Tuesday, December 06, 2005

For the Love of Money

In yesterday's Politicker Ben Smith reports that the mayor's latest campaign filing was for over $77 million. It is likely, however, that the final figure will be even higher. What interested us was the various responses to Ben's post.

Quite a few folks seem to feel that the main issue was really Freddy Ferrer and took time to respond only to excoriate Freddy for his failures. This is, of course, besides the point. The real issue is that the mayor's money suffocated the possibility of a genuine campaign debate, something that is not in anyone's interest-certainly not the public's.

This was our point when we commented earlier that the mayor's money was generally a public hazard because, in addition to insulating him from the special interests, it obviated his need to engage in a meaningful public discussion of the issues. In fact, his money squelched the other side's ability to engage in debate almost as much as it insulated Mike Bloomberg from any consequential interaction with the citizenry.

That is why the mayor's own comments on this spending issue are so bizarre. As the Daily News reports today, Bloomberg's take on all the controversy is,
"I had a big message to get out, and we did get the message out. And I think the voters had the opportunity to hear what the issues were."
Not exactly. All the voters really got to hear was the Bloomberg saturation ad bombing. There was no countervailing messages and the media failed to enter the breach.

All of which is magnified by the current Daily News investigative report on the scandal at Ground Zero, an event that more than any other played a key role in the accidental ascension of one Mike Bloomberg to the mayoralty in 2001. What the News story underscores is how the mayor's monetary deluge was juxtaposed to the quiescence of the media.

Surely, the material uncovered in the expose was available a few weeks ago when the Daily News was playing its lapdog role in the Bloomberg coronation. Imagine what this explosive material might have done to the electoral dynamics--and to the mayor's narrative of in-charge competence. Is this the same paper that rhapsodized about the competence of the Deputy Mayor, the same dynamic Dan who was responsible for the nonfeasance at ground zero?

Moreover, this is exactly the kind of investigative journalism that should be done during a campaign where one side has such an immense monetary advantage (or any campaign for that matter). It was incumbent on the press to carefully examine the mayor's record and expose the potential gap between his campaign message and the actual reality of events as seen from a non-partisan perspective.

9/11 was the signature event of the past five years and the rebuilding of the site should have been the top priority of the administration that owed its very existence to that cataclysmic event. Instead we were given the Olympics and the West Side Stadium boondoggle! No one in the press went after this in any meaningful way--as part of a deconstruction of a self-serving, the best money can buy, full of beans campaign narrative. And the NY Times (excepting Bagli's Terminal Market work), to its everlasting discredit failed to do the kind of comprehensive analysis of the mayor's performance that was needed by voters as a corrective to the corrosive nature of the mayor's spending. And, after sleepwalking through the campaign they then attempted to canonize this political parvenu.