In the wake of the dust-up of Don Imus' racist remarks against the Rutgers Women's basketball team, a number of people showed themselves predictably tone-deaf on the race issue. Rush Limbaugh, Hannity, and other bats in the right-wing cave remained characteristically upside down and without light, opting to distract the discourse to hip-hop music or other topics, lest their own records on the race issue become subject to too much sunlight before an angry public. And some politicians got a little stuck to the fly-paper, like the sinking ship of the John McCain campaign, and the curious waffling of John Kerry, not directly refusing to go on the program.
But almost lost in the background noise is the extremly curious, unprovoked, attack by New York City Mayor (Jump the Hudson River here!)
Michael Bloomberg against neighboring New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, badly hurt in a car crash as he was speeding at 91-miles per hour on the Garden State Parkway on his way to meet with both the Rutgers Women's Basketball team and now-fired shock jock Don Imus. In a press conference, Bloomie, in a rather calculated way, made a point of criticizing Corzine for reportedly not wearing a seat belt, and, in effect, rushing there "just for a photo op." Aside from the blatant falsehood of the statement, little examined in the halls of the usual array of media pundits, it betrayed an attitude on the part of the Mayor that he seems to be stone-cold deaf on the issue of race.
That has some significance for at least two reasons:
1) He has harbored some aspirations for running for president. His current term as NYC mayor runs to 2010, but, given his age, 2008 might be the year to try. And, having spent some $74 million of his own money getting elected as NYC mayor, he could self-fund a significant portion of a presidential bid. So far, he has not denied that he will run. And tabloid media sleazeball Rupert Murdoch has even said he would back Bloomie for the presidency, which could generate lots of future photo-ops for Mike guaranteed to appear in supermarket checkout counters everywhere (Daily Intelligencer, 3-3-2207).
2)Before the Imus controversy, there was a huge outcry in NYC over the 50 plus bullets fired into Sean Bell, who was leaving a bar from his batchelor party, unarmed, and was shot to death by undercover and then uniformed police officers. Sean Bell was black, and some of the police officers in the shooting were black, but it still struck a raw nerve in the community as the apparantly excessive number of shots fired smacked of racism. Community leaders called for the firing of NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, and Bloomie turned a deaf ear to their complaints.
In short, Bloomie may yet decide to try to buy the presidency, yet he seems to be going out of his way to make a public display of indifference to the black community. Is this the kind of "character" voters would like to see in a presidential candidate. IMO, Bloomie's snub of Corzine as "chasing a photo-op" seems less calculated to hurt Corzine--a fellow Wall Streeter and Salomon Brothers manager--and more designed to send a political signal. But, to whom?
One answer may have to do with securing the base of hard-core Republicans, for both New York City politics, and national politics. In an illuminating article not quoted often enough, Village Voice reporter Tom Robbins did an article in his paper titled "Bloomberg's tainted outer-borough ally,"(Village Voice 10-18-2005). Two items are noteworthy from the article: That Staten Island provided more than enough votes for Bloomie to win the mayor's race; and that the Staten Island pols
are alleged to have links--named in the article--with organized crime.
At the same time, two of the other boroughs, Brooklyn and Queens in particular, is suffering a rate of bankruptcy from sub-prime loans so high that it has brough Queens to national attention. Add to that that Queens is second only to one county in Texas in the depth of poverty, nation-wide. Bloomie's attitude is a low-key variety of Marie Antoinette's "let-them-eat cake," i.e. the laissez faire stance that the bankruptcies are the "free market at work" (Daily Intelligencer, 3030-2007).
If you take a look at the mayor's long term plan, it openly states that downtown NYC (read Wall Street) is the centerpiece of planning efforts (NYC.gov, Bloomberg's speech on the office of long-term planning and sustainability's plan, 2-26-2007). Loosely translated, it involves 300 neighborhood councils more or less co-operating in gentrification. Anyone with a speculative bent can see that this means soaring real estate values both downtown, and in residential areas that are a short commute from Wall Street, such as, Staten Island! The potential for real estate windfalls is certainly there, for those with the available cash to capitalize on the opportunity. By the same token, those without will be forced to give way to those with cash-on-hand. There is a large potential transfer of wealth about to take place, in NYC real estate.
Bloomie is hardly one to criticize another politician for pursuing "photo-ops." He's stood before the camera at the annual stickball competition between the NYC Police Dept. and the NYC Fire Dept. And, BTW, imitating Bush by then promptly implementing policies that are the opposite of what seems to be going on in the photo-op. Thus, the stickball appearance did neither the police or firemen much good when Bloomie cut death benefits for both groups, the ones who dug out Ground Zero to make the Wall Street redevelopment possible, reducing death benefits from 100 percent to 50 percent (Officer.com, reprinting a New York Post article by Carl Campanile and David Seifer 10-20-2006).
