Monday, July 13, 2009

Above Politics: And Lost in a Cloud of Hypocrisy

We have heard, ad nauseum, how Mike Bloomberg's wealth allows him to remain above the tawdriness of politics; in particular, the pernicious influence of all of those nasty special interests. So what exactly was the mayor doing wheeling and dealing for the endorsement of the WFP the other night? In our view, the panoply of interests around that party are as special as any others (which underscores our view that the concept itself has little explanatory value).

And not only that, we got to witness the spectacle of the billionaire Bloomberg threatening the leader of a major union in the city-endorse, or face the consequences. So, here's Tom Robbins' version of Truth or Dare: "Just how ticked off was Team Bloomberg at losing last night's endorsement vote at the Working Families Party? Consider: One of those casting a crucial vote to give the party's nomination to city comptroller Bill Thompson was Stuart Appelbaum... president of the powerful Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union which represents some 40,000 workers here in the city. Appelbaum said he woke up this morning to a message from City Hall canceling a long-planned meeting in Washington that Bloomberg's office had arranged with Obama administration members to discuss ways to end international boycotts of Israel."

So Mike Bloomberg, in a fit of pique, uses the good folks of Israel as his sacrificial lamb: "No reason. Not postponed. Not delayed. Cancelled." said Appelbaum. "This is the morning after the vote." The labor leader said that when his staff checked, Obama administration officials told them that Bloomberg's office had called to say that the meeting "was no longer necessary."

Did the Bloombergistas man up? What do you think? "Bloomberg spokesmen said they knew nothing about it. "I didn't know we controlled the White House schedule," said one who said he'd look into the matter. Appelbaum, a top labor supporter for Israel, said the move is misdirected payback. "This is just punishing the people of Israel," he said. "It is outrageous."

Now this is the same Mike Bloomberg who, according to our sources, had never even visited Israel prior to his election; nor had he ever marched in the Israeli Day Parade that passed right by his window on Fifth Avenue. Now, however, we have visits to the country and large charitable contributions to Israeli medical facilities and hospitals-one of the few benefits, in our view, of the mayor's tenure.

So here's a guy waste deep in the big muddy of political special interest pandering-and getting numerous so-called progressive unions like the UFT and 32 BJ to vote to not endorse the Democrat Thompson against the patrician mayor dramatizes this observation. And, as an aside, have you noticed how the NY Post-the UFT's most strident critic-has toned down its rhetoric once Princess Randi endorsed mayoral control?

There's an expensive quid pro quo in that deal, for sure; but the Post has abdicated on that front even though the city spends four out of every ten dollars on education-not including the crippling pension obligations that accrue. So intent on the mayoral control fixation, the paper avoids the obvious-there's a teacher's contract to be negotiated; and a big chunk of the $20,000 per pupil expenditure goes to support the teacher cohort that has expanded to almost double the size it was in years passed.

So, as late as today, we get the Post editorializing for Randi the Magnificent to weigh in with Democratic state senators on mayoral control; with a pension warning from E.J. McMahon right along side as an Op-Ed. And the Post without even the decency to feel a little cognitive dissonance. No wonder the mayor is able to go full bore in his own obsessive quest-he's in good company.

But we digress. The entire education square dance does more to highlight how deft and nimble the mayor's political do-si-doing has become than any other recent phenomenon. But it also manifests itself along the entire spectrum of the mayor's tenure. Just ask Stuart Appelbaum.