It looks like Joe Lhota ate his Wheaties mixed with some of Popeye's spinach and a dash of red hot chili peppers.
A day after sort of saying in their debate that the city could be more dangerous under a Mayor Bill de Blasio (“It might be less safe with him because he’s untested"), Lhota went nuclear with a new ad filled with violent imagery that begs voters: "Don't Let Bill de Blasio Take New York Backwards."
Ironically, the video that's front and center in the ad (titled "Can't Go Back") is of the motorcycle gang that wreaked havoc last month with a motorist on Manhattan's West Side. Despite the scary biker beatdown, crime is at an all-time low this year under the Bloomberg administration – which reminded us that just last week not a single murder was committed in the city.
Along with ominous narration, the ad is also filled with stock photos* from the city's not-so-fun Travis Bickle "Taxi Driver" era of the 1970s and 1980s, including a shot of a freaked-out woman standing in the middle of a graffiti-covered subway car.
De Blasio was quick to compare this attack to the pro-George Bush Willie Horton ad from 1988 while one of his running mates, Public Advocate candidate Leticia James, called it "race baiting."
Lhota fired back, saying that "none of those photographs include anyone of color in the pictures" (which isn't entirely true) and also attacked de Blasio's old boss in City Hall: "Let's remember back, hearken back to when David Dinkins was the mayor. That was the last time we had a riot in the city of New York."
This is an argument that would have been better held in the actual debate on Tuesday night – rather than in ads and volleyed soundbites. The city certainly was at its most dangerous in Dinkins' first year in office but crime also did decrease in the next three years of his administration – which also oversaw a record number of police hires before he left City Hall.
There's also no argument that crime didn't just dip under Dinkins' successor and Lhota's City Hall boss -- Rudy Giuliani -- it plunged. But just exactly what Lhota had to do with fighting crime is a fair question. "I grant you, it was a minor role," Lhota tells The Times' David Halbfinger when asked about his connection with the NYPD's famed CompStat program.
Giuliani understood that if the city isn't safe, all else fails. This is a conversation worth continuing in next Tuesday's debate – without talk of Willie Horton or Travis Bickle.
*Matthew Chayes does a great job breaking down the origin of all of those scary photos in Lhota’s ad. While eight of them are from the ‘70s, ‘80’s and ‘90s, one is from 2012.