress in participation for the last couple of decades, but now there’s so many of them that are on the cutting edge of being candidates who are not just taken seriously but can affect the whole kind of tenor of the election, and some of them are very tough.  We’re not talking about women candidates with this soft rock-the-baby kind of attitude, they can be as tough out there as any male competitor.  I think that is a very different thing.

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Interview: Carl Leubsdorf Takes Us Inside the Midterms

Carl P. Leubsdorf

Carl P. Leubsdorf was Washington Bureau Chief of The Dallas Morning News from 1981 through 2008 and continues to write a weekly column for the paper and its web site, www.dallasnews.com. The column has appeared every Thursday since March 1981 and and is distributed nationally by the McClatchy Tribune (MCT) News Service.

Carl Leubsdorf

Carl Leubsdorf

A native of New York City (3/17/38), he received his B.A. with honors in government in 1959 from Cornell University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.  He was also associate editor of The Cornell Daily Sun.  In 1960, he received a M.S. with honors in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. In 1999, he received the school’s Alumni Award.

From 1960 to 1975, he worked for the Associated Press in New Orleans, New York, and Washington.  He came to Washington in 1963, covered Congress from 1966 through 1975 and, from 1973 through 1975, was chief of the AP’s Senate staff and chief political writer.

From 1976 to 1981, Mr. Leubsdorf was a correspondent in the Washington Bureau of The Baltimore Sun, covering the 1976 and 1980 presidential campaigns and serving as White House correspondent from 1977 to mid-1979.

With The News, he primarily wrote about the White House and national politics, while directing the paper’s political and Washington coverage. In 2001, Washingtonian Magazine named him one of Washington’s top 50 journalists.

Mr. Leubsdorf has been to 23 national conventions and covered every presidential election since 1960. He has written about 10 presidents – John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama – and 10 vice presidents – Hubert Humphrey, Spiro Agnew, Gerald Ford, Nelson Rockefeller, Walter Mondale, George Bush, Dan Quayle, Al Gore, Dick Cheney and Joe Biden.

In addition, he has been a visiting fellow at Yale University; written for the Columbia and Washington Journalism Reviews, and the Annals of the American Academy of Political Science. He has appeared on many television shows, including CBS’s “Face the Nation”, NBC’s “Meet the Press”, PBS’s “Washington Week in Review” and “Lehrer News Hour”, CNN’s “Inside Politics” and “Reliable Sources”, “The McLaughlin Group” and C-SPAN Journalist Roundtables  — more than any other journalist in its first 25 years.

For four years, he was co-host of a weekly public affairs television program, “Capital Conversation,” which combined the resources of The Dallas Morning News and the broadcast bureau of its parent corporation, Belo Corp.  The program, which was seen in Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio on Belo stations, won the Dallas Press Club’s 1998 Katie Award for best television public affairs program.

He was president in 1996 of the White House Correspondents’ Association and in 2008 of the Gridiron Club, Washington’s oldest journalistic organization. He is currently the organization’s secretary.

Jay DeDapper

Jay owns and runs a media production company called DeDapper Media that specializes in creating video content for the web, smartphones, and television. His company also teaches organizations to create their own video as part of the innovative VidLab101 program.

Jay DeDapper
Jay DeDapper

Jay spent 22 years in television news reporting from around the world and hosting live and taped news-talk shows. Jay’s innovative writing and fresh on-camera delivery have led to dozens of awards including the national Cronkite Award and a dozen Emmys.

Jay is well known in New York television after 17 years at the two top stations in the market (WABC and WNBC) and his live ad-libbing, easy conversational style, and quick thinking have made him a favorite on radio talks shows and cable news.

Jay earned his Master’s Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University and his undergraduate degree in Communication Studies from University of California at Santa Barbara.

Jay grew up in California and Connecticut and currently lives in Manhattan and Columbia County, NY.

