Friday, May 29, 2009

How Dare You!

Someone has dared to question the message of Our Saviour. As Daily Politics pointed out, His Holiness has accused our buddy Azi of the sin of lèse majestés: "To the annals of Mayor Bloomberg's mistreatment of the press add his testy exchange today with The Observer's Azi Paybarah, who dared to ask Hizzoner a question about term limits. The mayor, having just finished explaining to the DN's Celeste Katz that he happens to be "very optimistic" about the city's economy and giving anecdotal examples of how things are turning around, did not take kindly to Azi's inquiry about how this might undercut Bloomberg's own rationale for extending term limits - not to mention running for re-election."

Well, this was just too much for our epitome of Papal infallibility. After dismissing the question as beneath his dignity, he turned on the intrepid reporter: "And then, as the mayor walks away from the podium, he looks at Azi and says, almost under his breath: "You're a disgrace."

Azi's a disgrace? In our view, the shoe is on the wrong foot; and the mayoral exchange reminds us of the apocryphal story of the two Germans passing by the Jewish ghetto in Nazi Germany. One of the men turns to the other saying, "Boy, Don't these Jews smell?" To which his companion replies, "No, my friend, it's not the Jews that smell, the odor is from Nazism."

What is truly disgraceful is the specter of a democratically elected leader who believes that answering spontaneous questions from the press is outside of his realm of responsibility; and that the airing of millions of dollars of infomercials can be fobbed off on a gullible public as some kind of true democratic dialogue.

It is, however, instructive to discover that the mayor was forced to apologize for his uncalled for outburst: "Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser e-mailed Katz to say: "The Mayor asked me to pass along his apologies to Azi for the comment after the press conference, which I did." However appropriate the apology may be, the entire episode reveals what lies behind the constructed image; and underscores why Bloomberg avoids spontaneous exchanges with a free press.

Which is underscored by the following from the NY Times: "Since announcing his third term bid, he has publicly scolded a blogger in a wheelchair for accidentally turning on a tape recorder during a news conference. He called a question about his spending “ridiculous.” And he labeled an inquiry about a political rival a “waste” of a question."

What New Yorkers need now is more of the kind of bold inquisitiveness that Azi Paybarah demonstrated yesterday. The press corps must be direct and confrontational-because the editorial pages are in muted lock step with the mayor and his message. What needs to be stopped at all costs-the true disgrace-is the continued display of mayoral arrogance that feels that Papal bulls can adequately replace honest, spontaneous and candid give and take.