The GOP reaction was predictable: This was a referendum on Obama and a portent of doom in 2012. After all, here was the first Republican elected from this district since 1923. (Actually, that's a sloppy factoid, echoed in the media, to make it easy to blame Obama first; it's a fact in the Brooklyn rump of the district, but not in Queens, the district's predominant swath, where Forest Hills and other neighborhoods sent Republican Seymour Halpern to Congress in the 1960s and 1970s.)
Al Smith, the master of the sidewalks of New York, in a characteristic phrase, might have called the Democrat in this special election "a bum." At the least, David Weprin was a bumbler. He confidently offered up a figure on the national debt; he was off by 10 trillion (with a 'T') dollars. He skipped out of a debate, citing the threat of Hurricane Irene; the storm had already passed. He didn't go on the attack until it was too late; he never brought Gov. Andrew Cuomo into a district where he is overwhelmingly popular.
James Carville would have the president play a hasty game of musical chairs that would turn Obama's ship of state into the Titanic.
Weprin fled any identification with the president after former New York Mayor Ed Koch urged voters to retaliate against Obama's Mideast policy by rallying to the Right. Koch, whom I was proud to help defeat for re-election in 1989, has a record of exploiting ethnic tensions and turning on his own party. He race-baited Jesse Jackson in the 1988 presidential primary — and in the past, he's endorsed Rudolph Giuliani, the state's last Republican senator (Alfonse D'Amato), and George W. Bush.
Never mind that Weprin is an Orthodox Jew, an undeviating rubber stamp for Israeli policies, with relatives living in that country. And never mind that Obama's position is the same as Bush's, Bill Clinton's, and the peace deal Israel offered in 2000 and 2001 — a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with agreed land swaps. And never mind that as Israel's self-ordained champion, Koch in reality endangers the increasingly isolated Jewish state with his knee-jerk support of a Netanyahu regime that subordinates the strategic imperatives of national survival to the political survival of his own extremist-infested coalition. To cite Abba Eban's famous phrase, it's now Netanyahu who "never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity" — say, to avert a dangerous break with Turkey — and there are "friends" of Israel like Koch who are there with him every lurch of the way.
Koch undoubtedly hurt Weprin; but there's little doubt that other, stronger Democrats — including former District Attorney and Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman — would have won anyway. But Democratic bosses outsmarted, or more accurately, out-dumbed themselves by ruling out a primary in favor of picking a patsy who would compliantly disappear after redistricting eliminated one of New York City's congressional seats. They got the patsy they wanted, only he inconveniently disappeared 14 months early.
Randi Rhodes said all of this on her show like on...Wednesday.