In the NY Times this morning, the paper once again turns its attention to the tactics pursued by Mike Bloomberg in his uncharacteristically passionate attempt to twist council arms to snare a third term. Certainly, he's shown little such passion on any other policy issue over the past seven years-save the attempt to control the smoking habits of New Yorkers:
"As he doggedly pursued a third term, Mr. Bloomberg bridged disparate political constituencies that barely communicate, much less agree on anything — enlisting union leaders and titans of finance, party bosses and abortion rights advocates. (Even the rabbi at Mr. Bloomberg’s Manhattan synagogue called a wavering City Council member on the mayor’s behalf.) But in creating those alliances, the mayor may have hurt his chances for re-election. A large part of Mr. Bloomberg’s popularity rests on his image as a nonpartisan billionaire not beholden to special interests or fellow elected leaders."
It is, as The Prince argues, always better to appear good, than to actually be good; and Mike Bloomberg is certainly a master of appearances. But the idea that he was above special interests never really captured the Bloomberg reality: "Mr. Lopez’s role underscores those concerns. Mr. Bloomberg has long railed against partisan, machine politics. But his aides appear to have worked, at times, closely with Mr. Lopez, a state assemblyman, during the term limits fight, despite his ties to a Democratic Party organization long criticized for cronyism. On Oct. 22, the day before the Council voted to amend the term limits law, the mayor’s top political operative, Kevin Sheekey, set up a meeting at City Hall with Mr. Lopez and Vincent Gentile, a Brooklyn councilman who was leaning against extending term limits."
What this shows, is that when it comes to the ultimate Bloomberg self interest, the mayor will resort to any political weapon that he can successfully employ on his own behalf. As Professor Muzzio tells the Times: "But the apparent offer of political support by a deputy mayor in exchange for a vote strikes many as the kind of back-room political deal-making that Mr. Bloomberg would denounce, said Douglas A. Muzzio, a professor of public affairs at Baruch College....Mr. Muzzio said the mayor “used carrots and sticks to build a coalition,” even though such tactics may be at odds with the mayor’s reputation. “The myth of Bloomberg as the nonpartisan philosopher king is belied by the fact that they played political hardball here,” he said."
In fact, over the first two terms, Bloomberg's self promotion of his ersatz non partisan image has masked the extent to which his own political essence is linked with the interests of the class he comes from and identifies with. The fact that the billionaire novice didn't come from a political milieu, doesn't mean that he sees the world in a way that ultimately benefits average New Yorkers: "
Just listen to the observations of investment honchos such as Steve Rattner and others of the Bloomberg financial cohort: "Mr. Rattner, who helps manage the mayor’s fortune, and the developer Jerry I. Speyer, who called council members and urged them to extend term limits, had prodded the mayor to remain in office long before Mr. Bloomberg decided to challenge the term limits law. “I think it’s hard to not give him credit for having run a good administration,” said Stephen Berger, a founder of Odyssey Investment Partners, a private equity firm, who signed a public letter endorsing the term limits extension. “He is the most sophisticated and the most skilled person available.”
And the mayor has governed in such a way as to bolster the confidence of the investor class as every turn. Why shouldn't they feel he's the "most sophisticated and the most skilled person available?" But this may all, as the Times points out, be about to change. The erosion of the image can be seen as the first step towards a popular re-evaluation: "But in creating those alliances, the mayor may have hurt his chances for re-election. A large part of Mr. Bloomberg’s popularity rests on his image as a nonpartisan billionaire not beholden to special interests or fellow elected leaders."
This is just the beginning, however. As the NY Post reports this morning, plans are on the table for municipal layoffs; and if this comes to pass-along with the inevitable knee jerk Bloomberg tax hike-people are going to see Mike Bloomberg in a totally different light. No longer on the pedestal constructed by a fawning editorial phalanx, Bloomberg's diminished image may be the harbinger of his ultimate political demise.