Fans of Glenn Beck are complaining about what I wrote yesterday about his speech at the National Rifle Association convention, where he used a giant image of Michael Bloomberg photoshopped into what appeared to be an image of Hitler with his arm raised in a Nazi salute and wearing an armband. The Beck crowd now tells me that it wasn’t Hitler’s picture into which the New York mayor was transposed but that of Communist leader Vladimir Lenin. They say that means I owe Beck an apology along with the Anti-Defamation League and others who were also outraged by it.
Are they right? Nothing doing.
The dynamic in contemporary American political warfare tends to treat any offenses by those figures that we consider to be on “our side” on many of the great issues of the day as insignificant while treating those of our opponents as earth-shaking crimes. There are conservatives who may overcompensate for this by joining in the liberal demonization of some of the left’s favorite targets, but that kind of disappointing appeal for the respect of the mainstream media ought not prevent us from holding the right accountable for bad behavior.
That’s why Glenn Beck’s appearance at last weekend’s National Rifle Association convention is the sort of thing that cannot go without comment here. In his remarks to the conclave, Beck denounced New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for financing campaigns against politicians who defend Second Amendment rights. Placing it in the context of Bloomberg’s nanny state style of governing New York, which has led to soda bans as well as a myriad of other measures designed to tell people how to live, Beck put forward a critique of the mayor that rightly painted him as an opponent of individual liberty. But then, as he has often done in the past, Beck went too far.
It wasn’t enough for Beck to depict Bloomberg as a nanny state petty dictator. Instead, he spoke in front of a large backdrop that photo-shopped Bloomberg’s face into what appears to be a famous photo of Adolf Hitler with his arm extended in the infamous Nazi salute. This is more than merely unacceptable political commentary. It is an offense that diminishes the horror of the Holocaust and casts a dark light on both Beck and those who thought his little joke was funny.
When a popular Democratic politician leaves office under the cloud of scandal and disgrace, the foremost question on his mind is when–not if–the media will begin reconstructing his career for him. There was the lionized Bill Clinton, who was impeached. Then there was former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, whose rehabilitation included a CNN show and a regular spot in Slate, where he proved to be an utterly conventional polemicist and shallow political thinker.
And now we have the effort by the New York Times to resuscitate Anthony Weiner, whose congressional career was marked by erratic public temper tantrums and an inability to control himself or the volume of his voice. He left Congress after being caught in a sex scandal involving a college girl, and then falsely accused conservatives like Andrew Breitbart of making the story up. At every step in the scandal Weiner chose the least honorable path. Before the scandal ended his congressional term, Weiner was considered by some to be a favorite for the next New York City mayoral election. Now, two years after the scandal, he says he still wants to be mayor, and may in fact run for the Democratic nomination this year for the fall general election. Could he actually win?
In the wake of the latest New York City corruption scandal, the New York Times convened a panel to answer an interesting question: Mayor Michael Bloomberg remains, to our knowledge, above and disconnected from the sea of corruption around him; it is because rich politicians have less need for the money of others, and are therefore less corruptible?
Leave aside the low expectations–Bloomberg may be many things, but at least he’s no crook–and the liberal goggles through which the Times views the issue–Mitt Romney’s honest wealth makes him cold and out of touch; Bloomberg’s honest wealth makes him honest–and there is actually a very old question here about politics and the ideal nature of republican governance.
Yahoo News reports that Vice President Joe Biden met with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg–the leading proponent of a theory of liberal governing known as “banning stuff I don’t much like”–to try to revive the gun ban that Harry Reid dropped from the Senate’s push for gun control legislation. Biden and Bloomberg “issued a joint appeal to members of Congress, urging lawmakers to ignore politics and do the ‘right thing’ by passing new federal gun-control laws.”
The phrase “ignore politics” means ignore the voters, to whom members of Congress are answerable and who they expect to punish them for going too far on this issue. As I wrote yesterday, in pushing the assault weapons ban, the White House put Reid in a difficult position. Reid rarely permits the Senate to carry out anything resembling responsible governance because he doesn’t want Democrats to have to vote on anything troublesome. Since most liberal policy ideas are terrible, Reid ensures they rarely have to come to the floor for a vote. But President Obama made gun control an issue, and wanted a whip count on a gun ban. So Reid gave him the whip count–publicly–which embarrassed the gun ban’s supporters because it showed that Democrats don’t like the legislation either, which is why it was dropped.
Which leads to a question we find ourselves asking an awful lot these days: What is Joe Biden doing?
