Ambrose: Something Michael Bloomberg isn’t

Michael Bloomberg’s successes as mayor of New York City provide substantive evidence that someone out there is of presidential caliber, but that someone isn’t Bloomberg. It’s Rudy Giuliani.

The successes — continued low crime and welfare rates — are largely the consequence of reforms enacted in the mayoral administration of Giuliani, who was not so lucky as Bloomberg. Giuliani did not inherit a city sailing smoothly along in good economic times, but a city so submerged in difficulties that some thought it just might be without hope.

Not Giuliani, who did more with less. Cutting taxes 13 times while making the city once more economically vibrant, he showed that fiscal conservatism, common sense, toughness and overall political competence could make a difference, whereas Bloomberg is merely showing that a major, regressive tax increase, dignity-denying nannyism, indecisiveness, pretentiousness, opportunism, cronyism and fortunate circumstance will win you plaudits if you also pony up enough on polishing the old image.

A major source for the truth of the matter is Fred Siegel, author of a book on Giuliani, a history professor, an expert on the city and a super-alert magazine journalist who is not easily categorized as to ideological leanings.

Mainly he is smart, as he demonstrates in writings and interviews — smartenough to know that Bloomberg’s promises to end traffic congestion are contradicted by his actions, that the mayor has gone back and forth on what to do about the city’s education system and that he has been especially good at doing favors for buddies while using his own ample funds to quiet critics with gifts and induce favorable publicity with the best PR money can buy.

It’s the fact of Bloomberg’s wealth — maybe $5 billion, maybe four times as much — that will give him a particular advantage if he runs as an independent for president. He won’t have to raise much money, just spend his own, as he has in getting elected New York mayor.

We are told his other major asset in the race is that he is a nonpartisan Washington outsider who would bring pragmatism to problems, not alienating political purpose. I hope few are so naïve as to buy this hooey.

Issues are issues because there are powerful arguments, strong political beliefs and major interests on both or many sides, and getting to the best possible policy is never just a matter of a calm, cool administrator laying out facts and figures that compel consensus. In a New Republic piece, Siegel provides analysis indicating that Bloomberg can’t even persuade himself by calmly looking at facts and figures.

There’s much more to dislike than like about Bloomberg as a presidential prospect, such as his mindless meanderings on global warming. Saying those two words repeatedly will cause some to swoon, first and foremost Time magazine, which has listed Al Gore as the most influential thinker/scientist of our times because he does it so well and has now put Bloomberg on its cover along with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Action heroes, it calls them.

Listen to him on global warming, and it’s not clear that Bloomberg has the slightest idea what he’s talking about, just that talking about it will make some writers believe he is an effective leader and a deep one. Not all. The way I figure it, there are candidates in both major parties who would be much better presidents.

Examiner columnist Jay Ambrose is a former editor of two daily newspapers. He may be reached at

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