Friday, April 24, 2009

"If I Were a Rich Man..."

So Mike Bloomberg continues to spend money like a drunken stockbroker-on a pace, according to the NY Times, to once again break all election records for such excess: "Six months before the election, Michael R. Bloomberg has already outspent his leading rival in the mayor’s race by a seven-to-one ratio, despite a commanding lead in the polls. With a fresh wave of television and radio commercials, the mayor has poured $7.5 million into the campaign so far, according to new records obtained by The New York Times. In the process, he is shattering — once again — records for spending in a New York City election and running financial laps around his challengers."

In doing so, the mayor is only trying to be proactive; after all, in the current economic downturn there may be one or two New Yorkers who might feel that Mike Bloomberg lacks the background and personality to really empathize and care about their plight: "The mayor’s new advertising blitz features a tieless Mr. Bloomberg talking to middle-class New Yorkers about their economic anxieties, assuring them he has a plan to protect their jobs and keep the city affordable.The commercials suggest that, despite the mayor’s wealth and the power of incumbency, his campaign is uneasy about how the volatile economy could affect voters’ views of him."

This uneasiness has led to a dramatic case of overkill: "Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire, has now spent more than the city’s campaign finance laws allow Mr. Thompson — or any other challenger accepting public financing — to use in the race from now until the September primaries." But Bloomberg's using his money for a good cause-the best special interest that money can buy: self aggrandizement.

It's just that some of us remember that Mike Bloomberg said he would never again spend this kind of money-he said that in 2001 when he spent around $80 million to "introduce" himself to the folks who had no idea about who he was. Since than he has lapped the field in 2005, spending similar amounts to get re-elected; and will now do the same to re-introduce himself to the dwindling cohort of voters who might not yet know who he is (or those voters who might mistake Bloomberg for someone who really doesn't care about them. Can you imagine?).

There's another really good rationale for the current mayoral excess. Bloomberg's latent personality traits-if exposed-would pose a threat to his re-election; and the lavish spending blitz effectively insulates him from a Mr Hyde type of exposure, Clyde Haberman captured this the other day, in analyzing the mayor's dyspeptic response to a disabled reporter: "It is this sullen side that New Yorkers have seen a lot lately. The mayor seems to have been in a chronic bad mood for half a year, more or less since he won his battle for a change in the law to give him a shot at a third term. This cannot be good for him. It can only reinforce a common (if not necessarily fair) knock on him: that he does not appreciate the hardships that ordinary New Yorkers endure. In politics, it is usually unwise to buttress negative stereotypes of oneself."

But there's a silver lining in all of this spending-and leave it to the mayor's campaign to ferret it out: "Mayor Bloomberg has never taken a dollar of special interest money, and this November voters will again have an opportunity to support a candidate who is unbought and beholden only to the people of New York,” said Jill Hazelbaker, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s campaign."

Bloomberg is unbought because he is one of those expensive chotskies that, if you have to ask the price, you can't afford to buy it. So, unrestrained by any ties to any New Yorkers-or their tawdry interests-he is held accountable only by the one thing that could possibly restrain his meglomaniacal tendencies: a genuine love and caring for the fate of the average New Yorker. Which lead us to opine-bring back the special interests.