Monday, March 16, 2009

Voter Free Choice Act Repealed

Remember when the term unlimited debate was going full throttle, and Mike Bloomberg was making the argument that an overturning of the law would yield a cornucopia of choices for the democratically challenged New York voter? Well a funny thing happened on the way to the feast; more and more it looks as if the great choices prophesied to be available have turned out to be evanescent.

A great deal of this is revealed in Michael Barbaro's political memo in Saturday's NY Times: "It was a central argument by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg for re-engineering the city’s term limits law last year: Allowing him to seek re-election would give voters a bigger pool of candidates from which to choose, enhancing democracy, not squashing it, as his opponents contended. “If anything, the public has more choice because there will be more candidates, at least one more in the mayor’s race,” he said the day after the City Council voted to rewrite the rule."

Well it looks as if one more choice was simply one too many; and the idea of greater choice has become risible unless-like Mike Bloomberg-the concept of greater is simply seen as a derivative of the mayor's amor-propre: "Mr. Bloomberg’s popularity, the power of his incumbency and his willingness to spend $80 million of his own fortune to secure re-election have persuaded at least four mayoral hopefuls — two Democrats and two Republicans — to exit the race or sit it out."

Or, as one wag remarked: "We now know what Bloomberg meant when he said ‘choice’ — he meant himself,” said Bruce F. Berg, chairman of the political science department at Fordham University. Rewriting term limits, Mr. Berg said, “has stifled choice. And if Thompson drops out, he may well have eliminated choice.”

All of this, of course does little to diminish the sense of irony exhibited by that yellow dog Democrat Howard Wolfson: "Mr. Bloomberg’s supporters argue that the parties have only themselves to blame for producing lackluster mayoral candidates who badly trail the mayor in the polls. And, they note, anyone is free to challenge him. “At the end of the day the City Council decision allowed any New Yorker who wanted to run the opportunity to run,” said Howard Wolfson, a Bloomberg campaign spokesman."

Free to commit political suicide as Mayor Mike-the city's riches man-spends $100 million to re-introduce himself to a public apparently suffering from political dementia; and if this attrition keeps up we may have the kind of referendum that the North Koreans find so uplifting. The fact of the matter is-and we're watching you Times editorialists-if this guy spends this kind of money to scorched earth a lackluster field of diminished opponents, then he should be ridiculed by every opinion writer in the city. And they should hammer him at least as often as the NY Daily News has done to Senator Kruger because of his principle opposition to tolling the East and Harlem River bridges.

But all of this has not only given us Wolfson the ironist; it has also bequeathed a bit of aggravatingly typical Mike Bloomberg disingenuousness: "Asked this week whether his decision to seek a third term, and to spend heavily to achieve it, had a chilling effect on potential rivals, Mr. Bloomberg said, “There is no evidence to me that there are fewer candidates running.” CSI he's not.

As the campaign manager for one of the potential candidates who's likely to sit this election out tells the Times: "We were definitely gearing up to run — and then term limits happened,” said Rob Ryan, an aide to Mr. Catsimatidis, who is still weighing a run, but only in the unlikely event that Mr. Bloomberg does not win approval to run on the Republican ballot line. Mr. Ryan expressed bewilderment over Mr. Bloomberg’s contention that altering the term limits would create a wider pool of candidates. “Historically, in any race, you will see more candidates when it’s an open seat than when there is an incumbent,” he said."

Will any of this matter to the voters in the fall? Probably not; but strange things have been known to happen when campaigns get started. In our view, if Thompson is the candidate, he needs to after the mayor full bore-bearding the lion, so to speak. The mayor has been able to insulate the general public from the sharper edges of his personality. We'd like to see the real Mike Bloomberg goaded up.