Now that Mike Bloomberg is emerging as a serious candidate, so is the “oppo” research that will splatter him with mud—some deserved, some fake, some easily dismissed, some that stains forever. I write this well aware of the pretty distressing stuff that is emerging about his smarmy words and ugly-as-Trump sexual objectification of women, and the business about redlining, and Xeroxing profiles for stop-and-frisk. New York City voters have heard it all before, even though the rest of us haven’t. More is on the way, I have no doubt.
Nevertheless, I still like Mike. He was my hoped-for Democratic candidate in 2008, and again in 2016. And even if he loses luster and my vote, he gives me a monumental reason to like him: he is throwing his brains, money, and field force into ensuring that whoever is the Democratic candidate wins the election in November and deposes Donald Trump. He will do whatever is in his considerable power to rescue this country from the hideous demolition derby Trump is carrying out in public and, even worse, behind the scenes—an effort that with four more years will utterly decimate many of our beloved traditions and values, some beyond resurrection.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I still like Mike as the presidential candidate to beat Donald Trump and to bring his center-left policies and positions to the White House—and to the entire Executive Branch of our government so horribly corrupted by Trump. (If you want a heartbreaking look at what Trump is doing behind the scenes, do read The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis. It’s like riding in a glass-bottom boat over the swamp of Trump’s truly astonishing demolition of the federal agencies we rely on to keep us healthy, safe, and prosperous.)
Besides the exposé-type revelations, there is another knock on Bloomberg: his competitors sneer that “He’s trying to buy the nomination.” This accusation scarcely merits a rejoinder. Not a single one them is satisfied with the amount of money in their campaign war chest, and they work tirelessly to get more money according to whatever financial strategy and values their campaign exercises. You may take this to the bank: there is not a single one of these candidates who, possessing a fortune in the billions of dollars, would not freely spend her or his own money without limit in their noble effort to defeat Donald Trump. Bloomberg is doing just that: building a massive campaign force that he will either use himself or donate to the winning Democratic candidate.
But he has gone further than invest massive amounts to dump Trump (money that, admittedly, he will never miss). He has stepped forward to offer himself as a candidate.
I’ll tell you so what. Why in the name of heaven would he do that, if he thought one or another of the current candidates would do the job. Why subject himself to the lacerating criticism and physical exhaustion of being a candidate? With more money than is imaginable, good health, a global reputation for success, and the ability to enjoy his long retirement without a thought for the intractable hassles of political office, who would possibly throw that over for the headaches of running for, let alone winning, the Presidency. I believe it’s actually a selfless sacrifice of sorts—one he has forestalled many times before, to my dismay. (I’m reminded of a CBS interview of Frank Lloyd Wright by a very young Mike Wallace back in 1952. Asked for whom he’d be voting—Eisenhower or Stevenson—Wright replied: “Governor Stevenson, I’m afraid. But with grave misgivings.” Mike Wallace leapt on that: “What are your misgivings?” Wright: “Oh, he’s much too fine a man for a grubby job like that.”)
Bear in mind that the United States of America has a strong, longstanding, and hugely sensible inclination to elect people with just the kind of executive political experience that Bloomberg gained in twelve years as mayor of our largest, most diverse and contentious city. By contrast, we very, very rarely elect someone directly from the Senate. How rarely? How about three times in our 232-year history. Three times: Warren G. Harding, John F. Kennedy, and Barack H. Obama.
There’s a good reason for this. We know that most of them have close to zero experience in managing organizations, unless they were mayors or governors before joining the Senate. Senators have a staff budget of $944,671. That doesn’t buy you many people to manage. Ironically, most of those Senators competing with Mayor Pete who sniff at the paltry size of South Bend, Indiana, wouldn’t know the first thing about managing that city’s many departments including 1,000+ employees and annual budget over $380 million.
So Bloomberg fits the political-experience profile Americans like in the Oval Office. The fact that he was willing to work for twelve years as the mayor of New York City rather than enjoy the most well-heeled retirement anyone could imagine speaks volumes about his civic-mindedness. Lay under that his prescience and skill at building one of the most influential companies on the planet and amassing one of the largest personal fortunes on the planet in the doing—not a bad resumé to take charge of the calamity Trump will leave behind.
My mother Nan Daley was a longtime “pol” in the Democratic Party, most notably having managed the volunteer field force that carried Bobby Kennedy to victory in the California primary. While she felt his assassination deprived America of its probably-greatest president, I remember many times when she worked tirelessly for flawed candidates whose principal virtue was that they were better—or less bad—than the alternative. “Hold your nose and pull the lever,” was her advice.
She knew there were no perfect candidates—not even Bobby Kennedy—and that some were barely acceptable. But she considered it—and I consider it—an act of near-treason to refuse to choose and refuse to vote. One of the ways we pay our dues as citizens is to embrace compromise—a word that too many regard as dirty, when in fact it marries two noble words: communal, and promise. We keep a promise among ourselves to do the best we can do together, under the circumstances.
The already-known flaws of Mike Bloomberg do not disqualify him as my favored candidate for President. But if other new ones emerge that make me choose another, I will still like him for stepping forward to launch his massive, all-out effort to rid America of the worst threat to democracy in our entire history. What’s not to like about that?