Monday, October 06, 2008

Low Friends in High Places

The NY Times (via Liz) has a bit of low comedy in today's Media and Advertising section. In the article, the paper points out a political matrix we've never seen in our thirty years of observing the NY scene-a connection between Howard Rubinstein and the public interest. It seems that Mr. No Conflict of Interest Rubenstein was the broker who brought all of the publishers together, riding the caboose on the Bloomberg extension Metroliner.

Here's Old Reliable himself on just why he went out of his way to help out: "“The only thing that my clients have been talking about for the past few weeks is the fiscal dilemma that this city is facing,” said Mr. Rubenstein, the public relations mogul who helped broker a deal in 1975 involving Abraham D. Beame, then mayor of the city, and Governor Hugh L. Carey back when the feds told the city to more or less drop dead. “I did step up because I want to see the city survive and prosper,” Mr. Rubenstein said, “and I think we all agree that he is the person who we would like to see leading us through this crisis.”

The key phrase in the Rubenstein quote is, "I think we all agree..." Reminiscent of Pauline Kael's remark when she found out that Eisenhower had beaten Stevenson ("How could that be? All my friends voted for Stevenson?-or maybe it was McGovern?). In any case, the HR quote clearly underscores just how much this Bloomberg gambit is about special interests-and how these interests conceive of their own aggrandizement as being good for us all.

Les Payne highlights this in today's Newsday-likening Bloomberg to Papa Doc of Haiti: "Papa Doc Bloomberg, Mayor for Life. To hell with this being a nation governed by laws and not men. Shred the City Charter. Scrap the voters' referendum. Ignore the will of the people. Forget even the mayor's own past refusal to extend his reign. The Great Man has placed himself above the law with his billions to back it up."

This is beginning to frighten us when we're on the same page as Payne. But you begin to get the picture when all of the newspapers are spouting the single party line. As the Times story underscores, it's a compelling example of one lying, while the others swear to it:

"It is no coincidence that Mr. Bloomberg cited voices from the city’s opinion leaders. With a fiscal crisis at hand, the business leaders of New York has already held a private referendum and decided who the next mayor should be. So in spite of his rather breathtaking grab for another term, there will be no opprobrium forthcoming from the editorial pages of the city’s newspapers.
Before Mr. Bloomberg took this controversial step — remember when
Rudolph W. Giuliani got clobbered for seeking three more months in office after Sept. 11? — he made the rounds and locked up the support of the editorial pages of The New York Post, The New York Times and The Daily News, three city newspapers not known for moving in lock step."

There's a big difference, apparently, between the contentious former mayor and an esteemed member of the Billionaire Boys Club. Here's how loyal, club member Zuckerman was: "The Daily News had to do something of a backflip, having frantically opposed any effort to change limits."

And, as the Times points out, this was clearly a special interest backroom deal: "It was a gambit that would not have been out of place in the 1970s — or the 1870s, for that matter. This being a Bloomberg administration, there were no smoke-filled rooms, but there was definitely the sense that issues of civic moment were being handled in private environs." And now, as the City Council prepares to act, comes the good part-the actions of the rubber stamp.