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12.11.10

Why Bloomberg Won't Run

New York City's mayor is raising his profile to boost a new centrist political initiative. But the endless speculation that he's running for president is bunk.

New York City’s mayor is raising his profile with major speeches and a spot on Sunday's Meet the Press to boost a new centrist political initiative. But the endless speculation that he’s running for president is bunk.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning. As predicted, he was asked, once again, was he considering an independent run at the presidency. As predicted, he answered, once again, that this was not going to happen. He told NBC “ No way, no how..I’m not going to run for president,” just as earlier in the week, he told CBS News “ nothing” could make him run for president. (ABC and Fox are sure to follow.) The fact that this keeps happening is a function of a number of factors, but few of them figure into more than just plain silliness. Bloomberg pointed out quite accurately and succinctly America does not elect either independent candidates or “short, Jewish, divorced billionaire(s)” to be its president. And it will happen despite the fact that Ralph Nader, apparently thinks it is a good idea (Think about it. Aside from the George Bush accidentally becoming president in 2000, what actually happens in this world that Ralph Nader thinks is a good idea?)

The Bloomberg fantasy candidacy is the product of the confluence of a few, not-entirely independent factors. First, there is his aide Kevin Sheekey, who insists on stroking the story with the single-minded intensity of an undead zombie that continues to crave hot flesh. The fact that Bloomberg cannot be unaware of this, and yet continues to keep Sheekey on his payroll, suggests that Bloomberg wants it done, despite his protestations.

While you might not have noticed, Michael Bloomberg enjoys attention. And so long as reporters can fill space and time with pointless speculation about his intention, the faux presidential candidacy buys it for him without his having to dip into his multi-billion dollar fortune. In a media system desperate for celebrity-driven content that it can pretend to treat as serious news, this phony/baloney story hits all the right buttons and costs nobody anything… except time.

Face it, it’s as if the country is clamoring for a Bloomberg presidency. A waste-of-time Marist College poll that finds in a three-way race against Sarah Palin and Michael Bloomberg, Barack Obama would collect 45 percent, Palin would collect 31 percent, and Bloomberg just 15 percent. And this is before most people in America figure out that Bloomberg is really just a pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-Islam, pro-immigration liberal Democrat who happened to buy himself the Republican nomination for the mayoralty a few years ago when it was onsale, cheap. In the meantime, the charade continues.


Watch New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Meet the Press.

Why? Bloomberg/Sheekey has figured out the way to milk his mayoralty for national attention is to stroke another of the media’s most sensitive g-spots: independence combined with bipartisanship? Sound contradictory? That’s because it is. You can’t spell “bipartisan” without the “partisan” part. That’s how our system works. The two sides compromise to produce legislation that neither one loves but both can live with—at least when it does work. If you don’t have a side, you don’t get to play when it comes time to make the deal. (How many troops did the Pope control again?) Tomorrow, and for a few days afterward, Bloomberg will get to bask in stories that read like the following: “New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, will join several leading Democratic, Republican and other independent political leaders in the launch of a new group that hopes to find non-partisan solutions to some of the nation's problems and to impact the next Congressional session. The organization, known as No Labels, kicks off Monday in New York with a series of panels discussing some key political problems in America and how it can help find common ground.”

If you don’t have a side, you don’t get to play when it comes time to make the deal.

Reporters will write stories filled with speculations, like this one.

More newspapers and websites will take polls on the subject and so long as he can get away with it, Bloomberg will continue to give high-minded speeches denouncing “ what ideologues on the left believe,” and “what ideologues on the right believe” as if that were itself not an ideology in and of itself.

And the result? No harm, no foul, I suppose. Sheekey will get to show his boss that this nonsense really can go on indefinitely, and perhaps demand a raise. Bloomberg make like a wise man before the cameras, and be treated as a genuine national figure—even leaving aside the billions-- without having to pay for them himself. And reporters and pundits will engage in yet another round of pointless speculation leading exactly nowhere. We went to this movie four years ago and as with another New York export, “ Sex in the City 2,” the second time around is even less compelling.

Next up. Will a liberal Democrat mount a challenge to Barack Obama for the party’s primary nomination? Sure thing, that will happen, right after Sarah Palin agrees to be the new head of the Republican National Commitee.

Just ask Ralph Nader....

Eric Alterman is a Distinguished Professor of English and journalism at Brooklyn College, a senior fellow of the Center for American Progress and media columnist for The Nation. His newest book, Kabuki Democracy: The System vs. Barack Obama, is available for preorder.