Leave it to Mayor de Blasio to manage to anger both sides in a debate and wind up looking the fool instead of showing leadership. That’s what he does. He has an uncanny ability to annoy all sides in almost any controversy.
The latest and best example is, of course, policing. As peaceful protests heated up and people took advantage of the situation to riot, burn and loot, some cops got rough. Videos posted to social media showed some arbitrarily shoving protesters, including one young woman who ended up in the hospital. One cop in a tense standoff lifted a protester’s face mask off and pepper sprayed him. Another waved his gun at a crowd, though it turned out he did that after a cop next to him got hit in the head with what apparently was a brick. And officers in two SUVs, one of which was surrounded by people pounding on it in what certainly looked like a dangerous situation, drove into the crowd.
De Blasio first defended the cops, saying of the SUV incident, “It is inappropriate for protestors to surround a police vehicle and threaten police officers. That’s wrong on its face and that hasn’t happened in the history of protests in this city ... a different element has come into play here who are trying to hurt police officers and trying to damage their vehicles.”
People protesting racial injustice and police violence were aghast. But they just had to wait until the next day, when he flip-flopped and said, “I did not want to ever see something like that; I don’t want to ever see it again. And clearly, we need to do a full investigation and look at the actions of those officers and see what was done and why it was done and what could be done differently.”
Now that protesters and their allies in office are pushing to “defund the police,” de Blasio is trying and failing to play both sides again. At first he opposed the idea. But that got him booed off a stage in Brooklyn, where his wife, Chirlane McCray, wants to run for borough president. So he flipped again, saying he now backs shifting money from the police budget to fund more youth and social services.
“We are going to relentlessly change this city and this Police Department over the next 18 months,” he said Tuesday.
And guess what? He credited McCray with coming up with the idea of cutting police funding — while crime is on the rise, hundreds of thousands of people are newly jobless and the city just demonstrated that it can lose control of big swaths of Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx with ease.
The police already can’t stand de Blasio, believing with plenty of evidence that he’s never really been behind them. And the activists won’t be satisfied until the department is so decimated it can’t function. That’s not going to happen.
But this is de Blasio. He pledged to install bike lanes along Queens Boulevard, and when one community board objected, he ordered the work sped up. But now he’s left the last phase of the job, in Forest Hills, undone, probably to get Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz’s backing for the Kew Gardens jail plan. So while many drivers and businesses have long been furious at him over what’s been done to the boulevard, now the cyclists are too, over what’s not been done.
On education, he and his schools chancellor, Richard Carranza, who should have resigned long ago, have been targeting excellence, seeking to end selective admissions policies and making life as hard for charter schools as they can. Asian-American parents especially have risen up in response, in anger and fear over how their children’s success might be thwarted. Yet the mayor has failed in this too, leaving those who want to weaken top schools disappointed themselves.
De Blasio’s ability to annoy or offend all sides is a bad quality in a politician. No wonder he’s shifted his hopes for the future to his wife. Would she be a better one? We’ll see.