Friday, October 30, 2009

Bully For You!

Steve Kornacki has an interesting piece in the Observer about how the mayor, running against a hopelessly outmatched challenger-at least as far as resources are concerned-has still felt the need to pile on. He calls it, beating a dead horse: "...Mr. Bloomberg has dumped more than $85 million into his campaign. He’s gobbled up big-name consultants, saturated the television and radio airwaves for months, secured endorsements from countless Democrats and media outlets and squeezed every drop of benefit imaginable from his incumbency. (Did you see him awkwardly standing in Fox’s shot as the ALCS trophy was handed to the Yankees on Sunday night?)Meanwhile, his opponent has raised virtually no money, relied on a sub–big-time campaign operation, been snubbed by influential members of his own party and been reduced to pretending that the president of the United States is strongly in his corner, when he plainly isn’t."

But this tactic comes with a cost-and, in our view, it has sucked all of the democratic air out of the room in making a mockery of the electoral process; a point Kornacki also makes as follows: "More notable was the simple fact the Mr. Bloomberg chose to lay out his vision of a 2013 New York in a speech on a weekday afternoon. Almost no voters saw it in its entirety, and only a few probably bothered to read the brief news accounts that made it into the next day’s papers. This wouldn’t be the case if Mr. Bloomberg had devoted his October media budget to sharing his 2013 dream with New Yorkers--instead of using his cash to savage Mr. Thompson."

So the campaign to literally save New York-so dire are our economic circumstances-is transmuted into a typical challenger savaging; typical in style but not in the substance since few have as much money to do as thorough a job as Mike does. In the process, however, Bloomberg has lost something-and it's reflected in the polls, as well as in the lethargy that is the one thing really scaring the Bloombergistas: "Which brings us to the polling, and Mr. Bloomberg’s stubborn inability all year—despite his many, many advantages—to climb much higher than 50 percent in head-to-head matchups against Mr. Thompson. This failure is remarkable when considered in context. Last November, just after he forced a term-limits extension through the City Council, Mr. Bloomberg was running just 15 points ahead of Mr. Thompson, 49 to 34 percent. No one was too surprised: The mayor had just endured some of the worst press of his tenure. Of course he’d be underperforming. Give it some time, and a ton of money, and his number will improve, the thinking went. But it really hasn’t."

What do we see $85 million and counting later? "All of this has added up to a net gain of just a few points over the past 11 months in Mr. Bloomberg’s head-to-head standing with Mr. Thompson. Fifty-three to thirty-five percent is his lead in the latest poll from Quinnipiac University, the same outfit that gave him a 49 to 34 edge last November."

And the reason why this has happened is a direct result of Mike Bloomberg's lack of any real political vision-a trait shared by the expensive team he put together to help run his campaign juggernaut. This was reflected in his rambling and lackluster NYU speech-as well as in his confusion at the Crain's breakfast when queried about his third term.

What this boils down to, is that this campaign is all about-and only about-the mayor's money; and his willingness to use and abuse it for the one thing that really matters to him-his own self interest: "We could have seen a more inspiring, meaningful campaign on the mayor’s part—one that would have allowed him to ignore his hapless opponent (instead of sullying him) and focus his efforts on laying down markers for a third term. It could have been the kind of campaign some dared to imagine back in June. Instead, the Bloomberg campaign has opted for politics as usual."

Imagination and real honesty simply isn't in Bloomberg's basic character. And when the media is acting as co-conspiritors, we get the lifeless-and relentless-barrage of mendacity clogging the airwaves. Trust us, the third term will be Bloomberg simply winging it in the face of some real difficulty. And how he responds to the difficulty may just shock us all-because there is certainly nothing in the current campaign that has even given us a tiny peek at what lies ahead for the city. But, don't be too harsh on Mike Bloomberg, he doesn't really know himself and hasn't given the problem all that much thought.