Mayor Ed Koch passes away at 88

posted at 9:06 am on February 1, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

A rare modern politician whose legendary status didn’t just exist between his own ears, New York City Mayor Ed Koch has passed away from congestive heart failure early this morning.  Koch was 88 years old, and a ubiquitous figure on the national stage for decades:

Former Mayor Ed Koch, the combative, acid-tongued politician who rescued the city from near-financial ruin during a three-term City Hall run in which he embodied New York chutzpah for the rest of the world, died Friday. He was 88.

Koch died at 2 a.m., spokesman George Arzt said. The funeral will be Monday at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan. …

The larger-than-life Koch, who breezed through the streets of New York flashing his signature thumbs-up sign, won a national reputation with his feisty style. “How’m I doing?” was his trademark question to constituents, although the answer mattered little to Koch. The mayor always thought he was doing wonderfully.

Bald and bombastic, paunchy and pretentious, the city’s 105th mayor was quick with a friendly quip and equally fast with a cutting remark for his political enemies.

Koch made headlines when he crossed party lines to support George W. Bush at the 2004 Republican convention.  That was the first national convention I attended, and I participated in a group interview of Koch on the folding-table Blogger Row.  This portion of the transcript will give readers a pretty good idea of what that experience was like:

Q: Do you think there’s a need to form a third party today?

A: I’m a Democrat. I was born a Democrat, and I’m going to die a Democrat. I’ve voted overwhelmingly for Democrats. I’ve crossed party lines before. Never for a Republican president. I did for mayor — I voted for Lindsay, I voted for Giuliani … You know, I’m 80 years old. I don’t want anything from anybody. I’m never running for anything again. I dont want to be mayor again. I love being a partner in my law firm. … I want to do what’s right for the people of the United States.

Q: All the Democrats say –

A: Who cares?

Q: You don’t care?

A: I will tell you this … I got four letters. That’s all. I got four letters [protesting his endorsement of Bush] and when I answered them, I said I served in public life for 23 years. Councilman, Congressman, and Mayor. I think I know a lot about public affairs. I spent my life doing it. Don’t I have the same right as you have to make a decision as to whom I will support? Now we don’t agree. I doubt that I will be able to convince you, I know you won’t agree with me, but can’t you respect my decision? And I got a letter back saying, “Yes.” This was from someone who had written me a miserable, rotten letter. … [Laughter] I’ve got nothing to lose.

Part of Koch’s charm was in how direct and blunt he could be.  He seemed to relish speaking his mind while more cautious politicians tried to find ways to say two diametrically opposed arguments at the same time, or nothing at all.  Even when I disagreed with Koch — which was often — it was impossible not to respect him, and impossible to miss the unmistakable joy he felt at being who he was.

RIP, Mayor Koch.  Our prayers are with you, your family, friends, and admirers.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

One of the few Democrats that I really liked…RIP…

PatriotRider on February 1, 2013 at 9:09 AM

He was a great American that at least put politics aside after we were attacked. I didn’t agree with a lot of his politics but I respected that he believed in America.

Rest in Peace Mr. Koch.

hawkdriver on February 1, 2013 at 9:11 AM

Koch to Bloomberg, what a decline…

hillsoftx on February 1, 2013 at 9:11 AM

He endorsed Obama even though he knew Obama was a Jew Hater who wanted to destroy Israel.

I guess the Hagel testimony was too much for him.

sentinelrules on February 1, 2013 at 9:13 AM

I liked his chutzpah, and until Guliani became Mayor, he was about as conservative a mayor as you were going to get in NYC.

As I lived in the New York area during his tenure as Mayor, Koch did a good job, by essentially stopping the bleeding going on in that city from Lindsay and Abe Beame. He also truly was a morale booster for the city. However, let’s not put him in the Guliani class, who cut crime so significantly that he will go down as one of the greatest NYC mayors ever.

asc85 on February 1, 2013 at 9:14 AM

RIP “How am I doin’ ? ” Mr Mayor .