9/15: Day 1: Paladino vs. Cuomo

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

So, the press (and pollsters, too) are probably pleased that at least the Paladino vs. Cuomo matchup for governor will provide some interesting byplay.  How quickly we all forget the good times when Rick Lazio marched across the stage to confront Hillary Clinton in 2000.  If the 2010 campaign nationally is about anything new and dynamic, then how about a classic outsider-insider contest with a Tea Party flavor right here in New York?

miringoff-caricature-430But, not so fast.  Carl Paladino’s come from behind thrashing of Rick Lazio may have been just as much about dissension within the GOP then a tidal wave of discontent rushing down the Erie Canal to Albany.  If you left the GOP convention in NYC in June with the blessings of the party organization, whether for Governor or the two contests for U.S. Senate, then you headed home last night a loser.  Now, Paladino no doubt gets a bounce from his primary victory, is well-funded for the general election contest, and brings his baseball bat as a genuine outsider looking to hit for the cycle.

But, Paladino is largely a political unknown statewide as far as the general electorate is concerned.  And, if you know anything about Andrew Cuomo, expect a concerted effort to portray Paladino as outside the range of acceptability for mainstream New York voters.  Cuomo is the most popular elected official in New York State and enjoys the 2:1 advantage Democrats have over Republicans.  Right now, this has to be viewed as enough to stave off Paladino.

Don’t expect a 40 point win for the son of the greatest governor in the greatest state in the only world we know.   But, look for team Cuomo to revise then unknown candidate Mario Cuomo’s 1982 campaign slogan to something that defines Paladino.  Perhaps, “The better you know him the better you know he’s ‘too right’ for governor.” And, that process of political definition begins today, on Day 1 of Paladino vs. Cuomo.

9/15: A Thought for Delaware’s GOP

Politics is a passionate beast.  But, there comes a time when, for the cause’s greater good, passion should be tempered with reason.

azzoli-caricature-445In a major upset, Tea Party endorsed Republican Christine O’Donnell beat out veteran politician Michael Castle for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Delaware.  Whereas Castle could have posed a formidable challenge to Democratic candidate Christopher Coons, by most accounts, O’Donnell’s general election chances range between slim to none.

But, there are larger implications for Republicans nationally.  A candidate Castle would have been better positioned to turn this former Biden Senate seat from Democratic blue to Republican red.  In turn, this would bring the national GOP one step closer to gaining a majority in the Senate.  Candidate O’Donnell changes the odds on that dramatically.

So, dear Delaware Republicans.  I admire your strength of conviction.  However, your passion has blurred your vision.

9/10: Disaster Preparedness in the Aftermath of 9/11

By John Sparks

Nine years after the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, how prepared is America for a terrorist attack?  Dr. Irwin Redlener heads the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, and he talks with the Marist Poll’s John Sparks about this and where he was on the day of the attacks.

Dr. Irwin Redlener

Dr. Irwin Redlener

John Sparks
Dr. Redlener, this week will mark the 9th anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center.  Do you recall where you were and what you were doing then?

Irwin Redlener, MD
I do. I was at home with my wife.  We both were working at the Children’s Health Fund and at Montefiore Medical Center at the time.  I was president of a new children’s hospital, and we heard the first reports of the first plane going to the World Trade Center, and we were operating under the assumption that it was a small plane that had accidentally crashed into the World Trade Center. Then, we got in the car and listened to the news and driving across the Bruckner Expressway and seeing smoke from downtown.  We were coming down from Westchester.  It was apparent obviously that it was — something was far more worrisome than we originally thought, and we were hearing the reports about the — it was a jetliner and then it was two jetliners, both towers, and the collapse, and that’s what our experience was initially.

John Sparks
So what did you find yourself doing?  Did you do anything to help out in response to the attacks?

Irwin Redlener, MD
Yes, my organization managed a — at that point was a growing national network of mobile clinics for medically underserved and disadvantaged populations, and we had a number of them, I think, at that point, four or five mobile clinics in New York City.  So, I brought in the medical director, and I was — I’m president of the organization and Karen Redlener, my wife, is executive director, and we called in the medical director of our New York programs and asked him to organize two mobile units that we could send down to Lower Manhattan to be part of the triaging resources that were being developed down there.

