Postcard from New York: Time to go home

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Indy Lifestyle Online
In the last days of September, an anomalous, unprecedented situation occurred. The President of the United States appeared in public, in the company of singers, writers, artists, music directors and other creative types, in some town other than New York. Standing, however briefly, in his own yard at the White House, he distributed arts and humanities medals among assorted cultural high-flyers, including jazz singer Betty Carter, whose song "Baby, It's Cold Outside", he singled out for special praise, vowing that it made him want to "curl up in front of the fire, even in the summertime". New Yorkers could have wished the President had paid more attention to another blues classic: "Baby, Won't You Please Go Home" (well, "Come Home", actually) and spend more time back where he belongs, in Washington DC, giving New York a much-needed rest from Presidential attentions.

As far as this President is concerned, Washington is all very well, but New York is the cat's pyjamas. At first, New Yorkers were impressed by this evidence of Clinton's continuing powers of judgment. Between Arkansas and the eastern power corridor, he chose the eastern power corridor; between Vietnam and Oxford, he chose Oxford; between Camp David and Martha's Vineyard, he chose the Vineyard. So, choosing New York - the triumph on the Hudson - over Washington - a patch of swampland that Virginia and Maryland threw out centuries ago - seemed final proof of skilled executive decision making. Some New Yorkers were even flattered to have won the Presidential seal of approval. For too long, many felt, America's presidents had evinced a kind of distrust, not to say horror, of the luscious, wormy Big Apple.

Whereas other cities were lauded for their possession of various ingredients of the American dream - forthright, fertile populace, uncomplaining workforce, tidy schools, technologically advanced supermarkets - New York was jeered, feared and reviled. But since Clinton's election, the presidential cold shoulder has been discontinued in favour of a bear-hug of exuberant approval, which began during Clinton's first election-night celebrations in Madison Square Garden five years ago. It has since tightened to the point that, in the past two years, whenever more than two are gathered at the United Nations, the President and his entourage fly in to address them, and when a bigwig Democrat holds a fundraising dinner, the question of whether "Hail to the Chief" need be played is a no-brainer. New York finds itself a habitual victim of limo invasions, known as "Total Presidential Gridlock". With all this attention, New Yorkers miss neglect.

One unexpected result of the ever-more-frequent visitations of the presidential motorcade is that a number of confused New Yorkers have mistakenly assumed that Clinton is New York's Democratic candidate for mayor - an assumption that has played havoc with the chances of the real candidate, Ruth Messenger. With only a month to the elections, the President has shored up this impression by failing to endorse any Democrat contenders, while appearing in public arenas, such as a deluxe box at a Shea Stadium baseball game, with the incumbent Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani - indeed, some Democrats say that if the President is not contemplating a mayoral bid in Manhattan, he ought to be; for one thing, his name-recognition is relatively high, which would save millions in fundraising dollars. And for another, mayor of New York is the only job in the country with more clout than the presidency, and it comes with a mansion, too.

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