Lucano on February 1, 2013 at 9:15 AM

A good man. RIP

thebrokenrattle on February 1, 2013 at 9:16 AM

Part of Koch’s charm was in how direct and blunt he could be. He seemed to relish speaking his mind while more cautious politicians tried to find ways to say two diametrically opposed arguments at the same time, or nothing at all. Even when I disagreed with Koch — which was often — it was impossible not to respect him, and impossible to miss the unmistakable joy he felt at being who he was.

Like him or hate him, you always had the sense that Koch was standing on his principles. Unlike faux politicians like Chris Christie or Marco Rubio who claim to be one thing and then slobber at the mouth the minute the national spotlight shines their way.

Happy Nomad on February 1, 2013 at 9:16 AM

Having lived in NJ while Koch was mayor, I can say that this was a politician that you could have an honest debate with and walk away with respect for the man…

PatriotRider on February 1, 2013 at 9:17 AM

I am so sorry, I really liked Mayor Koch. He was always honest and cheerful, something we need a lot more of today.

Cindy Munford on February 1, 2013 at 9:17 AM

Z”L (RIP) Mr. Koch

Ed,

You forgot another tagline for Mayor Koch: He was ‘the quintessential New Yorker.’

Lance Murdock on February 1, 2013 at 9:18 AM

He endorsed Obama even though he knew Obama was a Jew Hater who wanted to destroy Israel.

sentinelrules on February 1, 2013 at 9:13 AM

He stopped being anything but a public nuisance and a vaudeville act years ago.

RasThavas on February 1, 2013 at 9:19 AM

One of the few Democrats that I really liked…RIP…

PatriotRider on February 1, 2013 at 9:09 AM

Yup. The thing is, he was a Democrat. That party has now been taken over by marxists.

rbj on February 1, 2013 at 9:22 AM

RIP, Mayor Koch.

tommy71 on February 1, 2013 at 9:23 AM

On the same day a documentary was released on his life.

How symbolic is that????

Also I always respected him for appearing on Farenhype 9/11 with Dick Morris and Ann Coulter.

blatantblue on February 1, 2013 at 9:24 AM

As noted by others…Mayor Koch was one of the few democrats (he earned the correct spelling) with principals, honor and integrity. He did what was best for his constituency and didn’t care if it gave other democraps heartburn. My highest praise…he was an honorable man.

Rest easy Mr. Mayor…you’ve done a helluva job.
I’ve said Kaddish and El male rachamim for him.

TexasEngineer on February 1, 2013 at 9:26 AM

I liked him, too. Besides chutzpah, he had a certain joie de vivre that is rare amongst politicians. Condolences to his friends and family.

Fallon on February 1, 2013 at 9:26 AM

I can’t ever say that looking a gravestone of would bring a small smile to my face, but Ed has done it.

Ed Koch: A proud New Yorker; a proud American; a proud Jew.

Lance Murdock on February 1, 2013 at 9:27 AM

I too lived in NYC during Ed Koch. He was always making me roll my eyes but as was said above much more conservative the Beame and Lindsey. For NYC that was amazing.

“Liberal with Sanity”

RIP Ed.

CoffeeLover on February 1, 2013 at 9:27 AM

He was a straight-shooter and a good man. Rest in peace, Mr. Mayor.

Naturally Curly on February 1, 2013 at 9:28 AM

Koch knew how anti-Israel and how anti-Semitic Obama was but he voted for him anyway even in 2012.

VorDaj on February 1, 2013 at 9:30 AM

RIP, Sir.

Bitter Clinger on February 1, 2013 at 9:31 AM

I’m now on board the Obama Reelection Express. – Sep 27, 2011

VorDaj on February 1, 2013 at 9:33 AM

Koch had a very good first 5-6 years as NYC mayor, but lost a little focus after losing the 1982 Dem primary for governor to Cuomo senior. Coming off the city’s near bankruptcy in 1976, he ran in ’77 as the sane Democrat — liberals like Bella Abzug howled over Koch’s support for the death penalty for cop killers — and when elected he was willing to stand up to the special interest groups and public sector unions that created the city’s financial disaster under John Lindsay and Abe Beame.

