Commentary Magazine


Topic: New York mayoral election

Bloomberg’s de Blasio Disaster Foretold

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s comments in an interview published over the weekend “shook up” the race to succeed him, as the Wall Street Journal describes it. Bloomberg took issue with what he thought has been an overly class- and race-based campaign by the current Democratic primary frontrunner, Bill de Blasio. While that may sound like exactly the sort of campaign a modern liberal Democrat would run–especially in New York City, where identity politics predominate–the charge was actually unfair.

What’s more, Bloomberg seemed realize this as he said it, as his explanation for his comments indicates:

Mr. Bloomberg said in the interview published Saturday in New York magazine that he thought Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, the front-runner, was running a “class-warfare and racist” campaign because he had persistently highlighted income inequality and his biracial family. Mr. de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, is African-American.

“I mean he’s making an appeal using his family to gain support. I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone watching what he’s been doing. I do not think he himself is racist,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “It’s comparable to me pointing out I’m Jewish in attracting the Jewish vote. You tailor messages to your audiences and address issues you think your audience cares about.”

Not to split hairs, but it’s not quite like Bloomberg pointing out his Jewish background. De Blasio isn’t black; given the degree of controversy over race-related issues both in the city and the country recently, it’s not outrageous at all that de Blasio would feel compelled to demonstrate that he can understand issues facing the African-American community through personal connection.

At any rate, what you sense from Bloomberg is frustration, not outrage. I don’t think Bloomberg cares about ethnic political appeals by de Blasio or anyone else. What most likely bothers him much more is that de Blasio appears to be a disaster waiting to happen. His ideas for the city range from the terrible to the dangerous. De Blasio is leading the “Dinkins Democrats,” as I referred to them here.

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New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s comments in an interview published over the weekend “shook up” the race to succeed him, as the Wall Street Journal describes it. Bloomberg took issue with what he thought has been an overly class- and race-based campaign by the current Democratic primary frontrunner, Bill de Blasio. While that may sound like exactly the sort of campaign a modern liberal Democrat would run–especially in New York City, where identity politics predominate–the charge was actually unfair.

What’s more, Bloomberg seemed realize this as he said it, as his explanation for his comments indicates:

Mr. Bloomberg said in the interview published Saturday in New York magazine that he thought Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, the front-runner, was running a “class-warfare and racist” campaign because he had persistently highlighted income inequality and his biracial family. Mr. de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, is African-American.

“I mean he’s making an appeal using his family to gain support. I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone watching what he’s been doing. I do not think he himself is racist,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “It’s comparable to me pointing out I’m Jewish in attracting the Jewish vote. You tailor messages to your audiences and address issues you think your audience cares about.”

Not to split hairs, but it’s not quite like Bloomberg pointing out his Jewish background. De Blasio isn’t black; given the degree of controversy over race-related issues both in the city and the country recently, it’s not outrageous at all that de Blasio would feel compelled to demonstrate that he can understand issues facing the African-American community through personal connection.

At any rate, what you sense from Bloomberg is frustration, not outrage. I don’t think Bloomberg cares about ethnic political appeals by de Blasio or anyone else. What most likely bothers him much more is that de Blasio appears to be a disaster waiting to happen. His ideas for the city range from the terrible to the dangerous. De Blasio is leading the “Dinkins Democrats,” as I referred to them here.

De Blasio attacked rival candidate Christine Quinn for her qualified support for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, whose leadership of the NYPD has helped keep the city safe and make it a model for the rest of the country. Kelly’s name has even been floated to run the federal Department of Homeland Security, a suggestion supported by Republicans and Democrats. De Blasio’s idea of city governance is to locate what has worked in the past–a focus on safe streets and a pro-business atmosphere that has enabled the city to rake in the tax revenue that keeps services running and the social safety net intact–and promise to shred it.

