Friday, November 11, 2005

Sargent "Salutes" Bloomberg's Spending

In an American Prospect piece that is well worth reading, Greg Sargent takes a look at the Bloomberg landslide and is, well, rather underwhelmed. This sentiment is directed not at the mayor, who he feels deserves praise for being the un-Giuliani, but rather at the NY Times and the civic elites who went into the tank in the face of the Bloomberg-purchased victory.

Greg's analysis of the impact of the $75+ million in spending is particularly trenchant because of the way he underscores how the sheer volume of advertising not only "made a mockery of the electoral process" by denying the challenger a fair hearing, but also made it much less likely that New Yorkers would fairly judge Bloomberg's failings--which frees him to duplicate them next term.

In his most persuasive argument, Sargent alleges that the Bloomberg bucks makes it
hard to call what happened yesterday a real election, at least in the sense that real elections are supposed to involve vigorous debates about the city's future...
This is precisely the point that we have been making in terms of the malarkey about the mayor being above the special interests.

Through the ability to purchase and thereby dictate the election narrative, the incumbent was able to shut out alternative messages and, as Sergeant says, prevent not only the honest evaluation of the his term but also any give-and-take over the city's direction.

And Greg is right about the Times. The paper should have insisted that a voluntary spending cap be a quid quo for its endorsement. Not only that: the Times should have thrown an even more serious gauntlet down and warned Bloomberg that his refusal to cap spending would precipitate a level of scrutiny that the mayor would not be happy with (For instance, as the old pro Marty Steadman told us, the fine exposé on the Bronx Terminal Market and the Doctoroff/Steve Ross relationship should have been the kind of series that the Herald Tribune used to run. With each installment, Marty says, more people would be calling up with even worse dirt about the scandal being exposed).

Where we disagree with Sergeant is on his un-Guiliani portrayal of the mayor. Bloomberg's achievements on crime and education are a legacy of Rudy's irascibility. Mike Bloomberg simply wouldn't have known where to begin in breaking down the barriers and besides doesn't have the personality or the inclination to take on these kinds of battles.

And Greg don't get us started on those tax hikes. We refer everyone back to Wednesday's Patrick Healy story in the Times that, in real sotto voce, talked about how the Bush tax cuts generated the monetary windfall that fueled both the city's real estate boom and the rising stock market that did so much to bolster the local economy and elevate it from the 9/11 dumpster.

What is indisputable, however, is that the mayor has bought a quasi-mandate and we all are going to have to hold our breathe because the "big idea" challenged mayor could, believing the prattling about his "greatness," be ready to attempt stuff that he is simply not equipped to do. If he does, we can all recall the wonderful line of the great coach Lou Carnesecca who, while counseling his team not to get too high in victory, reminded them: "Peacock today, feather duster tomorrow."