John Sparks
So, you found yourself occupied for a number of days after that then I take it?

Irwin Redlener, MD
Yes.

John Sparks
The National Center for Disaster Preparedness that you head, was this operation you’re referring to that, at the time, grew into a more formal organization?

Irwin Redlener, MD
No, the National Center for Disaster Preparedness was initiated in 2003.  But right after 9/11, and I got very interested and concerned about our ability to respond to large scale disasters, and I established, as I say, I was president of the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore at the time, and I established a pediatric preparedness program for mass casualty events at Montefiore at the Children’s Hospital there, and so, that was running and growing and was the reason that the School of Public Health at Columbia recruited me to come over to Columbia and set up this new entity, which I called the National Center for Disaster Preparedness.

John Sparks
The new entity today, what kinds of things does it oversee now? Obviously, we were all taken completely off-guard with the attacks.  But I’m just curious what kind of preparedness that your National Center has developed since that time.

Irwin Redlener, MD
Well, first of all, we are concerned about the level of preparedness from top to bottom. We think that the policies and the resources are either inadequate or insufficient in a variety of ways at the top, and we think at the other end of the spectrum is a very unprepared citizen population with respect to what to do about disasters.  And, in between a lot of confusion about the role of state versus federal versus local government and so forth.  So, our center works on trying to sort out these issues with a goal toward making both local communities, but the country as a whole, prepared to deal with — either prepared to — able to prevent or prepare to deal with the consequences of disaster.  And recently we’ve gotten interested in the issue of recovery from large scale disasters which is basically almost an untouched aspect of preparedness that has to be now thought of in a lot more rigor than had been in the past.

John Sparks
So, nine years later, how prepared are we today to handle a similar event?

Irwin Redlener, MD
It’s a very mixed bag because in some ways we’re better, in some ways we haven’t made much progress, and there’s a lot to be concerned about still.  So, I think the report card would be a mix of passing and failing grades. I think we’re just at a point now where we’re starting to see more inter-operability among radio systems used by various respond organizations, like police and fire and EMS, but that’s been a long time in coming, and we’ve gotten more training for more people who are first responders, and that’s good.  We’ve made almost no progress in the level of preparedness of individuals.  If we had an exact repeat of the 9/11 events, there would be a lot of confusion about whether or not we’re going to have rescue and relief workers rushing into the pile, so to speak, as we had previously because we now know a lot more about the potential long-term consequences in terms of medical problems that arise from people who are working in unprotected ways and even the immediate search and rescue.  So, there’s a lot that’s different, but a lot that really remains as challenges.  Another instant issue is hospital preparedness, and we’ve made some progress there, but we’re very, very far behind on that aspect of where we should be now too.  So, it’s hard to give a straight answer, simple answer, but that’s where we are.

John Sparks
You mentioned individuals, I wanted to ask you what we as individuals can and should remember to do in case of an attack similar to what we experienced nine years ago.

Irwin Redlener, MD
Well, the recommendations have been pretty straightforward from soon after 9/11, which is to you know get a kit, make a plan and so forth about what you would do, and then know what the risks are and make — get a kit and make a plan for what you would do as individuals and as families, and the stockpiling of three days of food and water for each person who you’re responsible for. Those kinds of things are very straightforward. They’re found on — with the Red Cross site, on FEMA’s Web site and so forth, but there’s been very minimal uptake by the general public for even those basic directions, and part of that has to do with the fact that we don’t really know a lot about what motivates people to get prepared or not get prepared.  But, we’re still in some serious dilemma with respect to how to improve the preparedness levels of individuals.

John Sparks
Interesting that you mention what motivates people.  As we speak, the Marist Institute is out in the field polling New Yorkers and asking whether they still worry about another terrorist attack.

Irwin Redlener, MD
Yeah.

John Sparks
We don’t know the results of that poll quite yet.  We’re out in the field with it, but I know that you certainly with your responsibilities are concerned about another attack. But, do you get the feeling that most New Yorkers still worry about another attack?

