Just in case New Yorkers have never noticed that they’re “strong,” “resilient,” and “undeterred” in the face of terrorism, a swarm of elected leaders reminded them after Tuesday’s attack in Lower Manhattan. But those officials never talked about the terrorist himself, Sayfullo Saipov, his cause, or the specific nature of the threat posed by his co-religionists worldwide. Nor did they seem much interested in the hard work of protecting the city.
“Terror won’t beat New York because we get back up stronger every time,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo. “New Yorkers are smarter and stronger and better than those who seek to harm us.”
“An act of terror was intended to break our spirit,” chirped Mayor Bill de Blasio, “but we know New Yorkers are strong and resilient.”
“We will not be intimidated. We will not be deterred,” insisted Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
“I am appalled and horrified at this deliberate act of terrorism,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “We are a resilient city and we will not be deterred by these cowardly acts.”
Mark-Viverito herself certainly wasn’t deterred by the cowardly acts of convicted terrorist Oscar Lopez-Rivera, when she arranged—with the assistance of Schneiderman and the acquiescence of Cuomo and de Blasio—to honor him at last spring’s annual Puerto Rican Day parade. Lopez-Rivera and his confederates maimed and murdered New Yorkers in Lower Manhattan 40-some years ago, crimes that fundamentally differed from Tuesday’s attack only in objective: back then, it was Marxism. Today, it’s Islamism. But you would scarcely know what motivated Tuesday’s attacker from listening to Gotham’s elected class mouth their platitudes.
Tuesday’s pickup-truck slaughter was the third fatal terrorist attack in New York City’s 1st police precinct since 1993, preceded by the first World Trade Center bombing and 9/11—each one carried out on behalf of radical Islam. The elected officials made no mention of this because candor would conflict with their political goals, undermining arguments supporting minimal national border security and “sanctuary cities.” Hard-core New York progressives like de Blasio, Schneiderman, Mark-Viverito, and, increasingly, Cuomo himself, won’t let that happen. De Blasio, in particular, disdains aggressive counterterrorism efforts—he began dismantling a hugely successful NYPD anti-terror unit soon after taking office. So, empty rhetoric rules.
In practical terms, of course, there’s only so much that any city can do to protect itself from the kind of threat New York weathered Tuesday. But Cuomo’s insistence that the terrorist was a “lone wolf” is sheer excuse-mongering, suggesting helplessness while ignoring reality: the Islamist threat is an intricate, Internet-centric, near-transcendental presence that bloody-minded individuals—acting alone, but hardly lone wolves—can step into or slip out of at will.
What local elected officials must do is face up to the hazard directly, avoid euphemism and evasion, and pledge unqualified support for responsible national efforts to combat an unconventional, lethal enemy. This means turning away from the sanctuary-city sensibility—and certainly shunning ceremonial celebrations of terrorists from days gone by.
Mark-Viverito instigated the Oscar Lopez-Rivera charade, but Schneiderman helped make it possible, while de Blasio marched in the parade and Cuomo barely mustered disapproval. But now they want their constituents to believe that they’re anti-terror to the core. It doesn’t work that way: New Yorkers are not only “strong” and “resilient” and “undeterred”—they’re also cynical as hell. And who can blame them?
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images