The Chief
January 4, 2008

Razzle Dazzle: 2008

The Year in Review

By RICHARD STEIER

Over the past eight years, this column has taken a certain pride in the frequency with which its predictions for the year ahead have been spectacularly wrong. Some have accused us of deliberately imagining the most absurd possible conclusions arising from the dealings of prominent officials. We'd love to defend ourselves, but they happen to be right.

This being an election year, however, we feel entitled to radically shift our position and assure you that this year's absurd conclusions are absolutely logical, to the point where we can virtually guarantee their happening. As good-faith evidence, we point to the large number of predictions in last year's column that turned out, as Walt Frazier might put it, to be both audacious and sagacious.

Start with the Chicago Bears losing the Super Bowl. (Sure we predicted that it would be the Jets defeating them while consigning the actual champion Indianapolis Colts to a first-round elimination, but as Rudy Giuliani would say, nobody's perfect.)

Spitzer Feud, PBA Coronation

Move on to our correctly forecasting a nasty feud between Governor Spitzer and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (okay, that wasn't hard) and Pat Lynch's re-election without opposition as Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president (also easy, if not necessarily logical).

We also predicted that a judge would deny Transport Workers' Union Local 100's bid to have dues check-off rights restored, and that Roger Toussaint would be too preoccupied with other business to fully serve his members (okay, so we imagined that other business would be a recording career in which he settled scores with his enemies outside the union, rather than an internal purge in which he settled scores with his enemies inside it).

There was also the prognostication that Bernie Kerik would be indicted by Federal prosecutors (admittedly a no-brainer) and that it would affect Mr. Giuliani's presidential campaign (although we predicted that the former Mayor would eventually quit the race "to spend more time with his family," which might still happen if the results on Super Tuesday are not to his liking).

If you discount the parenthetical clarifications, we're on a major roll (in the German army, that's two ranks below a kaiser roll). And so it is with great pride that we present our Bernie Awards for memorable deeds and utterances during the past year, and with even greater confidence that we unleash our predictions for the coming one upon the unsuspecting public:

The Steamroller Hits a Giant Pothole and Can't Dig Himself Out Award to Governor Spitzer for squandering his mandate and putting his political future in jeopardy with a dubious attempt to embarrass Joe Bruno.

The Muhammad Ali Rope-a-Dope Award to Senate Majority Leader Bruno for using state helicopters primarily for fund-raising activities but having the other guy crack up.

The George W. Bush Award for knowing a lot more about winning elections than how to govern to Lillian Roberts, for winning re-election in a landslide and gaining control of the District Council 37 executive board but being unable to get the City Council to approve a residency waiver for her members 18 months after Mayor Bloomberg approved it.

Four More Years Late

The Four More Years Behind Award to Pat Lynch for a bargaining strategy that got him re-elected without opposition at the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association but could force his members to wait until the summer for a successor contract to the one that expired Aug. 1, 2004.

The Bialystock and Bloom Let's Put on a Surefire Flop Award to Mayor Bloomberg for leaving the Off-Track Betting Corporation at a competitive disadvantage on its payouts to bettors while being run by Rudy Giuliani's cousin, and then acting surprised that it's losing money.

The Patience is a Virtue When It's Your Butt Being Protected Award to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, who survived a school bus-route fiasco and his third reorganization of the system this year but pulled the plug on the Principal of an Arabic school soon after she made an ill-advised comment during an interview he ordered her to give.

The You're Doin' a Heckuva Job, Brownie Award to Amalgamated Transit Union International President Warren George for failing to order new elections at his city school-bus local even after a report he commissioned found it had been corrupted to the core by organized crime.

The I Cost the Union Millions But the Real Problem is Guys Who Are $15 Behind on Their Dues Award to Roger Toussaint, who has seized the opportunity presented when dues check-off rights were suspended for Transport Workers Union Local 100 as a pretext for retaliation against his growing list of in-house enemies, in the process proving that all the lies they told about him being a ruthless dictator might actually be true.

The Hiding in Plain Sight Award to Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster, whose agency has been virtually exempted from criticism while city officials pointed fingers at the Fire Department for the shoddy safety procedures that resulted in the Deutsche Bank Building fire.

What a Huckleberry

The Holy Cow, Scooter Award to President Bush for an administration in which even the supposed heavyweights (Dick Cheney, Karl Rove) look as dismal as the drones like Alberto Gonzales and Harriet Miers, while also eroding our rights and our standing in the world.

The If the Media Wants to Give a Free Ride to My Muslim, Cocaine-Dealing Opponent, I've Got a Right to Get Tough With Those Weasels Award to Hillary Clinton for strong-arming GQ into scrapping a potentially critical profile of her by threatening to withhold Bill's cooperation for another piece by the magazine.