Irwin Redlener, MD
Not in any kind of overt way, and I think they’re more worried about jobs and that sort of thing than they are about a terrorist attack, and I think that’s not just New York. I think it’s probably true generally in the country.

John Sparks
Anything in particular that you might want to add that you’re looking into as an organization or trying to shore up in anticipation should we have another attack?

Irwin Redlener, MD
Well, one of the things I’m most concerned about is the state of hospital and health system readiness for a major attack or a bio-terrorism event, or even just a pandemic not caused by terrorism, and we just seem to be really struggling to find the resources to make — to really expand or to really enhance the level of preparedness, and that’s one of the things we are most definitely working on.

John Sparks
You know that reminds me that, as you recall, coincidental to the attack, we had the anthrax episodes.  That kind of falls into hospitals, I think, because that’s clearly something that we don’t have under control either today.

Irwin Redlener, MD
That’s correct, so there’s more of these areas that we don’t quite have a handle on than I expected to be the case at this point.

John Sparks
Is there anything else that you want to add?

Irwin Redlener, MD
Yeah, one of the other big issues is that we haven’t spent enough time focusing on the needs of populations that might be particularly vulnerable and especially children.  Our children make up 25% of the U.S. population, but they’re still very much marginalized when it comes to planning for major disasters, and that’s a problem because the needs of children can be very, very different medically and psychologically and everything else.  And one of the things that has been done, a couple years ago there was an establishment of a National Commission on Children’s Disasters, which is a federally appointed body…  I happen to be on it… that’s  actually looking to that particular aspect of disaster planning and what are we doing for our children, and there’s quite a lot of work still left to be done in that arena as well.

9/10: Bloomberg, His Political Aspirations, and the Islamic Center

By John Sparks

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken some heat for his support of building an Islamic community center near the World Trade Center site.  Has the mayor contributed to that criticism?  Hear what political reporter Jay DeDapper had to say about this and Bloomberg’s job performance when he spoke with the Marist Poll’s John Sparks.

Jay DeDapper

Jay DeDapper

John Sparks
Jay, as we’re speaking, the Marist Poll is out in the field polling New Yorkers on how they would rate the job Mayor Bloomberg is doing in office. I know you talk to the Marist people frequently, as do a lot of other folks, just curious what you hear about how he’s doing on the job and how you feel about his performance in his third term.

Jay DeDapper
Well, I think his people think that he’s doing the job that he has always set out to do, which is to stick by his guns.  He certainly has done unpopular things and stood for unpopular things on principle like stopping smoking or banning smoking in bars. That was an early thing that he did that a lot of people I think thought, “You’re crazy. It’s going to kill you politically.”  And, it didn’t hurt him, and I think that he and his people have taken from that or took from that many years ago that a man of principle is someone that voters will reward in the long run.  That being said, I think right now after the flap about the Islamic Center in Lower Manhattan and all the attention that that’s gotten, the fact that the mayor has been a very staunch proponent of allowing that Islamic Center to be built even when a majority of the public in many cases has been shown to not approve of that, I think it’s probably going to hurt him to some degree.  But remember, he’s not running for anything. He has won three times. He has shown no intention running for a fourth, and even if he were to, nobody’s going to remember this by that time.  I think New Yorkers feel like they do about a lot of their mayors they have in the past that he’s our guy and unless he crosses us in some meaningful way, he’s our guy and he’s doing a pretty good job.

John Sparks
You know there’s been some misinformation about this Islamic Community Center. I know that some folks confuse it, think it’s a mosque, and so do you think that that misinformation contributes to the attitude toward the mayor’s support of it?

Jay DeDapper
Yeah, I mean absolutely.  I think the mayor went on Jon Stewart, for instance, and called it a mosque.  That doesn’t help his cause of trying to be someone who stands up for the First Amendment rights, religious liberty, and things like that.  He has never been the best spokesman for his own causes politically.  He has lots of misstatements. He’s never the best with words, and I think this is a case where he hasn’t helped his own cause. A lot of people think it’s a mosque.  A lot of people think it’s on Ground Zero, it’s being built in the actual site of where the twin towers fell, where neither of those things is the case, and I think the Mayor has not really stood very firmly about the misunderstandings and the misstatements and instead pushed this position that “hey, it’s about religious freedom.”  Well, it’s about religious freedom, but at least get people to get their facts straight, and I don’t think he’s done a particularly good job of being a spokesman for get your facts straight.