In fact, Bloomie has developed a reputation as a stumblebum in the photo-op area. Governing.com did a whole story on Mike for Mayor's photo-bungles, titled How Bloomberg Flubs his photo-ops( August 2004). The howler that got the most prominent mention was when there was a need to find some shelter for the homeless, when green-eyeshade Mike offered a vacant prison facility, setting off howls of protest in the community, shocked at how unaware Upper East Side Mike was tone-deaf to the symbolism of putting free citizens (some of color) into a prison facility.
Then there was the photo-op where Mike opposed a transportation union contract (big surprise) and showed up at the press conference with his "impromptu" substitute transportation, a $540 mountain bike, promply dubbed by the union Mike's "strike bike." And when there was a known terror threat against the subway system, Mike used a photo op to show him riding the subway, probably intended to instill confidence, but inspiring questions like: what was he thinking?
Granted, Bloomberg hasn't yet escalated his level of consistent faux pax to the level of George W. Bush--the aircraft carrier photo-op to announce the end of major combat operations in Iraq--nearly $1 Trillion ago. Or the mid-level bungles, as when Bush was shown to fake the levee repairs for a photo-op on 9-3-2006, chronicled on AmericaBlog. Or even the routine W mishaps, such as a wide-angle lens photo on 9-11-2006, published right here on Daily Kos, that showed just how phoney the stagecraft of W and Laura looked, as the tight shot looked important and the wide angle lens shot showed them almost entirely alone.
Yet, in the eyes of the National Rifle Association, Bloomberg has been accused of being anti-gun, pressing some 240 big city mayors into a conference on problems of big cities, stressing an agenda of no-smoking, control of illegal handguns, and disease reduction in the area of AIDS, diabetes and obesity (no-trans fats in restaurants). Students of power politics (read Machiavelli) would view this as an attempt to build a national power base (perhaps for a presidential bid); cynics might see it as a way of improving cities so that values would increase on their tax-free bonds; but the NRA sees is as not much more than a "photo-op." So, readers, the point of this paragraph is to draw the contrast between Corzine's ill-fated trip to Rutgers to talk with the basketball team and shock jock Don Imus (which only Bloomberg called a photo op), and the work that went into the big city mayors' conference, which of course yielded its own photo-0p for Mayor Mike.
IMO, Bloomie not only demeaned himself by criticizing Corzine, and the meeting at Rutgers, but opened the curtain a bit on just how cold-blooded he really is. Americans had a glimpse of it when the [protestors tried to demonstrate at the Democratic Convention in New York City. Years later, we learn that the Mayor and the Police Commissioner had undercover operatives working The Entire United States, spying illegally on church groups, anti war protestors, and quite possibly acting as agents provacateurs, attempting to entrap people into committing crimes they would not otherwise have even thought of.
Bloomberg has tried to escalate the photo-op charge also against Nancy Pelosi, the first female speaker of the House of Representatives, who of course is a Democrat, and even the Democrat who said (much to the groans of many Democrats) that impeachment was off the table. Bloomie ventured the photo-op slime-term in connection with Pelosi's visit to Syria, which of course was an attempt to moderate the impending neo-con induced saber-rattling widely expected to presage another first-strike policy disaster in a war with Iran.
Bloomie, reportedly more comfortable doing a powerpoint presentation than mingling with real people, has publicly expressed concern at various times that his aloof demeanor would not help him in the rough and tumble of street-level retail politics. With so many Democrats in the presidential race, doing so well in the polls, Mike for Mayor's latest photo-op slime comment against Corzine might be a bit of sour grapes, as he sees Guiliani in the Repub Party (inexplicably, I might add, to those of us in the Metro NYC area who saw his crackdown on poor people in general) actually edging toward the brass ring. But is also shows quite a bit of what Real Republicans vehemently deny--that they are mean spirited.
IMO, the next time Bloomie tries to apply the photo-op charge to another Democratic candidate for president, all they have to do is refer back to another Bloomie faux pas (see his bio on Wikipedia). On his drivers license, it says, Mike lists his height as 5 ft 10 inches, whereas Wikipedia says even 5'7'' would be a generous assessment. If he lies at such a small, basic "photo-op" as a driver's license (More shocking when you consider that he is an Eagle Scout), then it raises questions on what else he would bend the truth on. His criticism of Corzine may have played well in Staten Island (Hannity country), but it showed just how callous Mike really is on the race issue.
If Mike gets the itch to run for president, this issue should definitely be on the table.