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Ed Koch Was Candid, Funny, Studious; Conversations With Bella Abzug Legendary

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By Robert Weiner
Feb. 1, 2013

   It is with the utmost sadness that I comment on the passing of Ed Koch, and I wish "All the best"--Ed's noted phrase--to his family, devoted staff, and friends. The only answer now to his legendary "How'm I doing?" question he asked almost everyone on the street he met him is, "Ed, you did great."


   Ed was candid, funny, studious, and mission driven. His conversations with Bella Abzug were legendary. You could hear Bella's screech over the phone in the next room, where we the staff were, while Ed would calmly ask her, before Ed himself ran for Mayor, "Bella, how is it sexist for me to support another woman, Bess Myerson, for Mayor?" (Bella was also running). It was a case of two liberals locking horns.   Ed considered himself a practical liberal; Bella would take positions regardless of the likelihood of success.


   I was Ed's Washington Legislative Assistant when he was a Member of Congress. We worked together on his successful legislation to expand home health alternatives to nursing homes, expand low-income housing opportunities, stop dangerously oversized trucks from interstate highway travel, better audit contractors doing federal business, and provide incentives to the Soviet Union to allow more religious freedom, among many other issues as well as daily House floor votes. We also had dinner regularly.   In Congress, Ed did not hesitate to take on difficult issues--he beat the big truck lobby 252-159 when his amendment passed stopping oversized trucks from Interstate Highway travel.


   Ed had enormous impact on President Obama's Israel policy after the President said in May, 2011 that Israel should return to the 1967 borders. Raising that statement as the reason why, Ed supported a Republican candidate for Congress, Bob Turner, in a special election when Anthony Weiner resigned -- Turner won the seat that had been Democratic for years.   Ed made his views known to the White House, and shortly thereafter, the President made a strong pro-Israel speech at the United Nations defending Israel's right to do what it needs to defend itself. After that, Ed then endorsed the President's reelection and campaigned for him, including visits and speeches in Florida


   Ed was amazingly effective and studious, and he got his dream job as Mayor after missing the first time.


   We stayed friends.   After he left Congress and while I then worked in other Hill positions and the White House, I visited him in City Hall when he became Mayor, we spoke and emailed regularly and co-authored three opeds together in the last few years.   My wife and I had dinner with him at Sardi's in New York under his caricature a couple years ago -- we have a picture of that on my wall.

   To the end, he loved doing movie reviews and political issue commentaries and sending those to his thousands of friends.   He still did TV and radio interviews which remained in his candid, earthy, substantive style.   I will miss him, as will all his friends.   


Weiner is former Legislative Assistant to Ed Koch when Koch served in Congress before he was Mayor; Weiner later was a congressional committee chief of staff and a White House spokesman.

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Robert Weiner, NATIONAL PUBLIC AFFAIRS AND ISSUES STRATEGIST Bob Weiner, a national issues and public affairs strategist, has been spokesman for and directed the public affairs offices of White House Drug Czar and Four Star General Barry (more...)

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