Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. Credit: Barry Sloan

Daily Point

Pompeo as the ‘Sleeper’ candidate

In what might have been the most hyperbolic statement to make national news in recent days, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, eying a bid for the White House, singled out Randi Weingarten, the New York-based teachers’ union leader, as “the most dangerous person in the world.”

“If you ask, ‘Who’s the most likely to take this republic down,’” Pompeo told the new website Semafor, “it would be the teachers’ unions, and the filth that they’re teaching our kids, and the fact that they don’t know math and reading or writing.”

That makes Weingarten a bigger threat than nuke-waving North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, or autocratic China President Xi Jinping, Pompeo claimed — perhaps channeling an old Woody Allen line about the militancy of a past NYC teachers’ union president.

Pompeo’s riff seems to blend with strident Republican Party cultural cant around the nation. But Pompeo’s peculiar statement has a local and partisan angle. Weingarten, who’s currently president of the American Federation of Teachers, headed New York City’s United Federation of Teachers between 1998 and 2009, negotiating contracts and administrative regulations with the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations.

UFT and AFT leaders have long been big Democratic Party players, as displayed Nov. 7 when Weingarten helped lead an election rally in Bay Terrace, Queens, alongside Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who’s due to become the next House minority leader; her fellow Democratic National Committee member Robert Zimmerman, who ran in CD3 and lost; and Rep. Grace Meng of Queens, who won reelection.

Weingarten promptly replied to Pompeo on Wednesday: “This is initially directed to the Republican donor class so he can tap into the boatloads of money that billionaires have given to wage this culture war.” She told the Guardian website that Pompeo is “trying to garner money from that donor base that gave $50 million for anti-trans ads, during the recent election.”

That, and the fact that she’s “Jewish, gay, teacher and union,” is intended to help Pompeo pry MAGA support away from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Weingarten charged.

Whether the clash boosts either 2024 Republican White House aspirant with the GOP base is unclear. 

But there’s a vivid hint here of politics imitating satire. In the 1973 Allen film “Sleeper,” a dystopia set hundreds of years in the future, one character explains that a massive world war began when “a man named Albert Shanker got hold of a nuclear warhead.”

It became a famous New York political joke. Shanker was the sour-visaged, bespectacled UFT president who led the divisive 1969 teachers’ strike.

Presumably Pompeo, a Harvard Law graduate, is sufficiently educated to know the film wasn’t a documentary.

— Dan Janison @Danjanison

Talking Point

Tis the season

Holiday shopping for your politically obsessed loved ones just got a little easier. New York City is auctioning off dozens of items that were gifted to Mayors Ed Koch, David Dinkins, Rudy Giuliani, and Michael Bloomberg. 

That includes a Yankees wall clock given to Giuliani, Bloomberg’s Resistol cowboy hat meant to commemorate the Country Music Awards being in the Big Apple, and a glass apple paperweight that singer Diana Ross once presented to Dinkins at a Friars Club party. 

As for the president of the United States, there also are rules about gift keeping in the city. NYC mayors don’t actually retain ownership over all the many tchotchkes they receive while in office. Ethics rules dictate such items “remain the property of the City of New York” and are managed by the city’s Department of Records and Information Services, according to a news release about the auction. 

Do you have a family member closely watching the stunning ups and downs of the World Cup in Qatar? Why not scoop up a Louis Vuitton soccer ball given to Giuliani to commemorate the 1998 games? 

Representatives for the Nassau and Suffolk county executives were not aware of similar auctioning programs on Long Island. But a Steve Bellone spokeswoman pointed out that great Suffolk gifts might be found at the famed St. James General Store, or the gift shop for the Big Duck in Flanders. Both are affiliated with Suffolk County Parks, which will also be doing the traditional holiday lighting of the duck on Wednesday. 

There are politically telling connections behind some of the mayoral gifts. The current list of items given to Koch, a politician who famously crafted his image and put himself in the face of voters, includes a bunch of pictures of Koch himself. And multiple of the items given to Giuliani are sports-themed in some way, fitting given his son Andrew’s eventual stint as a Trump White House sports liaison.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Leftovers

Credit: CAGLECARTOONS.COM/Rick McKee

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Final Point

Illusions of progress

  • Merriam-Webster has named “gaslighting” as the 2022 word of the year. Which seems more than a little overdue.
  • Suffolk day care providers short on payments because of the ransomware attack on the county are worried their information may have been compromised, to which a county spokeswoman said that “there is no indication that this data has been impacted.” It’s not clear how reassuring those words are, given how long it took the county to uncover the hack in the first place.
  • Russia has been losing ground in Ukraine for three months now. It’s a metaphor for the country in general, with a much longer time frame.
  • White House coronavirus response coordinator Ashish Jha says China’s “zero COVID” strategy is not realistic. Given thousands of protesters in China’s streets, it seems many Chinese citizens agree. Given that authorities haven’t cracked down on the protests, it seems they might agree the protesters have a point.
  • Criticizing former President Donald Trump’s controversial endorsements for GOP underperformance in the midterms, Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said, “You can’t have a candidate that can’t attract suburban voters and independents and so everyone has recognized that.” Well, not everyone.
  • Kentucky Republican Rep. James Comer says the House Oversight Committee will investigate “40 or 50 different things” when the GOP takes control of the chamber come January. He seems to have forgotten that a circus only has three rings.
  • She won a Grammy and an Oscar, sang “What a Feeling” from “Flashdance,” and was one of the singing and dancing students who asked people to “Remember my name, I’m gonna live forever.” RIP, Irene Cara.

— Michael Dobie @mwdobie