So, if de Blasio is such an irresponsible choice for mayor–and to be fair, he may not intend to keep his promises (threats?) if he wins the election–why would he win in the first place? The answer is because a meager minority of Democratic primary voters will choose the Democratic nominee tomorrow, and because of the Democrats’ partisan advantage in the city that party’s nominee will become the favorite–though far from guaranteed victor–in the general election.

And de Blasio is poised to take a commanding lead into the primary because of the weakness of the rest of the field. Anthony Weiner has cratered in the polls after new scandals arose and he began speaking in a British accent and taunting elderly voters. (A strange, but perhaps not too unexpected, sentence to write.) That left the election without a traditional candidate from the boroughs, putting Queens in play and giving an advantage to the Brooklyn-based de Blasio.

Bill Thompson is another candidate whose weak poll standing has always hidden his strength in a second-round runoff, which takes place if no candidate gets 40 percent of the vote. And of course there is the once-putative frontrunner, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has been startlingly unable to connect with voters and has run a campaign that suggests she never took her competition too seriously, inexcusably in the case of Thompson.

And that brings us back to Bloomberg. The mayor had tentatively sided with Quinn as his successor, but that was only among the likely candidates. He spent his final term in office undermining any credibility Quinn had by desperately casting about for a different successor. He was even willing to import one; he reportedly asked Hillary Clinton and Ed Rendell to run.

The whole circus left the impression that Bloomberg feared leaving his legacy in Quinn’s hands. But the recent Democratic primary contest suggests he feared a Quinn candidacy, not a Quinn mayoralty. He might have expected Quinn to fumble the handoff, which is exactly what happened. If that’s the case, Bloomberg gets points for prescience.

It’s surely possible Quinn could still win, of course. If there’s a runoff, the calculus changes–though, it should be noted, probably not to Quinn’s benefit, demographically. There is some irony here for Quinn. She ran to the left once she saw her rivals do so. That was probably a mistake, and it could cost her the election. Had she secured her place as the “responsible” Democrat, she could have portrayed de Blasio as the extreme candidate he is–well-meaning but eminently naïve and dangerous if given a job with real citywide responsibility, which he has never had.

Instead, Quinn may have convinced voters that there wasn’t enough daylight between her and de Blasio ideologically to make much of a difference. At that point, the election becomes solely about personality and, yes, identity politics. That’s where Bloomberg’s frustration finally boiled over, because that’s where Quinn is most likely to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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The NYC Mayoral Election and Public Safety

In one of its several reaction stories on yesterday’s irredeemably shoddy judicial ruling against the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactic, the New York Times calls attention to the sudden relevance of the mayoral candidates to this court case. The administration of Michael Bloomberg is appealing the ruling, but the Times points out that it is likely Bloomberg’s term in office will end before the appeals process does. So the Times explains how various New York mayoral candidates would handle it.

The Republican candidates, Joseph Lhota and John Catsimatidis, both said they would continue Bloomberg’s fight to keep the city’s minority neighborhoods safe. That was in stark contrast to the Democratic candidates, who seemed to be in general agreement that confused judicial activists, instead of criminal justice experts or concerns for public safety, should drive police policy. They seem worried, in fact, that the city might win its appeal and thus rather than be advocates of the city and its residents, they want to stop the process in its tracks:

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In one of its several reaction stories on yesterday’s irredeemably shoddy judicial ruling against the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactic, the New York Times calls attention to the sudden relevance of the mayoral candidates to this court case. The administration of Michael Bloomberg is appealing the ruling, but the Times points out that it is likely Bloomberg’s term in office will end before the appeals process does. So the Times explains how various New York mayoral candidates would handle it.

The Republican candidates, Joseph Lhota and John Catsimatidis, both said they would continue Bloomberg’s fight to keep the city’s minority neighborhoods safe. That was in stark contrast to the Democratic candidates, who seemed to be in general agreement that confused judicial activists, instead of criminal justice experts or concerns for public safety, should drive police policy. They seem worried, in fact, that the city might win its appeal and thus rather than be advocates of the city and its residents, they want to stop the process in its tracks:

Four Democrats vying to succeed Mr. Bloomberg pledged on Monday to overhaul the stop-and-frisk tactic and end the city’s appeal of the decision if elected: Bill de Blasio, the public advocate; John C. Liu, the city comptroller; Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker; and William C. Thompson Jr., a former city comptroller….