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his aides at the NYC Department of Health seem to have been caught unawares Monday when Judge Milton Tingling Jr. struck down their “Portion Cap” ban on large sizes of sweetened beverages. They probably realized the mayor’s signature nanny-state initiative was unpopular with ordinary New Yorkers; but lulled, perhaps, by favorable press, they hadn’t realized how vulnerable it was on legal grounds as well.
In the short term, Judge Tingling’s decision is a delicious win for consumer liberty against the Napoleonic New Bossiness streak in the city’s chief executive. As has been pointed out, however, the judge would not necessarily have struck the regulations down had they been adopted by the New York City Council rather than imposed by the mayor’s appointees through administrative fiat; he wasn’t recognizing any general right of individuals to decide for themselves what foods to consume. Moreover, the judge’s diagnosis of the rules as “arbitrary and capricious” because they were riddled by so many exceptions is at best double-edged from opponents’ standpoint; would we really prefer rules redrafted so as to allow fewer exceptions?
But yesterday’s decision should cheer us for other reasons. It holds the Gotham administration accountable for overstepping the separation of powers, an important principle in the safeguarding of liberty. (In a profile of Judge Tingling, the New York Times notes that he’s been skeptical of government claims to power in a number of other cases as well.)
On Monday afternoon, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called a press conference to discuss a judge’s decision to strike down his infamous soda ban. The mayor told reporters he was confident the ban would be upheld by higher courts, and explained why the soda ban has been such an integral part of his administration: “It would be irresponsible not to do everything we can to try and save lives.”
On that point, I agree with Mayor Bloomberg. His administration should be doing everything it can to save the lives of its citizens. Would a ban on soda (he calls it “portion control”) actually save lives? The research indicates that the soda industry is already suffering. Today the New Yorker quoted a soda industry statistic showing a 12-percent decrease in non-energy drink sales for the carbonated soft drink industry since 2005. Despite that decline, obesity rates have continued to climb. Attempts to institute taxes on soda have proven futile in fights against obesity and there has been little successful research conducted into if reduced soda intake would effectively reduce BMI (body mass index). Putting aside the egregious violations of individual liberty that this and many other Bloomberg pet projects commit, the soda ban would also likely achieve few, if any, of its aims.
If Bloomberg were so interested in saving lives, he should be focusing on how to do so within the bounds of his powers as mayor–powers that wouldn’t be challenged in court and fought over long after he leaves office. In 2004, shortly after becoming mayor, Bloomberg delivered a speech outlining his administration’s goals, including promising to lower the city’s shelter population as well as tackling other issues related to the homeless. The Atlantic Cities reports on how that turned out:
In recent decades, the judiciary has been at the forefront of efforts to expand the power of government and to restrict the rights of the individual citizen. But today at least one judge has struck a blow against the nanny state and its billionaire advocate. Justice Milton A. Tingling of the New York State Supreme Court handed down a ruling today that prevents the city of New York from putting into effect Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s law banning the sale of certain sizes of sugared drinks. While Bloomberg’s administration plans to appeal the decision, for now the effort to prevent New Yorkers from making a choice about what kind and what amounts of drinks to consume has been shelved.
Tingling rightly blasted the law as “arbitrary and capricious” since the text of the law was a confused mess. Only some types of sugared drinks were targeted for the new rules and the sales would only be restricted in some types of establishments. The legislation seemed designed to mandate “uneven enforcement even within a particular city block, much less the city as a whole.” Moreover, the loopholes within the rule effectively defeated the purpose of the entire endeavor.
But Tingling’s critique was not merely about the poor drafting of the law. Far more important was the city’s decision to give itself far-ranging power to act in the name of public health. By saying it had the right to tell people how much soda they could drink in this manner it was establishing a government monster “that would leave its authority to define, create, mandate and enforce limited only by its own imagination.” The result would be to “create an administrative Leviathan.” In doing so, the judge highlighted the fact that this controversy isn’t about whether sugared drinks are healthy but whether the impulse to do good gives Bloomberg, New York or any legislature or government bureaucrat unlimited power to restrict individual rights.
Being the mayor of New York City isn’t easy. As one of the largest cities in the world as well as one of the world’s biggest terrorism targets, a major component of the mayor’s job is making sure that the city is ready for whatever, whenever. Last year’s Superstorm Sandy was a test of the city’s preparedness and, according to a poll afterward, about 60 percent of New Yorkers felt that the city was ill-prepared for the events that transpired.
While parts of the city were thrown back to the Stone Age for several weeks, the mayor insisted on holding the New York City marathon as scheduled the weekend after the storm hit. Only after an enormous outcry, including from this blog, did the mayor reconsider the wisdom of having marathoners running through neighborhoods that had no electricity or running water for days.
