"I think it was an extraordinary event," he says of the counterdemonstration. "I'd be the first to admit that I never thought we'd have six to eight thousand people there... And the diversity of the crowd was just what we'd hoped for... The real story is that we ran the KKK out of town. And in a big way. They were so supposed to be there for two hours. Seventy minutes, they packed up and left."
Yeah. We ran the Klan out of town, man. We finally said enough. Enough of the lynching. Enough of the burning cross. We finally put our foot down. You can't play your hateful act in our town, bub...
"... to run the KKK out of New York," Stringer's enthusing, "in a peaceful way, and show that the mass of people reject their hatred and bigotry. And I think we did that...any time you can get a diverse group of people working together..."
"...long-term benefits for progressive politics...long-term positive ramifications...
"Look at what's happening," Stringer continues. "People are walking into schools all over this country and shooting people because they're Jewish... Look at what's happened in New York over time. The KKK is the fastest growing hate group in the United States."
It's funny, though. Because there was other interesting news last week, too?news that you'd think would be of interest to you if you call yourself a "leftist," and particularly if you share the left's customary salubrious distrust of executive power and its distaste for the American habit of politically motivated foreign military adventurism. I'm referring to James Risen's excellent front-page story in Wednesday's New York Times. The piece challenges the Clinton administration's assertion that Bill Clinton's August 1998 bombings of the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan were strategically necessary, and not just a diversionary tactic in the midst of the Lewinsky affair.
The article's powerful stuff. Take the following passage, which grounds the piece in what seems a distrust of the Clinton administration's claims:
"Current and former American officials agreed to discuss the operation because, more than a year later, they continue to be plagued by doubts about whether it was justified.
"They said they are still troubled by the lack of a full airing of what they view as gaps in the evidence linking the plant, called Al Shifa, to [terrorist Osama] bin Laden. And they complain that the decision-making process was so secretive that Al Shifa was not vetted by many Government experts on chemical weapons sites or terrorism."
And Risen goes on and on and on. It would be no use quoting much more of the painstakingly detailed article. Besides, it just tells you what you already knew. First, that the Sudan bombings were fulfilled only over the objections of important officials in the CIA, State Dept. and military who considered insufficient the Clintonite evidence that the Al Shifa site manufactured chemical weapons. Second, that the action was undertaken behind of veil of obfuscation spun by shills like Sandy Berger and Madeleine Albright. Even several of the piece's subheads are, by Times standards at least, pretty aggressive ("Albright and Top Aide Killed Critical Report"; "A Straight Face Belied Criticism"). If James Risen were smart?and considering the exuberant viciousness of the politicians he's confronted here?he'd watch his back. But at any rate, The New York Times, the print institution perhaps most responsible for government prophylaxis in general and saving the Clintons' asses in particular, has?even if in its own necessarily equivocating manner?suggested that the President of the United States is an international criminal.
A tremendous story, then, and one that makes you thank your lucky stars that there exist "leftists" of conscience in New York?who'll without a doubt get around to challenging the Clinton administration's rogue military actions.
At some point, that is. At some point in the future?once they've tied up other rather more important loose ends, like ridding New York City of the threat posed by the dozen-and-a-half bikers, blue-collar lifestyle losers, welders from places like Schenectady, bearded guys who still live with their mothers in bungalows in Wampsville, Cazenovia, Oswego and Troy, and the rest of the melancholy societal flotsam that comprises that violent, monolithic and conspiratorial hate-group on the march known as the local Klan. Those bastards...
I asked Stringer if it was believable that the Klan's really a threat in New York.
"Yeah!" he answered. "I learned a lot about this... New York is where movements start!"
And, oh?by the way, Scott, did you happen to read James Risen's piece about the Sudan bombing in the Times?
No. On Wednesday.
"No. I will read it, though. I still have the Times. I didn't have a chance to. I got home and fell asleep last night."
I called the offices of several other local Democrats who've in the past displayed the sort of bravery and ethical mettle that might lead them to contest the Klan, here in New York in 1999. Listen to Democratic New York State Assemblywoman Deborah Glick:
"I absolutely believe that the First Amendment protects speech! Particularly political speech! Even when the organization involved is despicable! But the flipside of that is that messages of hate cannot go unchallenged!"
But had Glick read the story in The New York Times yesterday about the Sudan bombing? About the suspicions in the State Dept. about that action?
Which is to say that fully 100 percent of New York Democrats surveyed so far most emphatically do not read the front page of The New York Times.
And Democrat U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler? Here's Brett Heimov, who works at that Upper West Side politician and Clinton enthusiast's office, discussing Nadler's participation?he spoke at the same counterdemonstration at which Stringer did?in Foley Square last Saturday.
"Well," Heimov told me of his boss. "He wasn't for the event. Heh heh heh. He believes [the Klan] had a right to march, yes. But he absolutely and obviously opposes the message they were sending and the message they were trying to put out from the march... And so that's why he participated in the opposition rally. It just shows that there's a much stronger movement?a much greater outcry for equality and understanding?than there is for hatred and hooded marches."
Okay, but is Nadler taking a position on the Sudan bombing?in light of that stunning Times story?
"I have not discussed it with him," Heimov told me. "So I don't know."
And Sen. Charles Schumer? There's a wonderful AP photograph that portrays a bundled-up Schumer at the front of a counterdemonstration crowd, mug contorted in ethical despair. Driving those...bastards out of town. Behind him, a throng of chanting faces all a-grimace; picket signs stab the air like they must have...back then...a generation ago...when we were young...bold days of contestation in Harvard Yard... MUMIA! and LABOR, BLACKS, HISPANICS, IMMIGRANTS, JEWS, GAYS?ALL OUT TO STOP THE KKK! scream the signs, and you suspect Schumer's already clipped the photo for his archives, clipped for his archives this bold photograph that places Sen. Schumer in the foreground of a Mobilization, the crowd's pure righteous anger funneling down and through his being and his strong righteous face, all pure energy...
"He has not made a statement," a helpful staffer at Schumer's Washington office told me. "I'm sure that he did read the article. But I'm not sure if he has a statement on it. I can check into that for you."
Please do, ma'am.
"Do we get it?" Stringer had asked me earlier. "Do we learn from this? Are we going to be able to do things? Can a coalition like this do things on other issues? That's the test."