Maybe David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani need to come out of political retirement and finally debate.
Last night's showdown between Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota was a wild-and-wooly affair filled with accusations of race cards being played, Mad Hatters being embraced – and the possibility offered that the candidates live on separate planets with different colored skies.
But behind all the weirdness was a debate over the city's future that was firmly rooted in the past. At times, it felt like a proxy fight between two former City Hall employees arguing about their bosses -- with De Blasio hammering away at Rudy Giuliani with Lhota taking on David Dinkins.
This argument has become so heated because unlike the current occupant of City Hall, the next one is going to have a political ideology. Lhota is a real Republican while de Blasio – as Tom Edsall points out in today's Times -- is a liberal Democrat whose platform is "a statement of left principles rarely heard of from a major politician in recent decades."
From charter schools to taxing the rich to NYPD policy, there are real differences between the candidates and the debate finally gave them some airtime. There was also time for entertaining sidebars – including Lhota hilariously explaining why he called Mayor Bloomberg "an idiot" last year.
De Blasio also seemed to catch the Al Gore bug from the 2000 presidential debates, with a smirk that was aptly described by New York magazine as the "I'm beating you by 44 points face."
But putting aside polls and horse races, the debate last night was spirited, entertaining, and interesting. It's what New Yorkers deserve and luckily we're getting another one next week.