The I'm Spinning As Fast As I Can Award to Rudy Giuliani for running away from past positions on gun control and immigrants while trying to convince the American public that he single-handedly pulled thousands of people to safety on 9/11 and so is entitled to associate with whatever dubious entities (friends of foreign dictators, governments that assisted terrorists, Bernie Kerik) might benefit him.

The When You Ain't Got Nothin' You Got Nothin' to Lose Award to Mr. Kerik for refusing to take a two-year Federal sentence for a guilty plea on crimes similar to those he already admitted to in state court, instead gambling for his freedom against the possibility of doing more than twice as much time behind bars.

And now, with last year's top performers duly honored, it's time to peek at everything that's likely to happen in 2008:

Sending Bill Abroad

Jan. 8 - Five days after finishing a distant sixth in the Iowa Caucuses captured by Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani runs fourth in the New Hampshire Republican Primary behind a resurgent John McCain, Mitt Romney and Mr. Huckabee. Although some of his big contributors jump ship, Mr. Giuliani insists he is not concerned, predicting big wins in Michigan and Florida that will give him all the momentum heading into Super Tuesday.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton finishes 3 points behind Barack Obama for her second straight defeat. Saying she will be the change-agent for her own campaign, she dispatches her husband to China for a month-long fact-finding tour.

Jan. 15 - Mr. Romney edges Mr. Giuliani in Michigan, while John Edwards's populist appeal earns him his first primary win and keeps his chances for the Democratic nomination alive. Mr. Giuliani, who had skipped weekend campaigning in order to attend the Giants' second-round playoff loss against Dallas, said he will now be able to sharpen his focus heading into make-or-break territory in Florida.

Two days later, shortly before a fund-raiser at the Waldorf, Mr. McCain pays a visit to City Hall and leaves carrying a heavy satchel with a PlaNYC insignia.

Jan. 23 - Appellate Division judges order the restoration of dues check-off rights for members of TWU Local 100. Union President Roger Toussaint issues a press release that calls this good news but emphasizes that those who are considered in bad standing will remain in bad standing even if they make good on whatever they owe.

Mayor Bloomberg criticizes the judges for restoring dues rights without a promise from Mr. Toussaint that he will never strike again. Asked for his reaction, the Local 100 leader replies, "No soup for him, either."

McCain, Si; Rudy, No

Jan. 29 - Mr. McCain wins the Florida Republican primary, leaving Mr. Giuliani sputtering about a last-second negative advertising blitz referring to him as El Gringo and quoting his remarks during the debates about building the Big Fence to keep undocumented workers out.

On the Democratic side, Mr. Edwards, who also got a sudden infusion of campaign money, defeats Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama to grab the momentum heading into Super Tuesday. Standing to the side of the stage as he addresses his supporters is Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey.

Feb. 3 - Two weeks after ending the New England Patriots' bid for a perfect season, the Colts defeat the Cowboys in the Super Bowl, 34-17. The talk of the political world, however, is the way that Fox, which televised the game from Glendale, Arizona, turned it into a showcase for Mr. Giuliani at a time when the state's native son, Senator McCain, seemed poised to win most of the Super Tuesday primaries.

After bringing Mr. Giuliani into the announcers' booth for the entire second quarter, Fox breaks with its tradition of offering the season debut of its hottest show following the game in order to broadcast an hour-long interview of Mr. Giuliani by Sean Hannity portraying him as a devoted family man who saved America from Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Ruth Messinger.

Playing the Game

When the other candidates protest to the FCC that this is a blatant violation of equal-time rules, Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch points out that Mr. Giuliani was the only one who interrupted his campaign schedule to attend the game.

Feb. 5 - Buoyed by the extra air time, Mr. Giuliani narrowly wins several southern primaries but still loses New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California to Mr. McCain.

Ms. Clinton wins New York, but Mr. Obama takes Illinois and California and Mr. Edwards triumphs in New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, as well as several states in the South and Southwest. His strength in the Northeast is particularly surprising, and speculation grows about the source of the money for the large media buy his campaign made starting the weekend before the vote.

Feb. 6 - Pressure grows on Mr. Giuliani to step aside so that Mr. McCain can gain the nomination without further attacks from within his party, while Senator Obama appeals to Senator Clinton to throw her support to him as he battles Mr. Edwards for the Democratic nod.

Both refuse to yield and go gracefully, however. Ms. Clinton fires most of her campaign staff but has one of her operatives leak information that while in China Mr. Clinton has been unfaithful to her, hoping to create a sympathy backlash.

Return to Liberal Roots

Mr. Giuliani calls his old friend and political adviser Ray Harding and asks whether he would consider reactivating the Liberal Party.

Mr. Harding replies, "For you, Rudy, anything, as long as the usual number of jobs are forthcoming if you succeed."

"Great," the former Mayor responds. "Just one thing - the party's gonna need a name-change. I'm not going to get too many Republicans and Reagan Democrats voting on the Liberal line."

