Joe Conason's Journal

Bush's approval numbers return to pre-9/11 levels. Plus: Al Sharpton, the Republicans' best friend, Part 2.

Published January 14, 2003 5:24PM (EST)

That D'Amato endorsement, and more
Several readers note that in fact Tim Russert did ask Al Sharpton about the Rev's 1986 endorsement of Alfonse D'Amato. Let's go to the transcript:

MR. RUSSERT: But when you endorse a conservative Republican like Al D'Amato rather than a Democratic liberal like Mark Green, people say you're nothing but an opportunist.
REV. SHARPTON: Well, what was the opportunity? First of all, the ministerial group I was part of had endorsed Mr. D'Amato in '86, and we did not feel that he was going to be a conservative Republican, similar to civil rights leaders [who] endorsed Charles Percy, and some [who] have endorsed other Republicans when we had problems in Chicago with Richard Daley when I was growing up in Operation Breadbasket.

And they call Bill Clinton slick. Everyone in New York knew that Al D'Amato was "going to be a conservative Republican," because six years earlier he had defeated Jacob Javits, the liberal Republican incumbent, in a bitter primary that featured his right-wing credentials and financing from ultraconservative national organizations. Everyone in New York knew that Green was the progressive candidate (including all the African-American politicians of any stature). Actually, D'Amato purchased the endorsement of Sharpton's "ministerial group" with a federal grant.

Sharpton's covert relationship with the Republican Party didn't end back then. On election eve in 1994, he lent his considerable presence to a George Pataki rally at a Harlem church.

Wayne Barrett of the Village Voice, Gotham's greatest investigative reporter, reported certain otherwise unnoticed coincidences last fall when Democrat Carl McCall was running for governor against Pataki. (Making political history, McCall was the first black candidate of a major party to run for the state's highest office.)

As Barrett pointed out, "The co-chair of Democrats for Pataki is none other than the co-chair of Sharpton's National Action Network, Reverend Franklyn Richardson II, pastor of the 4000-member Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon. Richardson, who chairs the Pataki group with Ed Koch, is so close to Sharpton he led a prayer at the ballyhooed renewal last year of Sharpton's wedding vows, a successful attempt to contrast him with the maritally impaired Jesse Jackson. The son of another Sharpton insider, Harold Doley, was on both the Bloomberg and Pataki campaign payrolls, drawing down $9500 a month in Pataki payments."

Maybe Sharpton should enter the Green Party primary against Cynthia McKinney.
[3:52 p.m. PST, Jan. 14, 2003]

Back to Sept. 10, 2001
The latest USAToday survey shows that George W. Bush's favorable rating, still a respectable 58 percent, has fallen to its lowest point since Sept. 11, 2001. Americans are apparently starting to notice a few things they don't much like about the president, or perhaps things they already knew are beginning to affect their overall assessment of him. By 56 to 24 percent, the voters surveyed by USAToday understand that his policies favor the wealthy. By 55 to 25 percent, they want his economic plan changed drastically or rejected. And although they are evenly split in their assessment of his "handling of the economy," 55 percent feel he isn't paying enough attention to economic issues.

Approval of Bush's handling of foreign affairs has dropped to 53 percent in this poll, presumably reflecting his administration's darkly comical fumbling of the Korean situation. Consider that Bush's father's poll numbers at the outset of his third year in the Oval Office were around 83 percent in the wake of the Gulf War, and the claims that this president will be invulnerable in November 2004 sound like propaganda, not analysis.
[9:29 a.m. PST, Jan. 14, 2003]

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