Sunday, February 3, 2013

Political Correctness: The Lady Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks - Remembering Mayor Ed Koch

In this Aug. 30, 2004, file photo, Koch speaks at 
the Republican National Convention in New York.

Photo: Courtesy of  The Daily News 

Edward I. Koch will long be remembered as a great New York City mayor who rescued his city from financial ruin.  Unfortunately, New York state was deprived of a superior governor because the qualities that made him not only the greatest politician of my lifetime but, for my money the most effective leader in any field, kept him from reaching that office.  

Ed Koch meeting with Playboy advertising director Henry Marks
Photo: Courtesy of Business Insider
Poised to win the 1982 Democratic party (gubernatorial) nomination, during a Playboy Magazine interview Mayor Koch questioned why anyone would want to live in the suburbs, expressing particular disdain for upstate NY. As a result, Mario Cuomo defeated Koch in the state primary and won an easy victory to become NY's governor.

Frankly, I don't care whether Koch was telling a joke that backfired on him or was speaking his mind.  Throughout his life Ed Koch was a living embodiment of the city he called home and if there was ever someone who thrived on city living it was him.  He stated an obvious personal preference, honestly, and it cost him an election.  Undoubtedly, many of the people who voted against him in that primary +30 years ago are also fed-up with the current state of politics and have particular animus for political correctness.

Ed Koch became Mayor Koch during a time of unprecedented desperation and financial distress that makes even the worst of today's problems seem tame.  He focused on results, emphasized the whole of NY city over any significant sum even if it put him at odds with natural constituents, and with purposeful determination revitalized a city that had been written off for dead.  Asking "How am I doing?" to every commuter and person he met on the street suggests Mayor Koch wanted to be loved.  But his tough minded actions as mayor show he didn't care about being likedDeadly serious about results, Mayor Koch never took himself too seriously.

Though we tend to think of business executives as tough-talking straight-shooting results-driven professionals, the truth is most selectively choose their words, pander, and confine themselves to political correctness. There is a scarcity of meaningful business leadership because the vast majority of executives don't really lead they timidly "act" by playing it safe in a way Ed Koch could never relate to.  Polls might regularly show the public--ether as voters or employees--may hate political correctness, but actions suggest otherwise.  After all, if we really wanted no-holds-barred sincerity and achievement, today the nation would be mourning Governor Edward I. Koch (Vice President Koch? President Koch?) rather than NYC's great mayor.