Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Who's to Blame?

In a follow-up to yesterday's post on Freddy's lament about who's to blame for his mayoral loss, it is important to take a look at some of his complaints. The reality, however, is that when you get blown out there is a great deal of blame to go around. It's unlikely that any single factor can be used to explain the defeat.

Let's take a look at the issue of a biased news media. No one has been more critical of the press than we have. Our point has been that, given the mayor's obscene spending, it was incumbent on the press to go after some of his canned messages with an even greater degree of tenacity than it might normally have done under different circumstances.

This it certainly didn't do. In fact, we'd agree with Ferrer/Ramirez that Freddy's mistakes were examined with a greater degree of aggression than Bloomberg's. It is however true that the skillful nature of the mayor's packaged and staged campaign obviated any real gothcha bloopers on the order of the Diallo fiasco.

Media does tend to focus on gaffes and what this campaign needed was a level of analysis that the local press is not likely to do. Our argument has been that the mayor was creating an abnormal situation that demanded more from the media than it was willing or perhaps capable of doing. It needed to aggressively deconstruct the canned messages (the recent news about job losses in October might have been available if someone other than Jennifer Steinhauer had been digging around in this area).

That being said it is also true that Freddy was as lackluster a candidate you could find this side of David Dinkins. There was no underlying élan and, making matters worse, no strong policy message either. This was not the kind of adversary needed to go after the charisma-challenged Bloomberg. What this meant was that the campaign and the candidate did little to set the media wolves going. They might have been reluctant warriors but Freddy's somnambulance allowed them to lay back on the mayor.

Which brings us to the whole Atlantic Yards issue. As we have said before, Freddy had a much better case with the sweetheart deal at the Bronx Terminal Market than with the FCRC/Nets project. The BTM was a project that had this administration's fingerprints all over it and Freddy had lockjaw, afraid to ruffle the feathers of some of his supporters.

He could have made the break with the Bronx machine on this, a declaration of independence that would have at the same time exposed the myth that the mayor was not beholden to the special interests. In the end Freddy was ironically more beholden than the mayor. Sadly, as the brief foray that Anthony Weiner made on the BTM issue demonstrated, the NY Times was ready to follow up on its strong expose of the deal if only they had a willing dance partner.

All of this is of course an exercise in finger pointing that we believe is ultimately futile. The bottom line for us is, "It's all about the Benjamin’s." Given the mayor's record expenditures it's unlikely that Freddy could have won, even with a flawless campaign. Interestingly, this is the one thing that Freddy doesn't emphasize in yesterday's article, and it is the one righteous foundation for him to be complaining from.