After his going-through-the-motions third term at City Hall, which was marred by the Donald Maines (Queens borough president) parking scandal and suicide, the liberals finally tossed Koch out in the ’89 mayoral primary in favor of David Dinkins, which ironically sealed his reputation under a “You don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone” scenario. It set the stage for Giuliani’s 1993 mayoral win and the city’s revival (though Ed and Rudy kind of hated each other, in large part because Koch was a bit jealous of having the moniker of “New York’s best mayor” taken away from him. Overall Ed was still way better than the current occupant of City Hall, who’s still miles ahead of the guy who defeated Koch in ’89).

jon1979 on February 1, 2013 at 9:34 AM

Mayor Koch was an old school Democrat, not like ones we see today. I didn’t always agree with him, but at least I listened to him.

Rest in peace, Mr. Koch.

madmonkphotog on February 1, 2013 at 9:35 AM

On January 15, 2013, Koch said in an interview that he supports banning all guns

sentinelrules on February 1, 2013 at 9:37 AM

My mother lived in the same rather exclusive Greenwich Village building as Hizzoner. During one of the big blackouts of NYC, many of the older residents (including Koch) had to spend a few nights in the spacious lobby because power to the elevators had been lost.

This meant that they had to share the use of the employee bathrooms in the basement. She said that Hizzoner made a total d!ck of himself about having one bathroom set aside for his sole personal use.

My mother was a lifelong democrat, but never quite forgave him for that episode. So, apparently there ARE lines that you can’t cross, even as a democrat pol in NYC. Who knew?

Well, RIP anyway, yer honor. Maybe they have private bathrooms in heaven.

bofh on February 1, 2013 at 9:39 AM

I really liked Ed Koch, one of a dying breed of decent Dems. RIP

petefrt on February 1, 2013 at 9:42 AM

An honest Democrat. R.I.P., Mister Mayor.

Del Dolemonte on February 1, 2013 at 9:43 AM

RIP, Mr. Mayor.

“Just a country boy at heart.”

kingsjester on February 1, 2013 at 9:43 AM

He was old school..

RIP Mayor Koch

workingclass artist on February 1, 2013 at 9:47 AM

He will forever have my respect and admiration.

After the Tucson shooting former New York Mayor Ed Koch tweeted:

@SaraPalinUSA is smarter than critics who denounce her for defending herself from false charges that she contributed to forces causing…

…the terrible shooting in AZ. Today most ppl incl the president publicly acknowledge no connection. She has a right to defend herself.

Denouncing the blood libel that her critics, primarily on the left, sought to pin her with is appropriate, & I’m Jewish & a liberal w/sanity.

Mayor Koch, thank you for exposing the eunuchs in the gopE!

I pray The Lord praised you for your honesty when He welcomed you home!

Jayrae on February 1, 2013 at 9:57 AM

One of the few Democrats I liked. I’m sorry to see him go. My condolences to his family.

trigon on February 1, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Ed Koch became Mayor of NYC when I was there. A descent fellow even though not from my side of the isle. Wish more democrats were like him. A little something from back then. A smear actually.

“Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo.”

Ed care to respond.

“F u c k off.”

RIP

P.S. Sorry about the extra spaces Ed, filters these days.

Bmore on February 1, 2013 at 10:03 AM

RIP, sir. Your description of yourself, “a Liberal with sanity” is exactly they way I saw you, too. You will be missed in the public arena.

BetseyRoss on February 1, 2013 at 10:03 AM

Mayor Kosh was one of the few who defended Sarah Palin regarding Tucson.

@mayoredkoch @SarahPalinUSA  is smarter than critics who denounce her for defending herself from false charges that she contributed to forces causing…

@mayoredkoch Denouncing the blood libel that her critics, primarily on the left, sought to pin her with is appropriate, & I’m Jewish & a liberal w/sanity

He put honesty and integrity above politics.

RIP Mayor Koch.

idesign on February 1, 2013 at 10:03 AM

You’re doin’ great, Mayor.

Mr. Grump on February 1, 2013 at 10:07 AM

Rest In Peace. Thank you for your service and integrity.