John Sparks
Now you alluded a moment ago to his political future, do you think he has any ambitions for president or any other higher office?

Jay DeDapper
I mean, I think it’s a fool who would say that a guy like Mike Bloomberg would never run for another office.  That being said, he has said that he doesn’t — he’s not really thinking about it, and he’s going to leave public office after this — public life — public office anyway after this — after his third term, and he’s going to run his foundation.  You can take him at his word, but he did say that after — in the middle of his second term, and then he forced to change in term limits so he could run for a third term.  So, I don’t think anything’s off the table with a guy like Mike Bloomberg.  He hasn’t made it in business and made it in politics by being predictable, and I think that holds true.  Does he have ambitions?  Sure, lots of people have ambition.  Does he practically have a path to the presidency or really even to another term as mayor?  I’m not so sure about that.  He probably could figure out a way to run a fourth term for mayor.  President, it’s just hard to see how a guy who is by all accounts around the rest of the country would be measured as a moderate to liberal Democrat, it’s hard to see how a guy running as an Independent but having the views that he has would be able to collect enough votes to beat mainstream party candidates, and I don’t think the Republicans are going to welcome him back into the fold, and I would – – it’d be hard for me to see how Democrats would bring him into the party when they – – when they’re going to be coming off of a Barack Obama presidency.

John Sparks
Thinking about being mayor of New York City, there’s still a significant amount of time left in his third term.  But I’m just curious though, we got folks lining up that would like that job?

Jay DeDapper
Oh yeah, absolutely. The race for mayor for 2013 started on election day of 2009, and the Democrats have been lined up.  Remember, Democrats haven’t won the mayoralty since David Dinkins in 1993 — in 1989, excuse me. It’s been an incredibly long dry spell, and Democrats are salivating at the opportunity to run in a city that is overwhelming Democratic and not have to face an opponent that has a billion dollars at his disposal.  So, yeah, they’ve been lining up. They’re lining up their supporters.  They’re lining up financial support. The race began on Election Day in 2009.

John Sparks
We have an off-year Congressional election coming up. There are also some other races on the New York ballot, but I don’t get the sense that these races are creating a whole lot of interest among voters. Is that the case?

Jay DeDapper
Yeah, I think the only interesting race is going to be the gubernatorial race, and the reason for that is that there’s a guy named Cuomo running.  I don’t think any of the other races are getting a lot of attention in New York anyway right now whether it’s the comptroller race or any of the others.   I don’t get the sense that there’s a lot of interest in those, and polling indicates that Andrew Cuomo’s way out in front as well.  I mean, it’s a heavily Democratic state, and it takes quite an effort for a Republican to win a statewide office, at least in the last 10 or 15 years.  George Pataki being the last of them able to do that. But I don’t think… I think the only marquee race this time around is the governor’s race, and I think it’s a marquee only because there’s a marquee name in it, a marquee political name, and it’s going to be fascinating to see how voters after all these years of rejecting Mario Cuomo for a fourth term, how they embrace or fail to embrace his son, Andrew.

John Sparks
So at this point from the numbers that you see, you think he’s got a significant lead, will not have any problems?

Jay DeDapper
Yeah, I mean even in this anti-incumbent year where Republicans and Independents and Tea Party activists and people like that seem to be gaining a lot of traction, it’s really hard to see how in New York with it’s overwhelming Democratic registration advantage, how a guy like Andrew Cuomo is going to lose to either of the two Republicans who are running, especially when the no-name Republican is a guy who has some Tea Party support and he’s closing the gap against Rick Lazio who is kind of the standard bearer for the Republican party.  He ran against Hillary Clinton for God’s sake.  I mean, this is a guy who is a real party Republican who has done the right things. He’s falling on the sword, who’s taken the shots for the party, and now, he’s got the shot at running for governor, and the primary looks like it could be a lot squeakier than he was expecting. It’s hard to see how Andrew Cuomo doesn’t claim the advantage in that kind of intra-party scrimmage on the Republican side.

