Apparently, Michael Bloomberg is getting serious about his proposed bid for the presidency. He had a “double super secret strategy meeting” with Al From and others last month, and, though interested, asked, “How likely is a 5’7″-Jew-from-New-York billionaire who’s divorced and running as an independent to become president of the United States?” More likely than he’d think. None of the criteria put forth by Bloomberg are as consequential as he would have himself believe. First, there is a good chance that the Republican nominee for president will have been divorced. As Steve Benen mentioned in a great article in the Washington Monthly, John McCain, Newt Gingrich, and Rudy Giuliani all have at least one wife behind them; in each case, the candidate committed adultery. And John Kerry and Ronald Reagan didn’t suffer much due to their multiple marriages (there is no indication that either cheated on their first wife); Nancy and Teresa weren’t well-liked by many, but that wasn’t due to their “second-wife” status. Now, Bloomberg’s bachelorhood could be a problem, but divorce in and of itself doesn’t hurt his candidacy that much. Also, plutocrats aren’t exactly hated. Bloomberg’s got a few billion more brain cells left than Perot, and one in five Americans voted for the latter. And I think Bloomberg’s overstating the consequences of his Judaism as well. Only five percent of Americans openly say they couldn’t vote for a Jew; a sad number, to be sure, but a marginal one. A third-party candidacy is an uphill battle, of course. But I think Bloomberg will be a lot more like Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 than Perot in 1992. His political experience, moderation, money, and name recognition all work to his advantage, especially in a day and age when disillusionment with the Republican establishment isn’t translating into support for the Democrats.
I should make clear that I would unequivocally support Bloomberg in the general election if he runs. After reading his profile in Rolling Stone, I went from having the upmost apathy toward the man’s candidacy to having the most overwhelming enthusiasm. Part of the reason was his insistence on using cold, hard data to make policy decisions, a tendency that, as the article shows, has had profoundly positive consequences, and which I find extremely endearing. But mostly I liked his attitude toward terrorism. Read:
Nowhere is Bloomberg’s independent streak more evident than in the way he handles the dicey political territory of terrorism. Say the threat is dire, and you look like a fear-monger; say it’s overblown, and you look naive. Bloomberg, who has seen the intelligence reports and has dispatched NYPD officers to London, Afghanistan and the Middle East to investigate the jihadist threat, doesn’t hesitate. Americans, he tells me, are “too freaked out” about the threat of another attack. “There is a much greater risk from lifestyles that hurt you – smoking, walking across the street without looking both ways, not putting bars in the window if you’ve got kids and you live above the first floor, those kinds of things.”
There was a time when I thought a candidate who opposed the war on terror and supported gay marriage, while not being a lunatic, was too much to hope for. I guess not.