Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Après Moi le Déluge? Obama, Bloomberg and Thompson

As the NY Times is reporting, Bill Thompson has been waiting patiently for Barack Obama to show him some love: "To bolster Democratic prospects, President Obama has tried to elbow New York’s governor, David A. Paterson, out of next year’s race, and has thrown his weight behind New Jersey’s governor, Jon S. Corzine, in next month’s election.Then there is the mayoral race in New York City. Here, the president has all but ignored the Democrat running on a message of change and embraced the incumbent running on the Republican ballot on Nov. 3."

The other races that BHO has injected himself into all involved the fortunes of, well, BHO-an indication that it is Obama all the time when it comes to the president's political predilections. Is it any wonder that when the Olympic bid for Chicago-one that was heavily fronted by both of the Obamas-went down in flames the Drudge headline, "The Ego Has Landed," captured the essence of the failure?

But the subtext here, is the residual power of the Bloomberg fortune: "Since Mr. Obama’s election, Mr. Thompson, the city’s comptroller, has found his attempts to piggyback on Mr. Obama’s popularity drowned out by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has tethered himself to the president...On Tuesday, he accepted the endorsement of a close Obama ally, John D. Podesta, who ran Mr. Obama’s transition team last fall."

All but forgotten is the millions lavished on state senate Republicans-and the fact that MB never even endorsed Obama last fall; not to mention all of the wooing of local Republican county leaders-along with the cash bounties that go with it. And does the endorsement by John Podesta have nothing to do with the cash nexus?

But the Obama recusal here is telling-not about Thompson, but about the president's narcissistic self involvement: "There may be little upside for Mr. Obama to weigh in to a local race whose outcome would have little bearing on his agenda in Washington, and choosing the losing candidate would diminish his standing a year before crucial midterm elections. But the White House has left the door open, saying that the president would not rule out an endorsement in the New York mayor’s race."

To us, this is an Obama litmus test-and any attempt to snub Thompson and embrace Bloomberg would tarnish the president's hope and change mantra. Message to Obama: Overturning the popular will and using of tens of millions of dollars to tarnish the African-American challenger, is not the harbinger of a new politics.

As the Times points out: "At first blush, Mr. Thompson seems like the obvious choice. The president and the comptroller share party affiliation, race and a political pedigree. (Mr. Obama rose through Chicago’s Democratic machine; Mr. Thompson marched through New York’s.)...Even when it became clear Mr. Obama would prevail, Mr. Bloomberg refused to endorse him, and he repeatedly praised his Republican rival, Senator John McCain, a personal friend. Mr. Thompson, by contrast, the city’s first black comptroller, eagerly endorsed Mr. Obama and briefly volunteered for him in Pennsylvania. “Billy has a natural lineage to an Obama-like candidacy,” said Al Sharpton, who is close to both Mr. Obama and Mr. Thompson."

With the race tightening, and Obama's popularity still very high in NYC, his hearting Thompson would go a long way-especially since Bloomberg has been slobbering all over the president and using his millions to broadcast this insincere political (not progress) ploy: "But here’s what 300,000 people did hear: that Mr. Bloomberg had endorsed Mr. Obama’s health care plan. Only a handful of people attended the press conference in Washington where Mr. Bloomberg announced it. But the mayor’s campaign paid for automated telephone calls to 300,000 numbers to spread the word. “Like President Obama, Mayor Bloomberg says it’s time to put politics aside,” said the voice of a campaign worker on the recording."

The Times story isn't without its humorous moments-like when Bloomberg's aides-and Obama's-try to assert that he and the president are kindred spirits: "Aides to both men said they are, in many ways, kindred spirits, focused on postpartisan politics (in theory, if not always in practice), public health and environmental sustainability." Neither is, of course, with Bloomberg being the first politically transgendered mayor.

But Obama's unlikely rise from political oblivion is the most relevant way in which he and Thompson are similar-and his support would clearly demonstrate that he rejects the monetary subornation of the political process; a theme that he has hit upon on the campaign trail. The folks in Brooklyn understand this: "“In this race, Bill is the antiestablishment candidate who represents change,” said David Pollak, who ran Mr. Obama’s campaign in New York. “Mr. Bloomberg is the status quo candidate.” Inside the union hall where Mr. Thompson spoke, Marissa Green, a city employee, said she saw parallels between Mr. Thompson and Mr. Obama. “They are both about change,” she said. And, she added, “Nobody thought Barack Obama would ever be president, did they?”