John Sparks
It’s interesting you mentioned Lazio. He has been trying to make a lot of political hay out of the Islamic Community Center as I recall.

Jay DeDapper
Well, you know when you are a politician who’s not getting any press, and someone hands you an issue like this, and you recognize that you can get on the cable news networks, and you can get in the tabloids, and you can get your name splashed all over, you do it, and I’m not saying he doesn’t believe what he’s saying. I’m sure he does, but this is an issue that has in a slow news vacuum of August, and there have been many of those over the years, this is the issue that has taken center stage.  For him as a politician not to take advantage of that would be malpractice.

9/10: September 11th Nine Years Later

By John Sparks

Nine years have passed since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.  Are New York City residents concerned about another attack?  How much progress has been made in rebuilding the World Trade Center site?  Political reporter Jay DeDapper spoke with the Marist Poll’s John Sparks.

Jay DeDapper

Jay DeDapper

Read the full transcript below.

John Sparks
Let’s talk about Mayor Bloomberg’s predecessor just for a moment, Rudy Giuliani.  Rudy was certainly at center stage following the attacks on 9/11.  You and I were there at NBC covering it that day, and we’ve got the ninth anniversary of the attack coming up next week.  The Marist Poll asked New Yorkers if they’re worried about another major terrorist attack in New York City.  I’m no longer in New York. I don’t have any idea.  You are.  Any thoughts on that?  Are they in fact concerned about another attack?

Jay DeDapper
I mean, I haven’t seen any polling on this, so this is more of a gut check than it is something based on any data.  I don’t really hear that.  I don’t hear it from anybody in conversation that I overhear, in conversations I have with people, in policymakers, in cocktail party conversations, whatever.  Wherever I hear people talking or wherever I talk to people, I don’t really hear that. I think that that moment, that that fear has, as you would expect, has ebbed pretty substantially even.  And, the reason I think that is that with what happened in Times Square not long ago with the truck that — the pickup truck attempted bombing, it was very, very quickly that things returned to normal.  It wasn’t like after 9/11 where normal was many years later.  It was within a week people were back in Times Square.  People weren’t talking about it, being worried about it.  People… you didn’t hear people fretting about what would happen, put together your emergency kit.  Do you have your plans in case something happens?  None of that was discussed as it was after 9/11, so I don’t think that New Yorkers right now are particularly concerned about that.

John Sparks
Now, what’s going on down at the site of the Towers?  Where do things stand right now as far as any rebuilding?

Jay DeDapper
The rebuilding has obviously taken a very long time to get going. But the Freedom Tower, which is the — kind of the centerpiece of this in terms of the rebuilding that is most obvious and most visible … the steel is well above the ground.  There’s several hundred feet above ground, and it is on track for an opening in a couple of years.  They’ve signed some big leases to have tenants in there, and there has been talk among private real estate interest in buying into it, in buying some sort of a way into it from the Port Authority because … you’ve got to believe that private real estate investors are interested.  They see this as a viable building.  That’s the commercial side of it. There are three other towers. One of them is also going up.  Two others are delayed, and there’s a long battle that’s been going on with Larry Silverstein who’s the leaseholder of the World Trade Center, and that has not been resolved. All these years later, two of the four towers, who knows if they’re ever going to be built.  The actual site, though remember, most of the actual site is going to be turned over to the memorial.  And if you go there now, you can see not just the outlines of the reflecting pools that are going to be built where the two towers stood, you actually see the entire form. They are very far along on the memorial. It took a very long time to build the understructure of this, because there’s parking garages, there’s security, there’s a PATH train system, there’s all kinds of things that had to be built underground. They have done that, and they’re at ground level and the memorial, if you go down there now, the memorial, you can see what the memorial’s going to look like because the structure is in place.  It’s going to take awhile to finish, but they’re on track to open that on time now as well.  So, there’s been real progress in the last year and a half, real visible progress, that I think for people who visit the site, I think it’s reassuring that finally they’ve gotten past the morass of four or five years of nothing happening, and things seem to be happening pretty quickly now.

