Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Taking the Bark Out of Dogmatic

Mayor Mike has now become a champion of flexibility-at least when it comes to principles. Echoing Ralph Waldo Emerson-and speaking of his own and Speaker Quinn's about face on the issue of term limits-Bloomberg apparently believes; "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." As NY Newsday tells us this morning: "I'm pleased [Council Speaker] Christine Quinn is supporting this," Bloomberg said yesterday, a day after Quinn said she supported extending term limits from eight years to 12, reversing a position she had less than a year ago.
"She's changed her mind and there's nothing wrong with changing your mind when facts change," he added. "As a matter of fact, people that don't change their mind when the facts change are so dogmatic, they're not very practical or effective."

But have the facts really changed? Only if you believe that the economic meltdown was the precipitating cause of the mayor's reversal-something that's hard to credit given the months of preparation that Bloomberg Inc. spent paving the way for his October surprise. If you have real principles, however; and it's hard to see just what these would be with the nimble tycoon, they aren't jettisoned for what amounts to little more than naked ambition and ego-no matter how the mayor mangles the efforts at selfless palaver.

In this, Bloomberg is more Groucho Marx than Emerson, especially when it comes to upholding principles, for it was Groucho who said: “Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others.” And the fabled comedian, taking a page out of the Machiavellian handbook, also said something that is emblematic of the mayor and the speaker:“The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made.

Still, in spite of just how much all of this makes for good theater, we do believe that the mayor's left the speaker with little room to maneuver. As we told the Crain's Insider (subscription): “The speaker’s in a no-win situation,” lobbyist Richard Lipsky says. “She’s damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t. In that situation, you do what causes the least harm to yourself.” As Crain's point out, absent her decision, Quinn faced a mutiny, making her choice just a slight bit more optional than Sophie's.

So, as the NY Post writes this morning, Quinn has hitched her political wagon to the mayor-but, lacking his resources, she's much more vulnerable to the backdraft. If she becomes the victim of voter anger, she'll always have this: "Chris Quinn, if she wasn't in government, would have enormous opportunities in the private sector as well as the public sector," Bloomberg said...."I just want, for the sake of the city, particularly during tough times, that we'll have Chris Quinn leading the City Council," the mayor said."