Agree to Work Together for Dukakis : Jackson, Koch Forge Uneasy Alliance

Times Staff Writer

They didn’t quite forgive, and they clearly aren’t forgetting, but former presidential candidate Jesse Jackson and New York Mayor Edward I. Koch tried in a meeting here Wednesday to put aside their feud.

Their palms met briefly and clumsily in what passed for a handshake, and they refused to repeat the fleeting gesture for clamoring photographers.

Substantial Differences

New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, who acted as mediator in the 2 1/2-hour session and stood between the two men throughout a news conference afterward, acknowledged: “There will be after this meeting substantial differences between Mayor Koch and Rev. Jackson on various political questions. . . . This was not an attempt to solve all problems or create a whole new relationship.”


However, he said, the two agreed to work together to help elect Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis as President and to avoid personal attacks in the future.

Koch said they also discussed their similar positions on a number of urban issues. Using one of Jackson’s favorite phrases, Koch said: “We found our common ground, and our common ground is the urban agenda.”

Nonetheless, the depth of their animosity was obvious in their carefully chosen words and their uneasiness. They avoided eye contact, with Koch spending a significant amount of time studying his thumb and Jackson staring stonily ahead.

In his comments, Jackson went so far as to several times draw comparisons between their relations and “the bloody war between Iran and Iraq. . . . War is futile. Direct talks make success.”


Their fight stems from April’s New York primary campaign, when Koch said Jews “would have to be crazy” to vote for Jackson, and warned that the Chicago minister’s policies would bankrupt the country in three weeks.

‘Acted Beneath Dignity’

Their battle continued as recently as this week, when Jackson said the New York mayor “acted beneath the dignity of that office.” He even listed Koch along with subway gunman Bernhard H. Goetz as forces that have divided the city.

Among the Jackson forces attending the session and appearing at the news conference were Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins and Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), both of whom have been mentioned as possible contenders against Koch in next year’s mayoral election.


At Wednesday’s news conference, Koch again expressed regret for “the stridency of my comments,” but made it clear that he stands behind “the substance of my comments.”

For his part, an unsmiling Jackson said: “I did not seek to exact from the mayor an apology. . . . I didn’t request it. I don’t need it.”

Their battle has worsened friction between blacks and Jews, and has made the city a more uncomfortable place for other Democrats, including Dukakis, who do not want to be caught in the middle.

“Without people like us, Dukakis can’t win. And with people like us, who philosophically agree with us, he will win,” Koch said.