Mayor Mute

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

The mayor's rationale for this get-along policy with Bush is that it's helped him win additional federal help for the city, and he can make a case that he was able to prod the president to alter the formula for distributing homeland security funding to benefit the city. But the formula change he won was temporary, and only partially changed a pattern of discrimination championed for years by Bush and congressional Republicans.

There are other plausible motives: Bloomberg appears to agree with the president on Iraq; a more popular Bush did targeted phone messages for him to Republicans and independents in 2001; and the mayor may have secretly coveted, at least up to 2005, a presidential appointment. Bloomberg's name appeared periodically in news accounts as a possible new president of the World Bank, a position that became vacant this year when lifelong Bloomberg friend James Wolfensohn finished his second five-year term. Bill Cunningham says Bloomberg did nothing "to actively pursue the post," acknowledging that it continued to be a genuine ambition of his that the mayor publicly discussed only once. While it's impossible to get inside the mayor's head, his desire to take over the bank when Clinton appointee Wolfensohn left might have tempered his approach to the White House.

It is, perhaps, the culminating irony of this unbalanced mayoral contest that the very polls revealing the mayor as invincible suggest that many voters are troubled by his myriad Bush ties, but will not let those concerns intrude on their measure of the man. It is as if we've unconsciously bought into the implicit Bloomberg presumption that the very Bush policies that have made 80 percent of New Yorkers oppose him are bizarrely irrelevant to our lives here. It is a disconnect that tens of millions in advertising about Bloomberg's housing, schools, and other achievements can apparently buy. The mayor who presents himself as the ultimate accountable leader has somehow managed, abetted by a convenient media amnesia, to escape accountability for his own profoundly political choices.


Research assistance: Jessica Bennett, K. Emily Bond, Ben James, Lee Norsworthy, Xana O'Neill, and Nicholas Powers

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