That was when Karl and the lads who run things down there decided our town was the absolutely perfect venue for "four more years" of George W. Bush. And why not?
The Iraq war was going so well for them. The "war president" would be greeted by a joyous populace strewing his path with palm fronds. Images of 9/11 and the president amid firemen would heroically be recalled. Saddam was toppled on American TV. Iraqis were embracing democracy, their oil wells up and working. The recession was over, and Wall Street was coming back. "We're turning the corner on jobs."
And couldn't the great city use a little help, all those free-spending Republicans in town for a week? My own favorite mayor, Ed Koch, did the right and proper thing, issuing welcomes and wishing the Republicans well. But then, being Ed, he got carried away with his own enthusiasms and went that inevitable step too far, endorsing Mr. Bush.
As the Republican convention begins in Madison Square Garden, the reality is somewhat different from what Mr. Rove and company imagined it would be when they laid their plans.
The best we can hope for this week, both for the Republicans and for the city itself, is an amiable chaos with few casualties, reminiscent of the Marx Brothers' stateroom scene in "A Night at the Opera."
As I neared Manhattan last week along the Long Island Expressway on its approach to the Midtown Tunnel, there reared up a billboard sponsored by Jon Stewart and his wonderful "The Daily Show" welcoming delegates and everyone else coming into town from the airports and asking, "That smell?" And then buoyantly answering, "Freedom!"
Freedom and a lot more. Including a GOP so addled, it named a Democrat as the convention's keynote speaker.
Consider the situation in New York as the GOP arrives:
The latest terror alert echoes. Midtown a frozen zone from Macy's to south of the Garden and from Broadway to west of the General Post Office. The cops are picketing the mayor over dough. So, too, the firemen. The peaceniks are demonstrating. Try getting into Penn Station this week without a lawyer. Subways are to bypass certain Manhattan stations. On the Long Island Railroad full of people going to work, some toilets may be sealed shut to foil the terrorists and the passengers both. Everyone but Moqtada al-Sadr wants to camp out on the Great Lawn in Central Park.
Restaurants all over town say reservations are way off. Hotel-vacancy rates are up. Broadway theaters are cutting ticket prices in half and still aren't selling out. Plenty of New Yorkers won't go to work this week.
Whatever happened to the economic boomlet we were going to enjoy? Where are those delegates and hangers-on who were going to spend all that money in our town? The anarchists and crazies are out in force; why not the Republicans? The pot smokers are demonstrating. The U.S. Open is on. The August weather (shock and awe!) is hot and muggy.
All we need is Golan Cipel to "out" a distinguished Republican. Talk about theater of the absurd.
Randall Rothenberg is on vacation. From Crain's New York Business