"Okay," Mr. Harding responds, "how about we call it the Not-So-Liberal Party?"

"No good - it's still got Liberal in the name," Rudy replies. "How 'bout something that's truer to what you really stand for?"

"You mean like the Patronage Party?"

"Maybe something a little less blatant," the ex-Mayor responds. "The Patriot Party, for instance."

"Sounds good to me," Mr. Harding said. "And just as a show of good faith on your part, how 'bout upfront giving us six jobs at Giuliani Partners?"

Feb. 13 - The day after winning the primaries in Maryland and Virginia, Mr. Edwards asks Mr. Toussaint for additional financial help so he can gain a clear advantage for the Democratic nomination by winning Ohio and Texas. Mr. Toussaint tells him he will do it if Mr. Edwards can persuade Governor Spitzer to repeal the Taylor Law.

"Done," the former Senator from North Carolina says.

Back Up the Tour Bus

Senator Clinton, having failed to benefit from playing the infidelity card, announces that she is going on a listening tour of those two states.

Asked what he makes of that, Senator Obama says, "When you can't afford to buy ads, you listen."

March 4 - Mr. Giuliani, able to raise cash again after obtaining the Patriot Party line, wins Ohio and Texas, slowing Senator McCain's march to the nomination. Mr. Edwards captures Ohio and Texas to emerge as the clear Democratic front-runner, but Ms. Clinton's surprise victories in Rhode Island and Vermont (total electoral votes: 7) lead her to pronounce herself "The Comeback Babe" and declare she's in the race until the end.

Back at City Hall, there is consternation over these developments. "This wasn't supposed to happen," Mayor Bloomberg tells Mr. Sheekey. "The money I slipped to McCain and Edwards should have sewed up the nominations by now, and left me with the perfect candidates to run against. Why should I have to worry about Rudy and Hillary coming back from the political dead?"

March 15 - Following his performance in the Inner Circle show, the Mayor announces from the stage of the New York Hilton that he's running for President. He hasn't finished speaking when other elected officials in the Grand Ballroom fling themselves before the lobbyists in attendance, soliciting contributions for the special election to replace Mr. Bloomberg if he wins.

A Budget Fight

March 31 - Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno pledges to sign off on both a new state budget and campaign finance reform if Governor Spitzer agrees to box him for four rounds. "We could do a billion dollars with the pay-per-view rights, and it'd be worth giving him campaign reform just to smack him all over the ring," Mr. Bruno tells reporters.

Mr. Spitzer quickly agrees, but then several obstacles arise, among them (a) Mr. Bruno's insistence that there be no press releases about his business dealings issued by the Governor between rounds in an attempt to provoke the Majority Leader into abandoning his game plan to try for a quick knockout; (b) the Governor's position that the weigh-in shouldn't be under oath; and (c) finding a date when Shelly Silver can attend.

April 22 - Mr. McCain and Mr. Edwards capture their parties' primaries in Pennsylvania, cementing their status as the likely Republican and Democratic nominees. Mr. Giuliani vows to soldier on, and Ms. Clinton promises a "surprise announcement" the following week.

April 30 - Ms. Clinton announces that the Working Families Party will break with its past practice of supporting the Democratic nominee for President and give her its line in November, setting up a potential five-way battle including the major-party nominees plus Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Bloomberg.

Taking Klein on Road

May 19 - State reading scores show no major gains in the city public schools. Joel Klein begins planning a fourth reorganization of the system, but before he can award a $20-million contract to a consultant, the Mayor announces that the Chancellor is transferring from his government team to his campaign staff for the next six months.

Asked who will run the schools during that period, Mr. Bloomberg responds, "Randi Weingarten. She's been trying to do it for years; let her take some of the heat for a change."

June 17 - A new city budget is approved. The state budget is on hold for the summer, however, due to continued logistical problems in scheduling the Spitzer-Bruno boxing match.

July 22 - American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Judicial Panel Chairman Kangaroo John Seferian upholds the election victory of Local 372 President Veronica Montgomery-Costa by 19 votes, ruling that the local's election committee was within its rights in disqualifying 1,400 ballots cast for opposing candidates even though the voters at issue had proved that they were members in good standing.

Mr. Seferian concludes his 68-page decision by noting, "That local isn't ready for democracy."

Aug. 13 - Formal charges are brought against Ms. Montgomery-Costa after it is learned that she celebrated her re-election by ordering the Local 372 board to triple her salary. Mr. Seferian notes that the new pay rate, combined with her compensation as president of District Council 37, puts her total compensation above the $585,000 received by AFSCME President Gerry McEntee.

Raising All Boats

The charges are dropped when, midway through the AFSCME convention, Ms. Montgomery-Costa sponsors a resolution doubling Mr. McEntee's salary, which is unanimously approved by the delegates.

