President Bloomberg?

The richest joke is on us: Wherever it is he stands, he's running

A few years before he ran for mayor, his employees at Bloomberg LP put together a book of great quotations from their Chairman Mike. It included this one: "I had a great agreement with the draft board—they never called me and I never called them."

Today, he speaks boldly about sacrifice, and he lectures those who criticize the war in Iraq, lest they somehow offend the patriotism of soldiers overseas. Back in the Vietnam days, such attitudes made his blood boil, he told a wonderfully friendly audience at Cooper Union in September, where he sat—leg bouncing on his knee, hands waving in the air—as Tom Brokaw interviewed him. Brokaw tried to get him to say whether he believed that President Bush had asked enough of the rest of the country during a time of war. Bloomberg couldn't, or wouldn't, respond. "One of the most despicable things this country has done," he said by way of non-answer, "is the way we treated our veterans when they came back from Vietnam."

In the same interview, he grew tongue-tied when Brokaw gently asked him if Bush had gone to war without a "Plan B" for Iraq. Up until then, the man who would lead the free world had been voluble and glib. But this question clearly terrified him. If you don't believe me, go to his own website,

Billions for offense
photo: Richard B Levine
Billions for offense

"You'll have to ask the president," he says at first with a smirk that's clearly visible on the site's video. "I think that, ummm, you have to . . . uhhh . . . be willing to talk to everybody, listen to everybody, try things. At the same time you have to have the courage of your convictions. You cannot everyday, uhhh, look at one number and change foreign policy. Some of these decisions, there is no right answer. I don't want to get involved in how we got there, I wasn't party to the intelligence. I don't know what I would have done. And anybody that says other than the president and his inner staff you're just taking, you know, a cheap shot."

This is the kind of off-English nonsense that buries candidates who have to earn their nominations. But Bloomberg's money makes him exempt from such early screenings, and he insists that he needs no such preliminary warm-ups. No qualifying heats for this man. He is ready to go straight to the starting gate.

Perhaps one reason for this cocksure attitude is that he has been consulting with the best minds, a stellar cast of experienced leaders.

This weekend, Bloomberg sat with David Boren, the former Oklahoma senator who convened the meeting of middle-of-the-road types designed to launch Bloomberg's candidacy. One of Boren's most enduring gifts to America was George Tenet, who served as Boren's chief of staff before going on to become director of the CIA. There, Tenet famously assured George Bush that finding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was a "slam dunk."

Also present at the meeting and mentioned as a possible Bloomberg running mate was Sam Nunn, the ex-senator from Georgia who, as head of the Senate's Armed Services Committee, never met a weapons system he didn't want to buy.

And then there is Bloomberg's most famous adviser, a man we never seem able to get away from, that old warmonger Henry Kissinger. Kissinger brought us the illegal bombing of Cambodia and the bloody coup in Chile, and here is the wise man on the Iraq War: "Under present conditions, withdrawal is not an option."

Funny, here is Bloomberg in that same interview with Brokaw last September: "Everyone wants to get the troops out. Nobody is in favor of not doing that. But to pull them out quickly would lead to a massacre, lead to destabilization of a part of the world that there is enough problems already. [It] would embolden terrorists in other parts of the world. I don't think that's a good answer here."

Great minds think alike, of course. But the biggest joke on the country since the Supreme Court halted the Florida recount could be this one: Mike Bloomberg wins the White House as a reform candidate. The morning after his election celebration, he announces the head of his transition advisory team: Henry Alfred Kissinger.

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