While many of the Democratic candidates have said they would work to decrease the frequency of stops, they have not said exactly how they would overhaul the stop-and-frisk practice.

The exception is Mr. Liu, who has called for banning the tactic entirely.

That follows the phenomenon I wrote about yesterday, in which liberal demagogues assail the police but admit to not having any constructive alternative ideas. It may sound dangerous to advocate for tearing down the system of public safety without so much as a backup plan for what replaces it, but all the Democratic candidates appear to believe the current weakness of the city’s Republican Party means that Democrats can make the breakdown of the social order their election platform and still win.

Heather Mac Donald writes today in the New York Post that the anti-NYPD campaign requires a denial of observable reality. As if on cue to confirm Mac Donald’s framing, the Times publishes a “news analysis” today as well, which seeks to connect the stop-and-frisk ruling and the recent announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder that federal prosecutors would not pursue mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses:

Two decisions Monday, one by a federal judge in New York and the other by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., were powerful signals that the pendulum has swung away from the tough-on-crime policies of a generation ago. Those policies have been denounced as discriminatory and responsible for explosive growth in the prison population.

But that is either completely wrong or a convenient sleight of hand to fool the reader into buying the fabricated connection. It’s true that mandatory minimums prevent the justice system from adapting to the times and from using discretion and judgment in the pursuit of criminals. There has been bipartisan support for reforming or suspending mandatory minimums, and the process certainly has resulted in the disproportionate incarceration of minority males.

But stop-and-frisk does not belong in that category. The tactic seeks to prevent crimes and therefore to prevent incarceration. Not only are minorities in the city safer because of stop-and-frisk, but the proactive approach to crime prevention is a useful tool in seeking to reduce the prison population. Indeed, as I noted yesterday, Judge Shira Scheindlin’s ridiculous ruling was based in part on the fact that the police were arresting so few of the men subject to stops.

It was suspicious, Scheindlin claimed, that the police didn’t seem to be arresting anyone. That, of course, is the point: stop-and-frisk gets illegal guns off the street and suppresses criminal activity. If you can prevent violent crime, there is no need to arrest anyone for those nonexistent crimes. It is absurd, then, for the Times to pair Scheindlin’s ruling with mandatory minimums. Scheindlin’s ruling makes it far more likely that incarceration will increase.

Scheindlin’s idea of policing–shared, according to the Times, by the Democratic candidates–would take young males out of the local economy, break up families, and bring increases in crime. Any resulting middle-class flight would hurt the city’s tax base and thus the services that the city’s poor rely on, as well as drive up prices in the receiving neighborhoods, further pricing the non-wealthy out of the city. It’s a cycle New York, like the country’s other major cities, has experienced before. And it’s a cycle that liberal judicial activists and the city’s Democratic mayoral candidates are apparently ready to inflict on the city once again.

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Was Weiner Ethically Obliged Not to Run?

Today’s New York Times story on the continuing harassment and humiliation of the women at the center of the Anthony Weiner scandal is a play in two acts. Two weeks ago the Times first posted the story, but it was immediately taken off the website and replaced with a production note: “An article was posted on this page inadvertently, before it was ready for publication.”

The Times declined to comment further in response to Politico’s inquiries, but pointed readers to a post by the Times’s public editor, explaining: “From what I’ve been able to piece together, there was a miscommunication among Times editors. Some thought the article was ready to go, and sent it on through the editorial production cycle. At least one other editor — higher up on the food chain — disagreed about its readiness and did not intend it to be published, at least not at that point.”