With the help of a massive campaign contribution by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, gun control advocate Robin Kelly won the Democratic nomination in the race to succeed Jesse Jackson Jr. The result is reason for Bloomberg to crow, but any attempt to interpret the victory of a liberal candidate in an Illinois Democratic congressional primary as a harbinger of a shift in American politics is obviously a stretch. The infusion of more than $2 million into a contest to win what amounts to an urban rotten borough was simply a matter of cash and carry. The fact that Kelly’s opponent once got an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association was motivation enough for Bloomberg to get involved–but even if he hadn’t stepped in, no one who hopes to represent that district was going to be anything but liberal.
As Seth wrote yesterday, figuring out exactly what Bloomberg is up to with his donations is no easy task. But whatever direction the mayor takes, the example of his decisive intervention in a primary battle could turn out to be more influential than it might seem on the surface. Just as conservatives and Tea Party activists have helped shift the Republican Party to the right with threats of primaries funded by outside activists with deep pockets, what Bloomberg has done is to illustrate that liberals can play the same game with similarly problematic consequences for the Democratic Party.
Today, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg became the latest to weigh in on the issue of allowing college campuses to be used as venues for promotion of the BDS campaign against Israel. Bloomberg, who touts himself as one of the greatest supporters of Israel in New York, claimed that those who condemned the decision of the political science department at the city’s Brooklyn College were, in effect, enemies of free speech. According to the New York Observer, Bloomberg said the following:
“I couldn’t disagree more violently with BDS,” Mr. Bloomberg explained. “As you know, I’m a big supporter of Israel–as big of a one as I think you can find in the city. But I could also not agree more strongly with an academic department’s right to sponsor a forum on any topic that they choose. If you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea.”
But contrary to the mayor’s typically highhanded formulation, this is not a free speech issue. Using a public university to promote hate speech in which the one Jewish state in the world is hypocritically singled out for isolation and destruction is not a matter of tolerating a diversity of views. What is so frustrating about the debate about BDS is the willingness of even those who do not support it to treat as a merely one among many defensible views about the Middle East or, as the New York Times referred to it in an editorial on the subject yesterday, a question of academic freedom whose advocates do not deserve to be spoken of harshly. As I wrote last week about a related controversy at Harvard, the BDS movement is not motivated by disagreement with specific Israeli policies or the issue of West Bank settlements. It is an economic war waged to destroy the Jewish state and is morally indistinguishable from more traditional forms of anti-Semitism that do not disguise themselves in the fancy dress of academic discourse.
In the New York Post last week, John wrote an excellent piece on the latest union-taxpayer showdown in New York City–the school bus driver strike that began earlier this month. This battle, like many across the country for oversized compensation for unionized workers that outpaces a municipality’s ability to pay, could shape the financial future of New York City for years to come. In the Post John explained,
You should watch this one closely, whether you have kids who’ve been kicked off a bus or not, because it’s a sneak preview of what is likely to be coming over the next decade in municipalities across the country.
These workers aren’t city employees. They work for private companies. The city’s contracts with those companies are up in June. The city plans to bid out the work.
It has to. You want it to. Trust me: Under the terms of the current contracts, providing this bus service costs — I hope you’re sitting down before you read this next clause — $7,000 a year per passenger.
That’s seven grand per kid.
In April of last year, I mentioned that although former city comptroller Bill Thompson had run a surprisingly close race against New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2009–despite being vastly underfunded and written off by the national Democratic Party–heading into this year’s race to replace Bloomberg, Thompson quickly found himself the underdog. The presumed frontrunner was (and is) City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
I noted that one major difference between the two was in their respective approaches to the New York City Police Department amid the controversy over the city’s effective “stop and frisk” tactics that helped improve safety in some dangerous neighborhoods. Thompson threatened to fire Police Commissioner Ray Kelly; Quinn recognized the good work of the NYPD, though she expressed modest reservations about “stop and frisk.” I suggested voters would be prepared to punish Thompson and that his position on the NYPD was hurting his poll numbers. Today Quinnipiac released the results of a survey whose findings buttress my argument considerably:
In December, I wrote about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempts to find a big-name successor, which focused on Hillary Clinton. Clinton is at the very least keeping her options open for a possible 2016 presidential run, which would have to start far too early to take on a responsibility like running New York City. But according to a report in the New York Times today, Bloomberg has been a one-man search committee, floating not just Clinton but also Ed Rendell, Mortimer Zuckerman, Chuck Schumer, and former Bloomberg deputy Edward Skyler.
