Mayor Mute

Bloomberg gives Bush a four-year pass at city's expense

Even before the war, Bloomberg brought his mother and daughter to the United Nations, where he addressed the General Assembly a day after Bush did in September 2002. Echoing Bush's warnings that the U.S. would go it alone if the U.N. didn't act, Bloomberg "praised" Bush's war on terror "and offered support for an attack on Iraq," according to the Daily News. "Freedom comes at a price, and tragically, sometimes that price is the commitment to defend freedom by arms," said the mayor whose claim of flat feet kept him out of the Vietnam War. "America has been, is, and always will be willing to do its duty—to sacrifice even its own blood, so that people everywhere can live as individuals responsible for their own destinies." The News reported that he "never mentioned Iraq by name, but sources later confirmed that was the nation he was referring to."

Shortly after the successful invasion, on June 1, 2003, Bloomberg appeared at the breakfast before the Salute to Israel Parade and told an audience of hundreds that Bush was "the best president for Israel in history," a comment that went unreported in the press. He reiterated this implicit linkage between the war and Israel during the 2004 convention, when the Times reported that "the mayor said he backs Bush's approach to terrorism and Israel," and then quoted a Bloomberg aide who'd told the Bushies: "Don't put us on Crossfire to talk about Iraq." Of course, Bloomberg greeted Bush in the convention's opening speech by declaring: "The president deserves our support. We are here to support him, and I am here to support him."

Every time Bloomberg speaks at the funeral of a fallen soldier from New York, he can't find a way to salute the sacrifice without saluting the war itself. "He died bringing the blessings of liberty to the people of Iraq" is a virtually standard line, with early add-ons like: "Every New Yorker knows how important it is to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists and terrorist states." When pressed in August about his overall stance, he finally said: "I think everybody has very mixed emotions about the war that was started to find weapons of mass destruction and then they were not found." In this first and only indication that his feelings were mixed, he also suggested again the invidious linkage he'd offered at Laura Bush's side: "I do know that we were attacked here and I do know it is a dangerous part of the world." Asked if Bush was "dishonest" about weapons of mass destruction, Bloomberg said: "I don't have any idea."


This track record on Iraq is a far better indicator of his acquiescence to the White House than his recent breaks on the John Roberts nomination and Bush's waiving of prevailing wage requirements in the Katrina cleanup. In fact, he's been as meticulously uncritical about the president's handling of the Katrina disaster as he has been about bin Laden and Iraq, merely repeating Bush's admission that the initial response was "inadequate." He was even silent when Bush and the Republicans in Congress froze transit-security funding and slashed first-responder aid in the middle of the recent subway terror alert.

He prefers, as the Times reported, "slipping in and out of a service entrance" while attending a February 2004 fundraiser with Karl Rove. He prefers sitting "in the shadows" in a limo with the president outside Madison Square Garden, the Times again noted, rather than joining the Bush family in its on-camera convention box. It's only when he thinks no one in the press is listening—like at a Manhattan GOP event this March—that he says the GOP is the party of "honesty, efficiency, compassion, and inclusiveness," turning political reality, at least as much of his city sees it, on its head. His mountain of GOP donations is as much a pittance to him as his calculated and inconsequential disagreements with them are a sham to us.

We have thousands fewer cops because of Bush's 90 percent slashing of Clinton's COPS programs. We had to reprogram FDNY radios because Bush blanched at the $120 million cost of replacing them, even after 9-11's communication breakdown. Not only has Bloomberg never complained about these security breaches, he's publicly excused the president for ignoring all the "blinking red" signs of attack that George Tenet described, and refused to criticize him when he defied and undercut the 9-11 Commission, forcing subpoenas and deleting its funding.

He even rushed to Bush's defense when the Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general blasted the White House for doctoring press releases after 9-11 to portray "hazardous" air quality findings as safe, a distortion that's led to lung damage for thousands of firefighters and others at ground zero. "I know the president," Bloomberg said when confronted with the shocking findings. "I think he's a very honest guy. It would never occur to me not to trust him." Over 2,000 ground zero workers have already settled with the Victim Compensation Board, collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars for respiratory and other damages at the site, while hundreds are still suing the city.

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