Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mike Lurches Left-and Right

In yesterday's NY Post, Jacob Gershman commented on the incoherence of Mike Bloomberg's political efforts to find a political home for the upcoming mayoral election that he himself engineered. The article's subhead was: "HOW MAYOR LOST HIS PRINCIPLES ." The only problem with this analysis? It assumes facts not in evidence; principles never owned can never be lost.

The real story here is that Mike Bloomberg has always been lurching both left and right-and in a manner that suggests that he needs to take a political breathalyzer test; as he staggers to walk any principally consistent philosophical line. He came into office without any real concept of governing-aside from the apparent belief, unlike Reagan for sure, that the government was here to help us-and that Mike Bloomberg was just the man to see to it that the folks were properly cared for.

As a result, there hasn't been a single thing that the mayor has done, to either make the government more efficient in its delivery of services, or to rein in its size and scope. What Mike Bloomberg has consistently done is to promote his own political interests; and as those interests have altered, he has zigged and zagged accordingly-so all that is left is pure distilled ambition: "A little more than a year ago, Mayor Bloomberg starred on the covers of Time and Newsweek, poised to lead an independent movement to the White House. Now, he's fighting off comparisons to Venezuelan strongman Hugo "El Loco" Chavez and finds himself groveling to a fellow some call a cult leader."

As Gershman points out, the mayor's independent march to the White House stands revealed as little more than a "marketing tool." As does his so called principled stand for clean air that was conjured up in the last few years, it seems to us, out of thin air-with no philosophical antecedent to indicate that this was ever a motivating principle of the man. After all, the mayor who claimed he was out to become the scourge of asthma, had helped to midwife the sale of the Bronx Terminal Market to a close friend of Deputy Mayor Doctoroff in order to, we kid you not, build an auto dependent mall on-of all things-the patch of the South Bronx known as "asthma alley."

In all of this independence posturing about post partisanship what was lost was the fact that, for Mike Bloomberg, post partisan had absolutely nothing to do with any philosophical principle-it was, much as the Chavez phenomenon, simply another method for self-promotion; which is why Bloomberg is looking to purchase a political line now-any line will do, thank you very much: "Problem is, Bloomberg has treated political parties and ideology the way some atheists treat religion - convenient for weddings and funerals, but otherwise expendable. He's assuming that he'll be able to smooth over awkward contradictions with enough money, as he always has before."

And money remains the underlying factor of this entire St. Vitus Dance. After all, who but billionaire Bloomberg could have transformed charitable giving into a steroid version of street money? And what we got was the most corrupted system imaginable: "After touring the country decrying the political party system as undemocratic, the mayor toppled voter-approved term limits without a referendum. And (as historian Fred Siegel noted) he did it by warning City Council members that he would no longer shower "anonymous" donations on their favorite nonprofits."

So now Mike Bloomberg has his check book out and is ready to buy the support he needs to win once again in November. And we actually find ourselves rooting for his success in the most perverse manner. With the city's economy cratering, and taxes and fees on the rise, we are entering the kind of political environment where suffering will inevitably intensify. It is the kind of backdrop likely to expose the Myth of Mike-leaving his legacy both tattered and revealed: "But along with his poll numbers and the city's economy, the mayor's stature is shrinking. His mockery of the political process is wearing thin among voters who were more tolerant during the good times. A Democratic lawmaker framed it like this: "The man thinks he can buy anything, and to large degree he's been right. He's not a Democrat or a Republican. He's a rich guy. That's his party."

Rich he may be; but Mike Bloomberg will not leave us with a rich governing legacy. He stands exposed as another parvenu who knew the price of everything, but the value of nothing.