That’s quite a list, and says much about how Bloomberg views the job. New York City is the media capital of the world, the front lines of 21st century homeland security, and a powerhouse when it comes to urban policymaking, especially with regard to fighting crime. There’s a reason that, as Rendell put it to the Times, he often hears it described as “the second most difficult job in the country.” There’s no doubt Bloomberg believes this–after all, he’s been in office three terms and still hasn’t gotten it right. But Bloomberg’s opinion of what it takes to run the city diverges both with precedent and the judgment of New Yorkers.
In a 2009 story about the succession of the Dalai Lama, the New York Times reported that the “search for the present Dalai Lama commenced in earnest in 1935 when the embalmed head of his deceased predecessor is said to have wheeled around and pointed toward northeastern Tibet.” The Times continued: “Then, the story goes, a giant, star-shaped fungus grew overnight on the east side of the tomb. An auspicious cloud bank formed and a regent saw a vision of letters floating in a mystical lake, one of which — Ah — he took to refer to the northeast province of Amdo,” where a young child was found and determined to be the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.
Though not quite so fanciful and dramatic, the search for the next mayor of New York City, after two very high-profile mayors who became national figures, sometimes attracts a disproportionate amount of intrigue and suspense. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is alive and well, but he, too, turned his head in an attempt to guide his people to their next leader–and apparently fixed his gaze on Foggy Bottom. The Times reports today:
So, exactly what should Chris Christie have said and done when the president of the United States came to New Jersey to see the devastation after Sandy?
Given Obama a Rabin-to-Arafat style, I’m-forced-to-shake-your-hand-but-I’m-going-to-go-soak-mine-in-Clorox-afterwards greeting?
Said, “Thanks for dropping by, Barry. But I’m a Romney guy, and I can’t support your tax-and-spend domestic policy or your lily-livered foreign policy, so don’t let the door hit you on the way out”?
Oh, come on.
Questions surrounding any public crisis hew closely to the schedule of the crisis itself. So when Hurricane Sandy was approaching the East Coast last week, everyone wanted to know whether the affected areas were adequately prepared. During the storm itself, people wondered what the damage was going to be. And in the wake of the storm, all attention is paid to reaction and recovery efforts. Since those efforts now appear to have hit some unexpected problems, it’s natural that the earlier questions have receded to the background.
But they shouldn’t be forgotten. Because for all the comparisons of Michael Bloomberg to Rudy Giuliani, who led New York—and the nation—through the early hours after 9/11, it’s worth recalling that a big part of the reason Giuliani responded so well was because he was intent on getting the city and its employees ready for anything. When that “anything” struck, as it did a couple of times in Giuliani’s tenure, America’s Mayor struck back. It is here, too, where Bloomberg fails spectacularly to fill the shoes of Rudy Giuliani.
For New Yorkers, the suffering of Sandy is everywhere and is still far from over. The election is four days away and the national media has largely shifted its concern from the heartache on the East Coast to the presidential race. The horror stories are growing, and at the same time, growing more silent because of a distracted press.
Yesterday, while Mayor Mike Bloomberg, was promoting his endorsement of President Obama, his city within a city, trapped in darkness, dissolved further into darkness. Residents of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island have been battered. They have no power, no gas to run their cars or generators (if they have them, most do not), no cell phone power to contact their families, almost no access to public transportation and very tenuous access to clean water and food. Many are watching the situation devolve into a Katrina-like scenario, but on a wider scale.
What to make of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to wait until there were five days left before the election before endorsing President Obama’s re-election? The ostensible motivation for the move, announced in an op-ed published today in Bloomberg’s own news website, is the mayor’s reaction to Hurricane Sandy, which he says he believes was the result of climate change. Since Obama buys into the same global warming agenda, which calls for major government interventions into the economy in order to stave off the perceived danger, Bloomberg says that is enough to convince him to back the president even though he disdains his economic agenda and thinks him a weak leader.
Fair enough. If Bloomberg really believes his climate agenda is the No. 1 issue facing the country, rather than the economy or even foreign policy, that is his choice. But it’s hard to see how Bloomberg’s decision will do the president much good. Had the billionaire mayor/mogul backed the president earlier in the process, his financial help via the super PAC he created might have done the president some real good. But even in an age when celebrity/political endorsements are seen as inconsequential, Bloomberg’s will carry even less weight than most. The unpopular mayor won’t impact the outcome in deep blue New York or anywhere else. Nor is it likely that independents who are flocking to Romney because of Obama’s economic failures will change their minds because the former Democrat/Republican wrote an equivocal endorsement on the website named after him. The move is strictly about Bloomberg’s desire for attention.