Yet as time went by, the story didn’t reemerge on the paper’s website. So Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski used Google searches to try to piece together the story, and published his findings yesterday. You can probably guess what happened next: the Times immediately published the article–for good (it appears), denying, of course, that their decision had anything to do with Kaczynski’s piece. The result is that the former liberal hero Weiner’s coverage in the Times goes from bad to worse.

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Today’s New York Times story on the continuing harassment and humiliation of the women at the center of the Anthony Weiner scandal is a play in two acts. Two weeks ago the Times first posted the story, but it was immediately taken off the website and replaced with a production note: “An article was posted on this page inadvertently, before it was ready for publication.”

The Times declined to comment further in response to Politico’s inquiries, but pointed readers to a post by the Times’s public editor, explaining: “From what I’ve been able to piece together, there was a miscommunication among Times editors. Some thought the article was ready to go, and sent it on through the editorial production cycle. At least one other editor — higher up on the food chain — disagreed about its readiness and did not intend it to be published, at least not at that point.”

Yet as time went by, the story didn’t reemerge on the paper’s website. So Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski used Google searches to try to piece together the story, and published his findings yesterday. You can probably guess what happened next: the Times immediately published the article–for good (it appears), denying, of course, that their decision had anything to do with Kaczynski’s piece. The result is that the former liberal hero Weiner’s coverage in the Times goes from bad to worse.

Whereas the June 12 Times article explained to readers that Weiner was a vicious, shallow, disloyal, and ineffectual congressman, today’s reminds readers that his sexting scandal was not just about him. And he’s not the only one trying to put this incident in the past. The headline is “For Women in Weiner Scandal, Indignity Lingers,” and the story reads as if the intent is to shame Weiner for running for mayor:

Anthony D. Weiner’s improbable campaign for mayor of New York City is a wager that voters have made peace with his lewd online behavior, a subject he has largely left behind as he roils the race with his aggressive debating style and his attention-getting policy proposals.

But for the women who were on the other end of Mr. Weiner’s sexually explicit conversations and photographs, his candidacy is an unwanted reminder of a scandal that has upended their lives in ways big and small, cutting short careers, disrupting educations and damaging reputations.

It should be noted that for some of these women the scandal is the result of choices they have made. They knew who Weiner was when they got involved with him, and presumably knew the risks. For one of them, Weiner’s political star power was much of the draw. But that’s not true of all the women. One young college student said she only talked politics with him, and that she “was shocked by his unwanted advance.” And then Weiner made a famous misstep:

When Mr. Weiner inadvertently posted the image publicly on Twitter, the Internet quickly rendered its own verdict, branding Ms. Cordova, incorrectly, she says, a participant in his online dalliances. The news media dug up Ms. Cordova’s old yearbooks and sifted through police records, publicizing her youthful indiscretions. The attention prompted her to withdraw from academic classes. She moved from Seattle to New York City, before Mr. Weiner’s decision to run for mayor, eager to leave a place where she had become known for her ties to the unfolding drama.

But, with Mr. Weiner back in the spotlight, the story has followed her across the country. A few weeks ago, a reporter showed up, unannounced, at her office, asking her about Mr. Weiner.

You can argue that if Cordova wanted to get away from the attention brought on by her association with Anthony Weiner, moving from Seattle to New York City–Weiner’s home town and the media capital of the world–wasn’t the best choice. But Cordova at least seems to have wanted neither the lascivious attention of Anthony Weiner nor the prying attention of the news media. One of the other women involved, who exchanged explicit messages with the former congressman and is now writing a book about it, is a far less sympathetic figure in this story.

Another of the women, a former adult film actress, asked Weiner not to run for mayor because of the story. That brings up an interesting question: Does Anthony Weiner have a responsibility to these women to stay out of the limelight? The answer with regard to the women who sought Weiner’s affections and now the publicity of a book tour is clearly no. But what about the others?

