What to Like About Mike
The directional arrows all point in the same startling direction: a 27.8 percent increase over 2002 in those students exceeding state mathematics standards and a 16 percent improvement at the lowest level in that period, with strong gains among black and Hispanic students; and high school graduation rates at the highest in decades. There are many more charter schools, and Bloomberg has won funding for the largest-ever school construction program.
Race. While black and Hispanic leaders felt locked out of Giuliani's City Hall, Bloomberg early on sent a message that he would be open to dealing with them. Race relations have improved dramaticallyeven an inordinately violent police shooting of a black man has been managed without a typical public explosion.
Public health. Bloomberg is probably best known for banning smoking in bars and restaurants. Cynicism and criticism followed. Now the Bloomberg rules have been adopted by many cities in America and around the world; similarly, his restaurant ban on trans fats, which are believed to cause heart disease.
Politics. Bloomberg won a landslide re-election. In a recent Daily News poll, "Mayor Mike" was chosen overwhelmingly as a more effective mayor than Rudy Giuliani by 56 percent to 29 percent.
In short, a great mayor. He has a level of national recognition; he has been on the cover of U.S. News and Time magazine. There is certainly an opening for such a smart, effective leader who is focused less on winning easy headlines than on tackling long-term issues. Some 73 percent of Americans think we are on the "wrong track," and there's dissatisfaction with both main parties.
If the primaries do what they frequently do and squeeze out the moderates, there may be an ideal condition for a third-party candidacy, given that independents are the fastest-growing and most frustrated segment of the electorate. He tends to mock himself by doubting whether the country is ready for a short, divorced, Jewish billionaire.
Forget it. The country is looking for leadership and will judge on that issuenot looks, marital status, or vertical inches. He could go to the country with the following unique message: "My father never earned more than $11,000 a year. I have had a different experience in this land of opportunity and have tried to reflect that through a lifetime of public philanthropy and public servicebut public service of a particular kind. I paid for every penny of my two political campaigns for the mayoralty of New York, and I will do so were I to run for the presidency. I would not take one penny, one nickel, one dime, one quarter, or one dollar from any of the financial interests or lobbyists whose financial contributions have given them an undue role in the legislative process under both parties that has produced a system of legal corruption through the dependency of our candidates on their financial contributors, not to speak of the illegal bribery of politicians. You won't get that under a Bloomberg administration."
A Bloomberg third-party run is not without vulnerabilities. He lacks national security experience, not a trivial weakness in an age of terrorism. Here he would have to hire an outstanding team. He has one great advantage. Given that his wealth enables him to delay a decision until after the national primary on February 5, he could then run as a fresh face and not the stale candidate.
In any event, a Bloomberg candidacy would set campaign '08 on fire.