Politics Essay - Critical Essays

Edward I. Koch


Ed Koch is one politician whom it is impossible to ignore. His most endearing and aggravating trait is a bright, brash chutzpah that gives him license to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants, about whomever he wants. And he certainly does so. He is not embarrassed to say in public what he thinks in private, and the result is a book that is refreshing, gossipy, and fun.

Still, readers of Koch’s best-seller, MAYOR, will find POLITICS something of a letdown. Perhaps the novelty has worn off--Koch has a shtick that is charming, but unless it is appropriate to the subject it can wear thin. Serious readers will have a lot of questions about the transformation of Ed Koch the liberal, anti-war reformer in the context of the bitter racial politics that now swirl in the city, or about the role of big-time real estate. The great fun that one has with the inside story will be diminished by one’s awareness of the corruption. Why does Koch seem to gloss over so many of the important issues? Is he as naive as he seems, or does he occupy another political world?

At one point, he writes: “If I’m going to say something it’s going to be substantive and at the least provocative. Hopefully it will also have some humor.” There is no question that the book is provocative and has much humor. As for substance, well, it seems to avoid more questions that it answers.