John Sparks
As you and I are speaking, Marist is also polling asking people if they feel the government has done too much or too little take care of the families of the 9/11 victims and those first responders who worked in the days following the attacks. We really don’t have an idea of what those results will tell us. Do you have any feel for this from the people that you talk to?

Jay DeDapper
Well, I mean nationally or locally, I think that it’s hard to find …  you would be hard pressed to find people who are going to vociferously talk about how the first responders haven’t — we haven’t done enough for the first responders. Whether people think privately though that that is the case, I don’t know, and I don’t know if you’re going to find that in polling. It’s a super sensitive issue. It’s a live wire still. I think that we’ve seen, at least politically, that bills that have been advanced to fund to the tune of several billion dollars additional medical help and other kinds of help for first responders that were there and that are suffering medically, I think you’ve seen opposition of that and politically from politicians who aren’t from the Northeast and aren’t from New York. Whether that reflects a broader measure of their constituents’ feeling like this is welfare for first responders on Ground Zero, I don’t know. I don’t know that you’re going to get that answer in polling, but certainly there has been evidence of that, at least politically there’s been evidence of what’s been called first responder fatigue by some commentators.

John Sparks
I’d like to ask you one more thing.  A number of folks I talk to miss seeing you at NBC and I’m just curious about what kind of things you’re up to these days.

Jay DeDapper
I’ve been running a production company, video production company, and we’re making videos, especially for the Web, for lots of clients — nonprofits, organizations, companies, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun to make videos that are different than what I’ve done for the 20-25 years I was in television news. Branching out from everything from doing cooking things with chefs to a biography of a huge soccer star for a sports network, so it’s been a lot of fun doing different kinds of things and I’m enjoying that a lot.

John Sparks
So if anyone was interested in engaging your services, do you have a Web site, a company name?

Jay DeDapper
Yeah, dedappermedia.com.  Last name D-E-D-A-P-P-E-R Media dot.com.  That’s the Web site.

9/9: Top Ten Reasons Cuomo Has Not Endorsed a Democrat for AG

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

Here are the top 10 reasons Andrew Cuomo has not endorsed a candidate for the Democratic primary for Attorney General:

miringoff-caricature-43010.  Thinks all five of the candidates are equally qualified
9.    Unaware of candidates’ shoe size so logically doesn’t know who would best follow in his footsteps
8.    Says he doesn’t know enough about the position to make a selection
7.    Doesn’t think any is likely to be the greatest attorney general in the greatest state in the only world we know
6.   Plans to write in Bob Abrams… what was good enough for Mario…
5.   Never endorses in Democratic primaries except in the summer of ‘82
4.   Is still thinking it through
3.  Promised he would pick Eliot Spitzer to fill a vacant AG seat in exchange for Spitzer’s vote this November
2.  Wants to leave his options open in case he changes his mind about running for governor to stay as attorney general
1.  Thought the Marist Poll would have already identified the front-runner instead of ducking a difficult prediction

Irwin Redlener, M.D., F.A.A.P.

Irwin Redlener, M.D., is professor of Clinical Population and Family Health and director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and is one of ten members of the congressionally-established National Commission on Children and Disasters. Dr. Redlener speaks and writes extensively on national disaster preparedness policies, pandemic influenza, the threat of terrorism in the U.S. and related issues.

Dr. Irwin Redlener

Dr. Irwin Redlener

Dr. Redlener is also president and co-founder of the Children’s Health Fund and has expertise in health care systems, crisis response and public policy with respect to access to health care for underserved populations.

Dr. Redlener, a pediatrician, has worked extensively in the Gulf region following Hurricane Katrina where he helped establish ongoing medical and public health programs. He also organized medical response teams in the immediate aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11 and has had disaster management leadership experience internationally and nationally. He is the author of Americans At Risk: Why We Are Not Prepared For Megadisasters and What We Can Do Now, published in August 2006 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.