Charlie Rose turned his hour-long Public Broadcasting interview Monday with Indiana Senator Evan Bayh into a commercial for his show’s number one backer, Mike Bloomberg, virtually fashioning his own Bloomberg/Bayh 2012 ticket on the air without a whisper of honest disclosure.
Rose is a Bloomberg acquisition. Bayh, who recently announced this would be his last year in the Senate, may be on his way to becoming one.
From Bloomberg’s studio, where the Rose show has been shot for a decade and a half, Rose steered Bayh into a protracted, and largely favorable, discussion about Bloomberg’s upcoming presidential race.
Rose did not mention that Bloomberg has supplied Rose with a free office and studio virtually since the show began, or that Bloomberg L.P. is a financial underwriter of the show and agreed last year to pay to rebroadcast it nightly on Bloomberg TV and Bloomberg Radio. When Bloomberg L.P. recently bought Business Week, it added “columnist” to Rose’s resume. Rose’s sometime companion, Amanda Burden, is Bloomberg’s planning commissioner.
Would all of that — plus the fact that Bloomberg and Rose are members of the same exclusive golf club — add up to a conflict worth mentioning? Not in Bloomberg Land, where everything is on the merits, at least the merits as Mike sees it.
So here’s the key exchange, which reaches a point where it becomes impossible to determine who’s interviewing who, since all Bayh does is mutter his agreement with Rose’s plaudits:
Rose: “Do you believe that a third party candidacy — not for you, but a viable third party candidate could win in 2012?”
Bayh makes it clear that he supports the president, but then continues, “If Washington remains stuck, even though it’s not the president’s fault, even though most of this may rest at the doorstep of Congress, that frustration may fester and grow…And it would create an opportunity for someone with the resources that Ross Perot, for example had a decade and a half ago to make a case that look, we need someone from completely outside of all this to come in and really shake things up. So there is that potential.”
Rose: “How about somebody like Mike Bloomberg?”
Bayh: “Well, he might fit that bill. He certainly has the resources.”
Rose: “For sure.”
Bayh: “He’s been a thoughtful mayor of New York City.”
Rose: “Resources and public experience.”
Rose: “And an appeal to both Democrats and Republicans because of some positions he has which are Democratic, some — certainly on fiscal issues, some positions that are conservative.
Rose: “So that’s the profile of somebody, a lot of money and an appeal to independents. And it’s in your judgment, knowing politics, doable if certain convergences take place?”
Bayh: “If you take a look at our history, it’s unlikely. And I still believe the president will be re-elected. But under the right set of circumstances, if the economy is sluggish and Congress remains stuck, someone with those sorts of resources and an executive background of proven accomplishments, that’s always attractive to the American public.”
Rose doesn’t mention Bloomberg again, but he does take Bayh down another long trail that relates to the Bloomberg message, namely how much better executive experience is than legislative experience for presidential performance. Bayh agrees again, citing his own experience as Indiana’s governor, but it’s Rose who summarizes the argument, asking if “the best among us” aren’t “those decisionmakers, those people with the wisest sense of how to bring functions together, provide executive leadership?”
That leads Bayh to conclude that “it’s true that as vice president you can really make a major impact, no question,” in sharp contrast with the Senate, where Bayh said he chaired no committee and had no real power.
If you think that Rose is simply the anchor of the show, forget it. He owns it, books guests himself frequently, and by his own account, “raises all the money myself” to support it.
While Bayh was in town, Kevin Sheekey, the Deputy Mayor for Politics who ran Bloomberg’s last presidential campaign, announced he was leaving to work at Bloomberg L.P. As serious as the 2008 exploration was, and there is no doubt that Bloomberg spent a small fortune assessing it, Sheekey did it all from a public perch. The fact that he is leaving suggests that they are far more serious this time.
Howard Wolfson’s new title at City Hall suggests the same — he knows every anti-Obama Democrat in the country and left the Clinton campaign with its dossier on Obama. Wolfson was promoted to deputy mayor on his second day in city government, perhaps an all-time record for excellence. Doug Schoen, the polling mastermind of the last and next Bloomberg presidential exploratory effort, was once Bayh’s as well, and may well be the glue that solidifies Charlie Rose’s dream ticket.
Research Assistance: Sara Gates, Scott Greenberg, and Simon McCormack