Has widely respected former police commissioner Ray Kelly, who struck up an out-of-the-blue feud with the NYPD last week over the nuances of compiling crime statistics, hobbled his mayoral candidacy at the get-go? Some of his ardent admirers are concerned he may have.
In recent weeks, the smart money became convinced Kelly is planning to run next year and will be a formidable candidate. Polls show that dissatisfaction with Bill de Blasio is broad and deep, among all constituencies. There is a growing consensus that while the incumbent is probably unbeatable in the Democratic primary, a law-and-order candidate with Kelly’s appeal could sweep to victory in the general election on a Republican-fusion ticket. (He is unaffiliated with any party, but would easily obtain the Republican nomination.)
But the picture has changed. In a radio interview, the longtime top cop launched an unprovoked salvo, saying the Department has been fudging the numbers by not counting a bullet graze that doesn’t penetrate the flesh as a “shooting”.
Kelly said his allegations are based on information from someone inside the NYPD, but no major figure or media outlet has stepped forward to back up the veracity of his claims. When the dust settled, his attack was seen as a gaffe, a faux pas, a blunder. As they say in sports, an unforced error.
After his criticism failed to gain traction or validation, his supporters are wondering whether the 74-year-old law enforcement giant who has never sought public office has the political skills for a hard-knuckle always-in-the-spotlight campaign. By “political skills”, we mean the skills of prevarication and obfuscation.
Even the NY Post—nobody despises Mayor de Blasio more then they do—sided editorially with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton‘s response that there have been no changes in how statistics are gathered since Ray Kelly left Police Plaza two years ago. Bratton seized the high ground by challenging his predecessor to “man up” and name his sources for these provocative allegations. Of course, Kelly can’t do that, and he won’t, for reasons of confidentiality, which leaves him twisting in the wind.
“Ray has made a mistake here, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time for him,” said a New York businessman who says he will support him if he runs. “His charges, even if true, are inconsequential, a matter of one or two percent, and it sets him up as an adversary of the men and women now working in the Department. His appeal as a potential mayor is as a unifier of the city, not a divider.”
ORB says: Kelly’s maladroit expostulation might be harmful, but is not fatal, to a run for mayor. The feeling among the cognoscenti is he will go ahead and might well be elected. NY Post columnist Richard Johnson wrote last month that Kelly has quietly sent a signal to his supporters to begin assembling a financial framework for such a campaign, and Kelly has not denied the story.
This writer recalls a private conversation with the immensely likeable Mr. Kelly in 2007 at the Fifth Avenue apartment of flame-haired Republican fundraiser Georgette Mosbacher. It was a time when it looked like Michael Bloomberg was barred from seeking a third term (he later changed the law). I mentioned the widespread suggestion that the longest-serving police commissioner in NYC history should succeed his boss. Kelly told me, more or less, that while he had always been committed to public service, he felt it is not in his DNA to become a glad-handing, baby-kissing politician. “It’s just not me,” said the ex-Marine, a veteran of combat in Vietnam.
Still, there are many who feel New York City is headed in the wrong direction and would like to see Ray Kelly take command at City Hall twenty-four months from now. They are hoping his misstep was just a glitch, and he will find the impetus, with the ballast of his well-liked wife Veronica, to go out and kiss those babies.
In the meantime, Kelly might consider bringing on board a guru as astute and Machiavellian as David Garth was for Ed Koch. As well as censoring his thoughts when giving interviews on the radio.
There’s a reason why talking bullshit and saying only things that will advance one’s career is called “being politically correct”. As you know, politicians rarely articulate what they are really thinking. Ray Kelly might be a candidate who could break that mold.