POT MEET KETTLE
So who exactly is Michael Bloomberg? We know he’s worth nearly six billion dollars. We know he didn’t acquire his fortune from birth (like GW Bush) or marriage (like John Kerry), and we know he didn’t simply parlay a career in “public service” into a life in the lap of luxury (like the
We also know he’s generally considered to have been a successful mayor of one of the world’s most important cities. And we know that he has received praise from moderate Republicans (like Ahnold) as well as Democrats. Indeed, while he has served until recently as a “Republican,” his views on social issues are well in line with the liberal wing of the Democratic party. According to Michael Barone, “Bloomberg favors same-sex marriage, a very aggressive form of gun control, federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, and abortion rights; [moreover] he opposed the confirmation of Chief Justice John G. Roberts.” It shouldn’t surprise anyone that he has now abandoned the Grand Old Party and become an Independent, while trumpeting the need for non-partisanship in
So we know a fair amount about Bloomberg. But there’s a whole lot more we don’t know. We don’t know squadoosh about his foreign policy ideas. From his tenure as mayor, we can probably guess a bit about his economic views – including the idea that he’s not afraid to raise taxes – but he hasn’t exactly outlined for us his formula for repairing our health care system or for decreasing the national debt. He remains, for the most part, an enigma, but a rather intriguing one. The rumor is that this guy will enter the Presidential fray in 2008, and that when he does, he’ll bring anywhere from a half-billion to a billion dollars to play with on the campaign. Bloomberg vows that he, unlike other candidates, will not be bought and sold by special interests; such is the value of having billionaire status. The Beatles may be right that money “can’t buy me love,” but it can, in theory, buy a politician some independence. The idea of an independent politician these days is, well, it’s almost as absurd as that of a squared circle.
Personally, I was happy when I heard that Bloomberg was jettisoning his affiliation with the Republican Party and was likely to throw his hat into the ring. I’ve been worried that neither party would produce a nominee who I’d want to vote for and didn’t relish the idea of holding my nose in the voting booth … or writing in someone who wasn’t really a candidate. Bloomberg is wealthy enough to make you wonder if he actually has a chance to win by blanketing the airwaves with commercials. And besides, I think it’s healthy for a democracy to present choices beyond the standard bearers of the two juggernaut parties. So often, they present candidates who exaggerate, mislead or flat out lie, figuring that even if their integrity is exposed, they can at least count on 40% of the vote just by being an R or a D. Is that what a democracy looks like? Not to me.
Well, apparently it does to Bob Herbert, the columnist for the New York Times. Now let me be clear – being the liberal that I am, I generally like Herbert’s columns. Today’s was the exception. He entitled his column: “Mr. Mayor, the Nader of ’08.” The implicit subtitle was “Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid.”
The article was meant to reach liberals like myself who might possibly be attracted to Bloomberg’s candidacy. That, Herbert would argue, is verboten. We’re supposed to stay home, no matter what the Democrat machine stamps out. Otherwise, so goes the threat, we’re liable to elect another George W. Bush!
Sometimes you truly can tell a book by its cover, and sometimes you can tell an Op-Ed piece from its title. This is a perfect example. Herbert’s column is as pedestrian as the title suggests. He didn’t think he had to remind us that Ralph Nader was responsible for George Bush’s election in 2000, and by extension, for the debacle in
Is Bloomberg such a liberal? Heavens yes, suggests Herbert. “Bloomberg,” Herbert writes, “is a Democrat. If he runs for president, he is far more likely to take votes from the Democratic nominee than the Republican one.” Herbert quotes one Democratic political consultant in referring to the mayor as a “pro-public education, pro-choice, pro-immigration rights, pro-gun control, pro-civil rights, pro-gay rights, and pro-women’s rights” guy. Oy vey! Later, Herbert states his perspective with crystal clarity: “There are myriad ways this thing could play out. But the weirdest would be if Michael Bloomberg, who sees himself as such a serious person, plunged headlong into this race with little or no chance to win, and ended up spending $500 million to $1 billion on a venture that undermined the core issues and values he claims to believe in.”
So there it is. Bloomberg can’t win. What he can do is spoil, and almost certainly, if he does so, he’ll spoil the chances of his true party, the Democrats. Herbert wants us to know that he’s not alone in his assessment of Bloomberg’s impending candidacy. Herbert quotes a “dismayed” supporter of the presumed Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton as follows: “He definitely hurts us. You know, sometimes politicians have such big egos they can’t see reality. But Bloomberg is known for seeing reality. So he must know that if he runs he puts a Republican in the White House, which I don’t think he wants.”
No, probably not. But here’s what the “dismayed”
Actually, that’s speculation on my part. Bloomberg claims to like Hillary and Rudy, and for all I know, that’s no B.S. But there are a number of us out there in Naderland who care little for either of them. I wouldn’t have been caught dead voting for Nader in 2000 because, for all my disgust with the way Gore ran his campaign, I actually looked forward to seeing the man elected. When I voted for him, I didn’t hold my nose, I held my breath. And in the last seven years, I have only come to like Al more and more.
But Hillary? Just the opposite.
I need not take this opportunity to re-chronicle all my problems with her candidacy. None of you needs to understand why I am one of many tens of millions of Americans – including liberals as well as conservatives -- who views her candidacy “unfavorably.” What I wish to point out is the irony of her supporters whining about Bloomberg’s running for office and thereby threatening to tip the balance in favor of the GOP. This is an election that by rights, the Democrats should win going the way. The Republicans have made mistake after mistake after mistake in recent years and have put together a group of candidates this year that is worthy of the Keystone Kops. And yet … amazingly, they do a good chance of prevailing. And that is because the one and only candidate they seem to be able to beat is the one who has a hammerlock on the Democratic nomination. In short, it’s the
Further, Mr. Herbert, let me point out one other bit of irony here. You are a columnist for the New York Times. That is a newspaper that is read almost exclusively by highly educated people. But, if you believe the polls, the woman whom you hyped over and over again as the potentially aggrieved party in Bloomberg’s little flirtation has gained her status precisely because she is doing so well among the uneducated voters. Two or three weeks ago, your newspaper’s Sunday Magazine had a cover story that exposed one lie after another in her comments about the Iraq War. We who are educated would like an alternative to that sort of dishonesty, if that’s OK with you.
And as for your fear mongering, if you want to know the truth, if someone told me that Hillary was going to get the Democratic nomination, sure I’d be scared about what might happen if a Republican won the election (especially if his name was John “Jack D. Ripper” McCain)? But that doesn’t mean I could bring myself to embrace her candidacy. Sometimes, a voter has to stand on principle. I feel a sense of responsibility for what my party holds out as its leader. At some point, I have to say that I’m not comfortable with a candidate representing that party in the White House. Some donkeys may not have a limit as to what they can tolerate. I do.