Sekhmet on February 1, 2013 at 10:15 AM

Abe Beame probably got a bum rap, but Koch was all right. I walked right past Beame in Manhattan once a few years after his mayoralty and scarcely recognized him, other than that he was a little old man, shabbily dressed by Midtown standards, who looked vaguely familiar and returned my slightly puzzled smile with a friendly one of his own. There would have been no mistaking Ed Koch.

Seth Halpern on February 1, 2013 at 10:21 AM

RIP “How am I doin’?”

Lucano on February 1, 2013 at 9:15 AM

I wonder how St. Peter will respond… probably with a smile.

Greg Toombs on February 1, 2013 at 10:29 AM

RIP, Mayor Koch. Our prayers are with you, your family, friends, and admirers.

..echo the sentiments. Please count me among the last two groups in that list.

Go easy, bro’!

The War Planner on February 1, 2013 at 10:33 AM

He was wrong about Obama, but Ed Koch was always a strong supporter of Israel. So I’ll forgive him that lapse.

I grew up in NJ. He was The Mayor. No other mayor in my lifetime came close.

Meryl Yourish on February 1, 2013 at 10:37 AM

Mayor Koch made me cry this morning with his death. He made me weep with his grave market inscription. Total mensch.

myrenovations on February 1, 2013 at 11:08 AM

Sorry to read this. He was a good Man.. RIP Mr. Mayor…

sandee on February 1, 2013 at 11:54 AM

He had Daniel Pearl’s last words inscribed on his tombstone.

Koch will be laid to rest at Trinity Church Cemetery, where a marker has stood since 2009. On it is the Star of David, a Hebrew prayer, and this inscription:

“My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I am Jewish.”

(Daniel Pearl, 2002, just before he was beheaded by a Muslim terrorist.)

Ed Koch served as an infantryman in World War II, where he earned two Battle Stars.

Rest in peace, Mr.Mayor.

(From Breitbart)

RIP, Mayor Koch

bluefox on February 1, 2013 at 11:57 AM

Loved that man!
PIP, Mayor Ed

katy the mean old lady on February 1, 2013 at 12:23 PM

From an era of leftists who honestly said what’s on their mind.

RIP

MNHawk on February 1, 2013 at 12:46 PM

PIP, Mayor Ed

katy the mean old lady on February 1, 2013 at 12:23 PM

?

Bmore on February 1, 2013 at 12:53 PM

Rest in peace, Hizzoner, and condolences to family and friends.

Christien on February 1, 2013 at 1:13 PM

RIP Mr. Mayor.

We loved you in New York City as our Mayor.

You were spot on when you stated you were a “A liberal with sanity.”

You supported our efforts after 9/11, you were the best friend to our ally Israel and you stood against those on your own side when they attacked you for being a man with principles in line with us conservatives.

God Bless You.

Opposite Day on February 1, 2013 at 1:15 PM

…as he aged…he got smarter!

KOOLAID2 on February 1, 2013 at 1:51 PM

I wonder how St. Peter will respond… probably with a smile.

Greg Toombs on February 1, 2013 at 10:29 AM

{{{Army cadence}}}

When he gets to Heaven …
Saint Peter’s gonna say …
How’d you earn your living?
How’d you earn you pay?

Ed’ll respond without hesitating …
Served my country as a soldier and statesman …
Then Saint Peter said with a big old grin …
You’re the only lib I’m letting in.

RIP Mayor Koch

smoothsailing on February 1, 2013 at 1:57 PM

My favorite Democrat of all-time, and one of the last ones anywhere worthy of any shred of respect.

Right Mover on February 1, 2013 at 4:27 PM

What is it with some people here repeating that Koch supported Obama (and Bush too, so?), or was for gun control? What’s it with this obsession that one cannot have respect for a man that, for all intents and purposes, had a different political view but was reasonable and and whom you could have an actual debate a conversation with? What is it with the obsession that unless one person is perfect in every which way he/she cannot be accepted, respected, or even mourned? That stance is no different than progressive utopian stances just focused on single individuals.

