The Patience Of Nita Lowey


Her campaign for Senate may be in deep freeze while Hillary Rodham Clinton toys with her own campaign, but Rep. Nita Lowey insists she holds no grudges. "I respect Hillary Clinton’s decision-making process," she told Political Memos in a recent interview. "In the meantime, I’m doing what I have to do, should I be the candidate."

Most political observers say the veteran Democrat can afford to be sanguine. Even as Clinton prepares another campaign-like foray to New York next week in a visit that includes two Jewish dinners, few expect that she will actually enter the race to succeed Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who will retire in 2000.

"I would bet against it," says Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf. "Her favorables have dropped and the luster has now rubbed off."

Ester Fuchs of Columbia University’s Center for Urban Policy believes that Clinton wants to run, but will ultimately decide against it. "Once she sits down and makes her personal calculations, she will see that she probably has a better platform and more power not as one of 50 senators but being a former first lady. Nita Lowey is looking at that calculus too."

Clinton is scheduled to attend a Jewish Child Care Association dinner Monday, and is the keynote speaker at a UJA-Federation dinner Tuesday. But she is also scheduled to attend a fund-raiser for Lowey on May 24, a move seen as deflecting criticism that Clinton has harmed Lowey’s bid in case she does not run.

"She’s giving herself an out," says Sheinkopf.

Lowey, 61, who lives in Harrison and represents parts of Westchester, Queens and the Bronx, says she says she is unconcerned about a potentially nasty race against likely Republican candidate Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. "I’m a three-term incumbent who defeated two men in the [1988] primary," she says. "I’m used to tough challenges."

Lowey has close to $1 million in the bank, and expects to raise another half million at the fund-raiser. In another preparation for running, Lowey is carefully crafting her position on Palestinian statehood, an issue that has plagued Clinton, and may come to a head before the election.

"We have to work with both sides so that unilateral action on the part of the Palestinians will not take place," she said. "It’s important that we work to ensure a strong Israel."

Former Mayor David Dinkins condemned the use of Hitler slogans and imagery in the ongoing protests over police misconduct this week, but he also lashed out at those who are "more concerned" about the rhetoric than about excessive force by the police.

"These kinds of slogans and comparisons should not be made," Dinkins told The Jewish Week Tuesday. "I condemn it in the sense that I don’t think it’s helpful. It is diversionary."

His remarks came as he co-organized a rally scheduled for Thursday that is expected to draw thousands to Federal Plaza in Manhattan to protest the killing of West African immigrant Amadou Diallo in a hail of 41 bullets fired by four white cops.

During two weeks of protests over that shooting, demonstrators outside One Police Plaza vilified the man who unseated Dinkins in 1993, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, some likening him in slogans and placards to Adolf Hitler.

Those characterizations prompted some Jewish leaders to steer clear of the rallies, and the Anti-Defamation League to call on protest organizers to "condemn the excessive rhetoric" that trivializes the Holocaust and undermines the protesters’ "legitimate message," said the ADL’s regional director, Adam Segall, on March 30.

Referring to the ADL statement, Dinkins said, "I don’t think it is helpful for people to be more concerned about the caricature than they are about a man who was felled by 41 bullets. It’s a mistake for people to be defensive of the Police Department by way of complaining about caricatures that shouldn’t be used."

The ex-mayor added that he himself was the subject of inflammatory characterizations following the 1991 Crown Heights riots.

"I’m not going to tell you how many people refused to complain when I was called a murderer and anti-Semite," he said.

Giuliani’s campaign aide and former chief of staff, Bruce Teitelbaum, said Dinkins’ condemnation did not go far enough. "If that’s the strongest pronouncement he can make, it shows a real tolerance for hatred," he said.

Dinkins initially said he would make no effort to control inflammatory signs at Thursday’s protest. "I’m not going to run through the crowd and see who has what sign," he said. But he later called back to say that he and his co-organizer, the Rev. Al Sharpton, "have had a conversation on this and … there will be an effort made on Thursday to at least discourage the use of such signs."

Councilman Morton Povman (D-Queens) is drawing mixed reaction to his proposal to protect the, er, rights of left-handed people.

Povman has introduced a measure that would convene Council meetings to examine discrimination against southpaws. The associate director of the ADL’s New York office, Howard Katz, said the measure seemed to come from left field.

"I know of no instances either anecdotally or statistically that indicate discrimination against left-handed people [is widespread]," said Katz.

Povman’s right-hand man, chief of staff Jeff Gottlieb, acknowledged some callers to the office, lefties included, think that the idea (inspired by a constituent’s high school essay) is superfluous. "We’re not going to take it that far," he said.

Added Povman, who is right-handed: "I’m not equating this to anything like whatís going on in Yugoslavia."