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New York Post Columnist John Podhoretz on the plane crash in New York today.

Thursday, October 12, 2006
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HH: Now, to get the latest from New York, our friend from the New York Post, author of Can She Be Stopped?, John Podhoretz. John, sorry to talk to you on another sad day for New Yorkers. It’s got to be unnerving that small planes are even capable of doing this in New York.

JP: Well, I mean, clearly this is a very strange and unprecedented event that we’re seeing here. We don’t know what happened, why Cory Lidle was flying there, what happened to him. I think it’s fair to think that his decision, that he made some kind of a decision to fly the plane into 524 E. 72nd Street, since it took the sharp and deliberate banked turn, what that’s about. You know, there’s no way of knowing. It’s a despicable and foul act. He killed two people.

HH: Does he have any connection to the building that is known?

JP: No. I don’t think anybody knows anything about that yet.

HH: Are you an Upper East Sider, John, or a West Sider?

JP: I am not.

HH: You’re a West Sider?

JP: I live on the West Side, but I was on the East Side this afternoon. And there are unnerving traces of 9/11 whenever something like this happens, not that anything like this has ever really happened before. I mean, there was this building that blew up four or five months ago in Mid-Town. And what happens is that traffic grinds to a standstill as the cops attempt to seal off the area. There were…I ended up having to walk through Central Park to get home, and there were seven news helicopters that had been, I guess, forced to retreat to Central Park. So overhead, there was this constant sound of the whirring of these helicopters that were hovering over Central Park. And you know, I mean everybody, everybody one knows has a connection to everything in Manhattan. You know, I had an orhtopedist whose office is in that building. I have a friend whose sister lived there 20 years ago. And obviously, it’s a chilling and disturbing event under any circumstances. But I guess we should all be very grateful that this isn’t an event that heralds anything for anybody else.

HH: I agree with that. Now John Podhoretz, since you’re…you work at one of the country’s great newspapers, in one of the cities that has to sort of mobilize for news on an instant. What’s going on at the New York Post this afternoon? Just tell me what happens when you’ve got one of these…obviously, it’s your front page tomorrow. You’ve got aspects, you’ve got the Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle, you’ve got background on…

JP: Well, there’ll be ten pages of the paper that will be taken up with this. You’ve got the story of the people in the building, who was killed, who is trapped, any other injuries that were done, was anybody hurt by the debris, what happened to them, the firefighters who bravely marched in to put the flames out. And then, of course, you have the entire consuming mystery here of what happened. Was this a deliberate act? There seems to be a conflict over whether Lidle was in the plane alone, or whether he was in the plane with somebody else. And one assumes that this is something that will get sorted out over the next four or five hours.

HH: This is considered by many to be the safest small airplane in the world, because it has a parachute aspect to it, that I’ll get into at some other point. But let me ask you this. Did anyone studying…is this the first high profile, high, up in a building incident since 9/11? And did the fire department react differently, to your knowledge, than how they approached 9/11?

JP: Well, I mean, the…obviously, the events are dissimilar, because among other things, this accident…I mean, this event was reachable…

HH: Right.

JP: …by the fire department. So it appears that you had this shocking event, but three hours later, the fire is out.

HH: I’m talking more about things like communication equipment that was so faulty…

JP: Well, I haven’t heard. I really, I haven’t heard about that. It was certainly the case that ten minutes after it happened, you could not make a cell phone call in Manhattan. Now whether that was because too many people were calling to see if everybody was okay, or whether or not somehow people’s individual cell phones had somehow gotten disabled so that the emergency communications frequencies could be widened. I don’t really know.

HH: Now John Podhoretz, have you been familiar, all the years you’ve lived in New York, with small airplanes traveling up and down the Hudson?

JP: Well, you see them. I mean…

HH: Still?

JP: Sure. One sees them. We don’t have, as I understand it, this is not…New York is not Washington, D.C. There are no no-fly zones. I mean, one sees helicopters constantly. Certainly, the Hudson River is very, very wide. It’s a mile wide, or something like that. So as a corridor for flights, you not only see small planes, you see big planes, you see military planes, stuff like that. It is very hard to believe, but given the tiny size of this plane…I mean, as I talk to you, I have the news on mute. And this plane crashed into a building. It didn’t even decimate the floor between two of the…

HH: Yeah. It didn’t get in the window.

JP: It didn’t get in the window, and it didn’t sort of tear down the floor between two of the floors that it crashed into. So it’s not like a missile, the way that the planes were that hit the Trade Center.

HH: When you first heard of this, what did you first think?

JP: You know, I did not think that it was a terrorist incident, because why anyone would go to the trouble of committing a suicide act by flying into a non-descript, high-rise skyscraper on the East Side of Manhattan. If you’re going to do something like that, you would try to fly into the Empire State Building. Same thing, there’s no defense against that. If a plane, if a pilot is skilled enough to sort of manipulate, maneuver his way, and sees a target, there are no laser beams that are going to shoot him down. So it just didn’t make sense to me, as I first heard about it, that you would have the first terrorist incident, serious suicide bombing attack in New York City since September 11th, and that they would hit 524 E. 72nd Street.

HH: All right. Now, key question from a media perspective. North Korea is a major and enduring story. It’s pretty much killed Foley off. Now you’ve got a one day, two day story that’s dramatic, and lots of visuals, and again, it’s going to dominate a news cycle. I have just written, and I’ll be talking about it after the break, I believe the high water mark for the Democrats of 2006 was a week ago today, and that ever since then, events are conspiring against them, especially the wonderful return of Jimmy Carter to the public eye. What’s your assessment, John Podhoretz?

JP: Well, I mean, once again, we have the freak phenomenon of in the middle of last week, when the Foley thing was at its peak, it was unimaginable that it was not going to be the dominant political event of October. And suddenly, it’s not the dominant political event of October. And it’s not even the dominating news event of October any longer. So in that sense, we find ourselves in the grip of a completely different political and media situation from the one that we were in just ten years ago. I mean, the fact that something like the Foley story can flare up as insanely as it did in just four or five days means that anything can flare up. And obviously, North Korea is a much more significant matter. And however badly, and I don’t think there’s any question that it was very badly handled from a political perspective by the Republicans on Capitol Hill, nonetheless, at some point, the rubber meets the road, and serious events will take the place of unserious ones. And obviously, you may look at this and say well, that was the high water mark for Democrats. I mean, it’s not clear to me whether the President has been governing the country for five and a half years now…and if it’s not clear that the American people are going to take what I think would be the fair perspective and say that the cards…it was in the cards that the North Koreans were going to do this from the beginning of his administration, and people may blame him. And we haven’t yet seen how that’s going to play out.

HH: I’m…I’ll explain after the break to the audience, but I’m pretty confident at this point, absent some extraordinary thing which you’re obviously pointing out can happen. Hats off, J-Pod as well, for McCornthyism, one of the great tags of this election cycle, and I think it’s going to last a long time.

End of interview.

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