Ed Koch on Resisting Sheldon Adelson’s Arguments in Favor of Backing Romney (EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW Part 4)
A political fixture in New York, former Mayor Ed Koch, now 87 years old, has remarkably created new relevance for himself in recent years through vocal activism on national and local issues, most notably centered around President Obama and his relationship with Israel, which is perceived by many to be hostile. Koch was among the President’s most outspoken critics in the early part of his presidency but has since come round to back the President. In an exclusive interview with The Algemeiner days before today’s presidential election, Mr. Koch addressed a number of pressing issues that are of enhanced interest and concern to Jewish voters.
The interview will be published in five separate parts, divided according to subject. The fourth installment below, focuses on political reform and attempts by Democrats and Republicans to recruit him for their campaign efforts. Part 1 of the interview can be read here, part 2 can be read here, and part 3 can be read here.
AJ: Despite the different things that you’re dealing with, you’ve remained quite significantly active, especially politically. Why do you still get involved? I mean, as opposed to – some people in your position might say, ‘Look, I’ve done this all my life. I just want to relax and take it easy.’ So what motivates you now?
EK: I don’t like to be bored. There is no profession that is as exciting as public events, being involved in the political affairs of the city, the state and the country. I enjoy it. If I enjoy it why should I stop, as long as I’m mentally and physically capable of making what I hope are considered to be major positive contributions?
AJ: So how do you pick issues to advocate for and to get involved in? When do you decide this is not for me? How do you make that decision?
EK: Well, I believe, I believe the most important thing for people to turn to after this election is a constitutional amendment limiting the amount of money you can give to a candidate and the amount of money that a candidate can spend. The Times reported this week that the two campaigns of Romney and Obama will be spending six billion dollars for this presidential campaign. That is an obscenity. And it can only be corrected as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision on campaign financing. It can only be corrected with a constitutional amendment. So I’d like to be involved in that.
AJ: What do you feel the damage of that is? Why is it a bad thing to spend so much?
EK: The damage is that people can buy elections.
AJ: But it works on both sides. Both sides can bring in as much as they want, so shouldn’t that even out?
EK: Oh, really? A, it’s criminal that so much money is spent in that way, and B, it isn’t always the case that both sides can bring in an equal or comparable amount of money. I just think that what we should do is emulate, if possible, the British system which has a five-week election – five weeks – and limits the amounts of money that can be spent, I mean, to an extent far more in limitation than the U.S. I am for a constitutional amendment to do that here.
AJ: There’s been a lot of talk about – with this major election coming up – the different sides trying to recruit you to campaign. I saw a piece in the New York Times about Sheldon Adelson approaching you.
EK: Yeah, he did. Correct.
AJ: What happened there and why did you decline?
EK: Sheldon Adelson, his office called up and asked if I would see him. He was in New York City. I said, ‘Of course.’ I never met him before, but I’ve read about him. He came up and was a very charming guy. He came up with his wife. Take this as a quote. He said, “I am told that you are the only person in America that can make it possible for Romney to win by winning in Florida.” And I said, “Don’t be ridiculous.” He said, “That’s what I’ve been told.” I said, “Firstly, I don’t want him to win in Florida. I want Obama to win.” And I listened to him, and I didn’t try to persuade him that he was wrong in his position on Obama, because he’s not persuadable. I’m not persuadable. My mind is made up. His mind is made up. So we just talked in general and, once again, I liked his direct manner; he’s a very direct guy.
AJ: I understand the Obama campaign also asked you to get involved, actually to stump for them. Is that right?
EK: And I did. I did. I did a commercial which they’re playing in Florida and other states. I looked at it this afternoon; they sent me a copy of it, because they did a wonderful job in putting in images of Obama as I’m talking – things that he said and did – that made the commercial extraordinary. I’m very proud of it.
AJ: Did Mr. Adelson attempt to convince you to vote for Mitt Romney?
EK: Yes, but I said it’s ridiculous. I said, ‘I believe you’re wrong with respect to Obama’s positions, because you think he’s hostile to Israel; he’s not in my judgment,’ and I gave him the reasons why. His speech at the U.N. was the most supportive speech by an American president of Israel in the history of the U.N.