The greatest gaffe in last night’s 90-minute gaffe-a-thon called the first major televised debate of the 2005 mayoral campaign was that none of the four Democrats could come up with an overarching critique of Mike Bloomberg, much less a memorable vision of how different their own city might be. Three of the four, minus only Brooklyn congressman Anthony Weiner, said he was a better mayor than Rudy Giuliani, and Weiner and City Council Speaker Gifford Miller acknowledged that the city was better off than when Bloomberg took office.
At points, it was hard to tell if the Jazz at Lincoln Center event marked the formal launching of a Democratic alternative to Bloomberg or a rally for him. Weiner got the loudest applause from the audience when he demanded that Democratic labor leaders “hang their heads in shame” for endorsing the incumbent, but the rhetorical flourish soon became inexplicable when he conceded that the city was “better off” after four Bloomberg years. His labor attack on Bloomberg had more to do with the mayor liking Wal-Mart than any issue involving the hundreds of thousands of city workers.
The gaffelist for the night includes:
Frontrunner Fernando Ferrer retroactively put his only child through public high school even though she’d actually spent all four years at Cardinal Spellman, his only actual flip-flop in life (all of his prior reversals were merely inconvenient spin).
Virginia Fields proved she was still just the Manhattan Borough President, secretly positioning herself to run for a Manhattan congressional seat, when she endorsed congestion pricing like the $10 fee charged to anyone riding into downtown London.
Gifford Miller suggested that he was so busy being 35 and a candidate for mayor that he and his wife had never discussed where their four-year-old might go to school, or even “to look” at the schools they had to choose from, whining about how illegitimate the question was.
All four candidates were seen kissing Al Sharpton’s butt.
While all four said they were against social promotion of failing kids, none said directly that they would repeal Bloomberg’s holdback policies or how they would prevent social promotions without holding back kids.
Fields actually said “our emergency management system works,” referring to the command and control structure that existed prior to recent Bloomberg changes. The other three vaguely echoed her, suggesting that none of them read the 9-11 Commission report or followed its hearings.