06/20/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Nothing Is More Powerful Than an Idea Whose Time Has Come

Over the weekend, The New York Times praised the legislation introduced recently by Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) with 199 co-signers, banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Times generously reported in the same editorial that "the fight for fair employment rights is already a generation old, pioneered in the House by two New York democrats, Bella Abzug and Edward Koch."

When Bella and I cosponsored that legislation in 1974, we could only attract two other members of the House to join us. But that was 36 years ago. It has taken far too long to get this far. Today, only 20 states in the Union protect gays and lesbians from being arbitrarily fired simply on the basis of their sexual identity.

When I took office in 1978 as Mayor of New York City within the first 30 days of my term, I issued an Executive Order prohibiting discrimination by the government on the basis of sexual orientation. After a grueling battle lasting eight years, I signed into law legislation prohibiting such discrimination in the private sector as well, one of the hallmarks of my three terms as Mayor. Victor Hugo stated it best: "Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come."


According to the April 6th New York Times, President Obama recently announced "that he was revamping American nuclear strategy to substantially narrow the conditions under which the United States would use nuclear weapons, even in self-defense."

The Times says the new policy

is explicitly committing [us] not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, even if they attacked the United States with biological or chemical weapons or launched a crippling cyber attack.

I think this policy change places the U.S. in additional jeopardy because the fear of our retaliating with nuclear weapons reduced or prevented. I also believe we no longer manufacture chemical weaponry so we are not capable of responding in kind to a poison gas attack on an American city. Remember the Cold War, and the concept of "Mutually-Assured Destruction (MAD)" that kept the peace? It has now suffered a serious blow, while the probability of an anthrax attack has gone up.

Those who constantly denounce President Truman for having used two nuclear bombs to bring the Japanese to their knees, the latter having rejected our demand for unconditional surrender, have won the debate. Harry Truman's decision, many believe, saved the lives of at least 500,000 American soldiers who it is estimated would have lost their lives in storming the beaches of the Japanese home islands. Millions of Japanese would have died, as well. I applaud President Truman's decision.


On April 8, 2010, when former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, who opposed efforts to regulate Wall Street sales of derivatives and successfully sought Congressional legislation to stop Brooksley Born, the head of Commodity Futures Trading Commission, from exercising her powers to do so, recently testified before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, "We all bear responsibility [for the cataclysmic financial crisis] and I deeply regret that."

In his testimony, Rubin denied any involvement in directing the activities of Citigroup leading to its near bankruptcy before being bailed out by U.S. taxpayers, even though he was the Chairman of the Citigroup Executive Committee. When you blame everybody, then nobody is responsible. Everybody did not receive, as he did while holding his position at Citigroup, $14 million annually.

We now see the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accusing Goldman Sachs of civil securities fraud, according to The Times of April 17th, "the bank created and sold a mortgage investment that was secretly intended to fail." Why haven't criminal charges been brought against those at Goldman Sachs who allegedly perpetrated this scheme which brought the bank a billion dollars in profits and financially destroyed investors. Are we seeing another aspect of the maxim, "too big to fail," with the new adage being, "Too big to jail?"


The next controversial issue that will be introduced by President Obama's administration is legislation that will provide an opportunity for 12 million illegal immigrants to obtain through amnesty the right to remain in the U.S., with the right to work in the U.S. and ultimately apply for U.S. citizenship.

I am supportive of hugely increasing the number of people applying for immigrant and work visas, especially those who have skills this country needs. However, I remain adamantly opposed to the concept of amnesty and regularizing the status of illegals in the country. Illegals should be denied employment with laws that are enforced mandating prison time for employers who knowingly hire them. If such laws were strictly enforced and no jobs were available to them, illegal immigrants would go home, and many have already. I do not believe we should become the only country in the world with open borders. If we do not interdict illegal crossings and overstayed visas, and instead provide amnesty every 20 years, the problem of illegal immigration will never end.

Having said that, I am absolutely against the proposed Arizona law expected to pass that would authorize police officers, according to The Times of April 5th, "to check the legal status of people they reasonably suspect are illegal immigrants." The police "would be authorized to arrest immigrants unable to show documents allowing them to be in the country, and the legislation would leave drivers open to sanctions in some cases for knowingly transporting an illegal immigrant, even a relative."

It sounds very much like what occurred in Nazi Germany, when Jew catchers hunted down Jews in streets and restaurants, demanding identification papers and arresting people who could not provide them. I believe illegals should be identified in the workplace and ultimately deported and always in a civilized way, allowing for compassionate responses, particularly in the case of parents with children born in the United States. There is a right way and a wrong way to enforce the law. Those who oppose amnesty are not racists. They simply believe that jumping the line with an illegal entry should not give the illegal a privilege not extended to those waiting in their own country their turn to enter legally.