I suppose that’s one question the voters of New York City will answer in the fall election. They may think–as the Times seems to–that Weiner is humiliating these women all over again to feed his own ego and desire for power. But the election will truly test how difficult it is to regain political stature after a sex scandal. Weiner has admitted that there are more lewd photos out there, which means the mayoral election won’t take place after the scandal, but amid the scandal. If he’s elected in those conditions, it will prove voters to be forgiving and the rest of the field of candidates to be even less formidable than they seemed.

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A Devastating Portrait of Anthony Weiner’s Time in Congress

Politicians whose careers get sidetracked by sex scandals often find their way back to political redemption in part because voters tend to compartmentalize the officeholder’s legislative responsibilities and his personal life. The two aren’t always so separable; Republican former South Carolina governor and now Congressman Mark Sanford’s infidelity was matched by the irresponsibility of his skipping out of the state unannounced to meet his girlfriend.

Voters in New York have yet to decide if they’re ready to let Democratic former congressman and current mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner come in from the cold after his own sex scandal precipitated his resignation from Congress. Voters may be considering whether the scandal is relevant to Weiner’s political qualifications. It is. And for a more fundamental issue than Weiner’s penchant for dishonesty and blaming others. The New York Times, in a devastating analysis today, explains why:

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Politicians whose careers get sidetracked by sex scandals often find their way back to political redemption in part because voters tend to compartmentalize the officeholder’s legislative responsibilities and his personal life. The two aren’t always so separable; Republican former South Carolina governor and now Congressman Mark Sanford’s infidelity was matched by the irresponsibility of his skipping out of the state unannounced to meet his girlfriend.

Voters in New York have yet to decide if they’re ready to let Democratic former congressman and current mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner come in from the cold after his own sex scandal precipitated his resignation from Congress. Voters may be considering whether the scandal is relevant to Weiner’s political qualifications. It is. And for a more fundamental issue than Weiner’s penchant for dishonesty and blaming others. The New York Times, in a devastating analysis today, explains why:

When President Obama needed every Democrat in Congress to back his health care plan in 2009, Representative Anthony D. Weiner threatened behind the scenes to torpedo the package in favor of a more sweeping measure. He backed off after he was promised a bigger share of the spotlight during the highly watched debate.

The previous year, when advocates of immigration reform invited Mr. Weiner to a round-table discussion with business leaders and more senior New York City members of Congress, he demanded to turn it into a hearing, featuring himself in a gavel-wielding role. Rebuffed, he failed to show up.

In 12 ½ years in Congress, he sponsored and wrote only one bill that he steered to enactment: a measure pushed by a family friend who gave his campaigns tens of thousands of dollars in donations.

And those are just the first three paragraphs. Anthony Weiner’s boundless self-regard and complete lack of self-control combine to make him a volatile, nasty, and particularly ineffective legislator. He had become in some quarters a liberal hero for his grandstanding and his yelling on the House floor. And he may have meant it. But he was not there as a representative of the people or their interests; he was there because that’s where the cameras could catch his one-man reality show.

The Times article includes speculation from those who worked with Weiner that all this attention-getting was about raising his profile to eventually run for mayor of New York City. That is unproven, but certainly believable. Had he stayed in Congress scandal-free, he would have been the favorite in this year’s election. He is, in New York political parlance, “from the boroughs”–a reference to his ethnic outer-borough roots and a major advantage in the world of New York City identity politics over the current frontrunner, Christine Quinn of Manhattan. It was generally assumed that he wanted to be mayor more than he wanted to be a congressman.

And that might explain, though not excuse, his disinterest in his congressional day job. He was biding his time. But the more likely explanation is that Weiner must feed his ego. As one former colleague, Ohio Democrat Zachary T. Space, told the Times: “It was like he had a megaphone surgically attached to his mouth.” Aides complained about his temper and colleagues about his disloyalty. He drove people crazy and he drove them away.

Put simply, it’s a temperament issue. The sex scandal was the seemingly inevitable product of the same temperament that made him a poor representative of the people of New York the last time they elected him. Recasting himself as a family man won’t change that.

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