Seriously folks, we cannot be so intolerant that we cannot have respect or convey condolences for a man that seems did some good for NY and was a good man by all accounts. It is enough that it is impossible to find one of those politicians nowadays.

The left is intolerant in every which way. Let’s not become them simply because someone has/had a “D” in front of their political affiliation. You start losing yourself into political ideology rather than principle and then can’t debate a thing.

ptcamn on February 1, 2013 at 4:49 PM

Seriously folks, we cannot be so intolerant that we cannot have respect or convey condolences for a man that seems did some good for NY and was a good man by all accounts. It is enough that it is impossible to find one of those politicians nowadays.

The left is intolerant in every which way. Let’s not become them simply because someone has/had a “D” in front of their political affiliation. You start losing yourself into political ideology rather than principle and then can’t debate a thing.

ptcamn on February 1, 2013 at 4:49 PM

One of the reasons that so many on the right give Koch his due as a good man whom they respected is precisely because he wasn’t such an ideologue as to always be party-first. I think the fact that Koch is eliciting such praise shows that we ARE tolerant of politicians on the other side if they earn our respect. Koch did. Most on the left are NOT worthy of our respect. Period.
Sorry, but our current President, and the Senate majority leader, and Nazi Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer and their ilk ARE NOT GOOD PEOPLE, because they have no regard whatsoever for the citizens they are supposed to represent.

Right Mover on February 1, 2013 at 4:59 PM

One of the reasons that so many on the right give Koch his due as a good man whom they respected is precisely because he wasn’t such an ideologue as to always be party-first. I think the fact that Koch is eliciting such praise shows that we ARE tolerant of politicians on the other side if they earn our respect. Koch did. Most on the left are NOT worthy of our respect. Period.
Sorry, but our current President, and the Senate majority leader, and Nazi Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer and their ilk ARE NOT GOOD PEOPLE, because they have no regard whatsoever for the citizens they are supposed to represent.

Right Mover on February 1, 2013 at 4:59 PM

Don’t get me wrong Right Mover. If you read anything of what I have posted over the years here at HA you will see I agree with you: Obama, Reid, Pelosi, and co. are not good people.

My point was that here we have (in the case of Koch) a man that, as far as I was been able to gather all day long, no matter whether you were a D or an R everyone had respect for him. Yet some here (which I assume were conservatives, Republicans, and/or Libertarians, though we have our regular D- trolls around too) couldn’t get off their partisan hats to point something wrong about the guy. Soft attacks at that, but you could tell they were simply trying to say something- anything- negative about him because he was a Democrat.

I am proud that while liberals believe always that they have the higher moral ground (yet they always demonstrate the opposite when they attack, demonize, and denigrate those who oppose them) we are, on the other side, always (save for the rare occasional exception in any group) in every tolerant and willing to debate the facts and the results rather than jump to the insult and vilification of the individual.

What I see as a problem is if we become incapable of praising or respecting a person if they did something good simply because the belonged to x or y party.

In other words, let’s not pick the worst liberal traits.

ptcamn on February 1, 2013 at 9:07 PM

Right Mover on February 1, 2013 at 4:59 PM

And, btw, my point was specifically in relation to what I saw in this thread. There few politicians worth of respect nowadays and certainly not those on Washington.

ptcamn on February 1, 2013 at 9:10 PM

I never liked him. To me, he was a typical liberal. He did support Bush in 2004 but only because he could see the Islamic threat that most liberals simply block out of their minds. But again, that might just be because he was Jewish himself and was old enough to be taught to about NAZIs by his family and could bring himself to acknowledge the quick rise of antisemitism in the last 15 years and could bring himself to condemn it. It’s funny how liberals tend to turn into conservatives the second the cross hairs are put on them. But it’s clear he felt strongly enough about this to have these words from Daniel Pearl inscribed on his tombstone:

“My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I am Jewish.”
(Daniel Pearl, 2002, just before he was beheaded by a Muslim terrorist.)

Rest in Peace Mr Koch.

Dollayo on February 2, 2013 at 5:40 AM