Aug. 28 - Despite the pleas of Ms. Clinton that she is the rightful nominee, Democrats in Denver give John Edwards their nomination for President.

Sept. 4 - Republicans in Minneapolis give the GOP nomination to John McCain.

Sept. 22 - Fox announces that it has sold the advertising rights to the World Series to Bloomberg for President. To dispel rumors that he will use the Fall Classic as the key prong in his strategy to monopolize the airwaves with campaign ads just prior to the election, the Mayor says that 10 minutes of ad time each game will be sold to commercial sponsors, but that only beer companies that produce low-carb brews and car ads for hybrid models will be considered.

Ms. Clinton protests that this will deprive her and the other candidates of their First Amendment rights, while Mr. Giuliani calls it un-American to discriminate against carbohydrates and gas-guzzlers.

In an attempt to mollify Mr. Bloomberg's most-vociferous critics, Fox announces that drivers in future NASCAR events it televises will be allowed to carry guns. Automatic weapons, however, will be barred so as to keep programming suitable for family audiences.

Tussling With Toussaint

Oct. 15 - TWU Local 100 begins negotiations on a new contract with President Roger Toussaint demanding 15-percent annual raises.

His proposal is immediately denounced as a sellout by his 14,000 opponents within the union, who have finally coalesced under the banner of "Members in Bad Standing."

"So what," Mr. Toussaint responds, "they can't vote anyway."

Oct. 26 - After the Mets defeat the Red Sox in the seventh game of the World Series, Mayor Bloomberg visits the winning clubhouse and takes a swig of champagne.

With the TV cameras rolling, he is heard saying, "My God, this swill is worse than the low-carb beer we've been sponsoring."

His poll numbers drop for four days, until another billion-dollar ad buy brings them back up.

Nov. 2 - Sunday morning talk shows are buzzing over polls showing the Democratic and Republican nominees running fourth and fifth in the presidential race. Tim Russert opines that Ms. Clinton and Mr. Giuliani may have found the perfect kind of race to overcome the strong negative feelings many voters have for them: one in which turning out the 25 percent who would vote for them under any circumstances might be enough to win.

Nov. 5 - With election results still being tallied well past midnight, the popular vote shows Mayor Bloomberg with 26 percent of the vote, Ms. Clinton with 23, Mr. Giuliani with 20, Mr. Edwards with 17 and Mr. McCain with 14.

Vox Pop Not Enough

At 3 a.m. Mayor Bloomberg greets his supporters at the New York Sheraton by proclaiming, "I'm the man of the people!"

Unfortunately for the Mayor, his similarly small lead in the Electoral College will translate to just 146 votes, well short of the 270 required to be elected.

Dec. 15 - The Electoral College results are finalized. With no candidate gaining a majority, the top three vote-getters - Mr. Bloomberg, Ms. Clinton and Mr. Giuliani - have their names submitted to the House of Representatives, which will decide in mid-January whom the next President will be.

With Democrats maintaining their sizable lead in the House, pundits immediately declare that Ms. Clinton is the overwhelming favorite to be chosen President.

"I owe it all to Gerry McEntee," she tells reporters. "When he jumped ship to support John Edwards at the convention, it was like I'd been able to transfer the kiss of death."

Dec. 24 - As Roger Toussaint dozes, visions of another transit strike in three weeks dancing in his head, he is visited by the Ghost of Mike Quill.

"Turn the other cheek and let bygones be bygones, laddie," the Ghost tells him. "But Mike, I'm just following your example," a groggy Mr. Toussaint protests.

"Wake up, boyo," Mr. Quill replies. "The '66 transit strike was a one-time thing, and it wound up killing me. Is that what you want: to be a dead legend when you're 60? Scare the bejabbers out of the editorial writers if you want, but get a back-room deal done before the deadline this time, so that you know how the drama's gonna come out before the curtain.

"And while I've got yer attention," the late TWU leader continues, "stop kickin' people out of the union just because they don't always agree with you. If you think the only people who belong inside are the ones who tell you how great you are, you should be runnin' a nightclub, not a union."

Dec. 25 - Mr. Toussaint awakens a changed man. He calls all the union members he has alienated and invites them to Madison Square Garden for dinner, rehires everyone whom he had fired during the previous eight years, and sends the leftover food to Sonny Hall's house.

"God bless us every one," the Local 100 leader declares. The moment of good feeling is shattered when the anarcho-atheists among the dissidents protest and accuse him of selling out to false idols.

Gazing heavenward, Mr. Toussaint says, "I tried, Mike, I tried."

Dec. 31 - From his Federal prison cell in Danbury, Bernie Kerik phones Judith Regan collect. After she reminds him of her old restraining order, he tells her, "No, babe, this is business, not personal. I've got a story to tell, and a perfect title. How's 'Rudy Dearest' sound to you?"

Happy New Year.