I’m old enough to remember when Ed Koch was a liberal. (Yes, we’re talking seriously old.) Since his conversion to a somewhat cranky neo-conservatism, I haven’t had much to say about him that was laudatory, or even printable.
But on a couple of occasions he’s surprised me by doing the right thing, providing the sort of joy described by Confucius in Book I of the Analects: “How pleasant it is when friends come from afar!”
In 2008 Sarah Palin’s flirtation with book-banning led Koch to endorse Obama. And now, as the prospective recipient of an honorary degree from the City University of New York, the ferociously pro-Israel Koch is denouncing the CUNY Trustees for denying a degree to Tony Kushner because of Kushner’s critical stance toward some Israeli policies.
An apology should come from the Board of Trustees for not following the dictates of simple fairness and decency when this happened, and allowing someone who deserved better treatment to be treated shabbily.
The common element in the two cases is Koch’s respect for Enlightenment values, in particular with respect to the ethics of inquiry and discourse. I try to keep my ethnic chauvinism down to a dull roar, but it’s hard to avoid seeing that as a reflection of Koch’s Jewish roots.