Like most New Yorkers, Koch took things personally. On a Sunday when I learned that a shipment of computers that Koch had arranged to be donated to a Bronx school had been stolen, my call to City Hall for comment was returned within minutes by the mayor, not one of his spokespeople. "They stole my computers," he bellowed over the phone.
He was passionate about his enemies and reveled in his feuds. He saw little advantage in diplomacy and his criticism could make even New Yorkers wince, calling one female politician a "horror show." Critics would be curtly dismissed with one word descriptions of their intellects.
Koch in his retirement famously feuded with Rudy Giuliani, another former New York mayor. I called Koch after Giuliani lost badly in Florida's 2008 presidential primary to ask Koch why New York mayors could never advance to higher office. Before I got the question out, Koch gleefully announced that the Florida vote "will drive a stake through his heart. The beast is dead."
I can't imagine Mitt Romney or John Kerry talking like that.
Koch himself failed to win higher office when he ran for governor in 1982. In talking about it years later, Koch laughingly told me that he had believed his polls and his press coverage. With a chuckle, he said, "I thought I could do anything."
For a while, Koch's in-your-face bluster -- and his successes -- made New Yorkers feel the same way.