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America's New War: Former New York Mayor David Dinkins Discusses What Mayor Giuliani is Up To

Aired September 24, 2001 - 11:30   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: So what we're trying to figure out right now, what the mayor is up to, and we will talk with someone who knows the job well. David Dinkins is the former mayor of New York City. He was elected in 1989.

good to see you, Mr. Mayor.


ZAHN: So let me ask you this, if the legislature creates legislation that would lift term limits, or the city council does, are you going to run this time around?

DINKINS: Oh, no, no.

ZAHN: Is Rudy?

DINKINS: I don't know what he's going to do. He is a very remarkable unusual person who has served well. But we are a nation of laws, a city of laws, and the people voted twice by referendum to have term limits, and I don't perceive that they're going to alter that, notwithstanding these unusual times.

The argument for a return to normalcy, I think is a very sound one. The mayor has encouraged people to go to work, to go to the theater, to go out and do the things they normally do. And I hope that he will continue to encourage them as he did a little while ago this morning to vote, to vote tomorrow. It's election day, and it's tremendously important that we do so, less the terrorists would have won. During the Civil War, Abe Lincoln, nonetheless, had elections. We had elections in during the World Wars. So it's important that we do this, less they will have compelled us to alter our democracy, and the most basic tenet of Democracy is the ability to vote.

ZAHN: So are you telling me by Rudy Giuliani not stopping the speculation about his desire to run a third term that this is perhaps going to squash the turnout tomorrow?

DINKINS: No, I won't say that. I prefer to put it in different terms. I think it would be very useful for the mayor to encourage people to come out and vote. I mean, to say, vote if you want to is one way of phrasing. But to say it is an imperative, people died for us to get this ability to vote, Goodwin, Cheney, and Schwerner, for instance, two Jews an a black from New York, who died in Mississippi getting us the right to vote. We have this now, and I would hope that the mayor would join with me and others in urging people to vote.

ZAHN: I have the opportunity to be with you and a number of city officials yesterday, leading up to the prayer service at Yankee Stadium. I saw you talking with Peter Vallone, one of the candidates for mayor. I saw you talking with Mark Green. They certainly had to be talking about the prospect of this happening. Did you engage in any conversation about that and what their fears at this moment? These are two men that are running in the primary tomorrow.

DINKINS: They each want the election to go forth. Each of them does. And I think that no question, that the election ought to go forth. Whether or not the laws ought to be altered to permit the mayor to come in, Mayor Giuliani to come in, is another question. It's one that I don't think will happen.

Shelby Silver (ph), the speaker of the assembly, has indicated no interest in that. The city council would have to act. They would have to provide what is called a homeroom message, and -- to the legislature, and there is no indication that Peter Vallone would be interested in doing that.

So given that it is not apt to be this forthcoming later, I think that the mayor, Mayor Guiliani, should urge everyone to come out and vote. Whether he and his advisers think there is a way he can get into a general election and get on the ballot, I don't know. I was happy to hear the mayor encourage people, or discourage them from writing in his name, as Governor Pataki had suggested might be the thing, but it was sort of a throwaway line anyway. But Mayor Giuliani today very clearly said, people ought do that, it would be a wasted vote.

ZAHN: In spite of what appears to be overwhelming support for the major right now, even an Ed Koch, his former nemesis, said today, he gives him a great deal of credit for how he, in his words, has behaved over the last several weeks. Some of the mayor's detractors are saying this would be the ultimate selfish act if he decides to run. Why would it be selfish in a write-in campaign, people wanted to vote for you, they voted for you?

DINKINS: Well, if they were to vote for him in a write-in, it would be a wasted vote, because he does not have the ability to serve the third term. He, himself, said that today. And so I'm confident he will not encourage people to write in his name. He said exactly the opposite.

As far as Ed Koch goes, who has been one of the mayor's detractors of late, when Mayor Giuliani called for a gathering of religious leaders from around the city and asked Ed Koch and me to join them, we did immediately. We put aside differences of philosophy and political parties, because it was important to unite the city, and we have done that. And I think that any discussion of altering our normal electoral process now is harmful to this unity.

ZAHN: We will see how it plays out. Mayor Dinkins, good of you to stop by here.

DINKINS: Good to see you again.

ZAHN: Thank you, Pleasure.

Let's go back to Washington, where my colleague, John, is standing by.

Hi, John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Paula. Well, the mayor's conduct in New York, Mayor Giuliani's has been the subject of great debate here in Washington. The mayor receiving praise from Democrats, from Republicans invited by the president to sit in the seat of honor at the president's address to the Congress last week.

Our Bill Schneider, senior political analyst, has a few thoughts on this. Usually in politics, when you don't say no, that means yes. Is he running?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he is barred by law from serving another term. We know that. But let me make a prediction. If the voters insist on Rudy Giuliani, if he wins the primary tomorrow, say the Republican primary, on a write-in vote, or if he wins the general election in November as an independent, if some party gives him their line, and he wins, they will figure out a way, if the people clearly want him. But I think that is the only way it happens. That's unlikely for two reasons. One, he has a give a clear signal he wants to serve a third term. Right now, he's ambivalent. And number two, the voters have to figure out how to write him in, and that's not easy in New York, where they have machines.

KING: Ambivalent there perhaps because of the difficulty of the moment, very delicate to be talking about politics, personal ambition, at a time like this.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. He may genuinely be ambivalent. Remember that he has some personal health problems that he said led him to decide not to run for the Senate. I think he is obviously ambivalent. He is obviously flattered by it. But he an the governor have encouraged the idea of a write-in that would have to gather full steam. But again, if he wins, he's in, because nobody is going to stand in the way of what the people want, that includes the city council and the state legislature.

KING: Now President Bush, our latest polling sky high. CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup polling a 90 percent job approval rating.

SCHNEIDER: That's as high as his father was at the end of the Gulf War, and this President Bush hasn't even begun to fight. I think he has found a vision. Remember his father's problem with the vision thing. it is leading the fight for freedom over fear, as he puts it. It appears to be far more animating for his presidency and for himself than compassionate conservatism ever was. It's got a lot of conservatives frustrated, because they thought their vision was the one that was supposed to engage his presidency. But this clearly he has defined as the purpose of this administration. And it's working. It' engaged the public; 90 percent approval rating has a danger. That is the president has defined this struggle as his personal mission, and he is going to be held accountable for its outcome. Ninety percent has to be fleeting. All he has to do is just ask his father.

KING: That's right, and this president often says of his father, that his father built up this huge reservoir of political capitol and refused to spend it.

Bill Schneider, thank you very much, more on the president's poll numbers throughout the day.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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