It’s one of the top political questions in the city: Will Anthony Weiner run for mayor?
The Queens-based congressman who made a respectable Democratic primary run in 2005, forcing a runoff only to cede the nomination to Fernando Ferrer, has often spoken about his intention to run again, but recent developments have sown doubts.
With big-spending Mayor Michael Bloomberg back in the picture seeking a third term as an independent, and City Comptroller William Thompson already declaring his pursuit of the Democratic nomination, there is speculation that the 44-year-old Weiner, who has an ultra-secure House seat, will bide his time until 2013, or later.
“With Thompson in the race, I think Anthony sits this one out and does his congressional stuff and waits
for 2013,” said political science Prof. Douglas Muzzio of Baruch College. “Then, Thompson would be out of the way, if he loses, and Bloomberg will be out, unless he convinces the City Council to overturn the latest term limits law. My gut tells me Anthony does not run.”
A Weiner spokesman, John Collins, noting the role of Congress in providing bailout funds for New York, said “Anthony is focused on doing his job in Congress to solve the problems we face, not on politics.”
Speculation about Weiner’s intention was fueled this week when Bloomberg, in an apparent first, said something complimentary about Weiner in public, suggesting a détente between the two.
When asked about a Daily News report that Weiner had won federal program grants for two Brooklyn-based organizations that raised campaign funds for him, Bloomberg said “If Anthony Weiner can get more for the city, if it’s going to be given out anyways, I’m glad he’s doing it.”
A Bloomberg loyalist, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak for the mayor, said on Tuesday he believed that Weiner had kept a lower than usual profile late last year. “From Thanksgiving till New Year’s, he disappeared and that started a rumor mill that maybe he’s not running.”
But a well-known city Democrat and former official, who is not supporting a candidate for mayor, said he believed that Weiner had no choice but to run to remain credible.
“Right now the polls have him ahead of Thompson,” said the Democrat, who did not want to be identified because he has ties to both Thompson and Weiner. “How the hell does he quit a race that he’s winning without looking weak?”
Rep. Gary Ackerman is defending his use of the term “pogrom” to describe settler violence against Palestinians late last year.
At a Feb. 12 hearing of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, which he chairs, Ackerman, who represents parts of Queens and Long Island, lamented the sorry state of the peace process and said “the downward pressure comes from terrorism and the march of settlements and outposts, from the firing of rockets and the perpetration of settler pogroms. It comes in daily images of destruction and the constant reiteration that ‘they only understand the language of force.’ ”
Ackerman also mentioned at the hearing tensions from “tunnels in Gaza and from digging in Jerusalem as well,” an apparent reference to the arms smuggling tunnels used by Hamas and to Jewish archaeological excavations. He then added “there is no moral equivalence between these acts but they are part of the same destructive dynamic.”
The speech was slammed by the Zionist Organization of America as inflammatory and picked up by a potential Republican rival who hopes to use it against Ackerman next year.
But in an interview on Tuesday, a testy Ackerman noted that the word “pogrom” was first applied to the settler incident by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, as reported in the Israeli media.
“If we want to have credibility condemning attacks on Jews around the world, and there could soon be more because of the economic situation, we can’t ignore when Jews carry out attacks like these,” said Ackerman. “These were not people accused of terrorism but just Arabs who happen to live nearby,” he said of the victims.
The events in question happened in November in Hebron when Israeli soldiers evicted settlers from disputed property. “The sight of Jews firing at innocent Palestinians has no other name than pogrom,” said Olmert then, as reported by Haaretz.
Morton Klein, president of the ZOA, said he believed the Jews were responding to rock-throwing attacks, and told The Jewish Week “It was shocking that Gary Ackerman would inaccurately use a term like pogrom, which enables Israel’s enemies now to use that term. A pogrom is a state-sponsored massacre. This wasn’t state-sponsored and it wasn’t a massacre.”
Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League said Olmert’s use of the term was different than Ackerman’s. “It’s one thing for Olmert to say it about his citizens when he has to deal with upholding law and civility,” said Foxman. “But it’s another for an American congressman in the context of discussing a geopolitical issue about bringing peace to use that terminology and make that comparison.”
Liz Berney, a Great Neck lawyer who won 28 percent of the vote in her race last year and hopes to challenge him again next year, called The Jewish Week to say that the remark showed that Ackerman “has pulled the wool over the eyes of people … This perception of him [as pro-Israel] doesn’t match what his actions are in Congress.” She suggested that Ackerman should have objected to the $900 million payment now being made by the U.S. to the Palestinian Authority for the reconstruction of Gaza.
Ackerman noted that much of those funds were for pre-existing agreements, and that “one-third of it will be paid to Israel for electricity.”
As for his record on Israel, Ackerman, who is serving his 13th term and has visited Israel numerous times, said “I’ll leave that to the voters to decide.”
He said that at Sunday’s Congressional Breakfast sponsored by UJA-Federation and the Jewish Community Relations Council, “I got a standing ovation and more applause than anybody.”