This month we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the day when fighting against Nazi Germany ended in Europe. VE Day – Victory in Europe – marked the conclusion of a noble fight against an enemy that, when hostilities started, seemed unbeatable.
Memories and history have a way of brightening up the past, but we should never forget that there was a time, early during the war in Europe, when the future looked bleak. Italy was on the offensive in nearby Northern Africa, fascists had won in Spain, Germany invaded Poland after that, France surrendered in 1940, and Soviet Russia wasn’t drawn into the war until June 1941.
For a critical period, only Britain stood against fascist dominance over the whole of Europe. An island nation unsure and unsteady in its domestic politics, its government was torn by whether to enter negotiations with Hitler or fight against seemingly overwhelming odds.
Winston Churchill, who had been in and out of government for years, returned to prominence and leadership to lead Great Britain in defense – and then offense – against tyranny. Crisis brought out the best of that notoriously cantankerous and difficult man. Churchill harnessed the power of language to inspire.
The same cannot be said of Mayor de Blasio, who has never met a crisis that isn’t someone else’s fault. In the midst of an ongoing public health crisis ravaging our economy, de Blasio is attempting to leverage the reckless threat of furloughing or firing city workers in order to secure more help from Washington and Albany. When his Health Commissioner insulted police, putting their lives at risk, he instead focused on my angry response. Rather than embrace difficulty and ask what can be done, he is turning away from responsibility to insist that he isn’t in charge. Rather than treat hard-working frontline government employees fairly – many of whom are working without a contract – de Blasio continues to lavishly fund his pet projects and order up special studies. He’s not working with the police, he is working against them. He’s not working with the state, he’s competing with the Governor for press attention. He’s not coordinating an approach to DC, he’s complaining.
Churchill said “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Which does Mayor de Blasio sound like?
Sir Winston also said “One ought never to turn one’s back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half. Never run away from anything. Never!” Which course of action has Mayor de Blasio chosen?
New York City is a vibrant, dynamic center of all that’s great about America. Everything here is concentrated and over-the-top. We don’t do things halfway. We are still great, not despite difficulties but because we will overcome difficulties. Our mayor should be our loudest cheerleader, not a morose predictor of doom and gloom.
Here’s my prediction: de Blasio is complaining in order to create a situation in which he says he’ll raise property taxes, and then ask Albany for permission to raise income taxes. He’ll make it someone else’s hard work. He’ll continue to turn his back on police and other first responders. He’ll insist things will need to be done, and then make it about advancing his ideological agenda.
Ultimately, when the buck cannot be passed to anyone else, when the City Council and the mayor cannot balance the budget, the Financial Control Board established during the 1970s fiscal crisis would trigger a “control period,” during which time that board has final say over city spending. de Blasio will then have shirked all responsibility.
Which brings to mind another Churchill quote: “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”
Ed Mullins is president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association of the NYPD.