What is it about NYC mayoral administrations that they tend to be falsely celebrated, even mythologized, by people outside the city, especially by members of the national press, while the actual denizens of Gotham must live under the misrule of these sanctimonious characters?
I first noticed this phenomena during the Giuliani administration, between 1992-2001. As mayor, Rudolph Giuliani was a daily irritant in the city, continually choosing confrontation over conciliation, seldom missing a chance to stoke the embers of urban enmity–between the police and the people; black and white citizens; between Manhattanites and residents in the other boroughs. On and on it went, year after year. When Abner Louima was sodomized by members of the NYPD, a word of apology never crossed that mayor’s lips. The same was true when Amadou Diallo was shot by police. Giuliani picked fights with museums and routinely showed contempt for free speech and free expression. It was like being trapped in a room with an unremittingly argumentative neighbor.
In the fall of 2001, as Giuliani’s second and final term was at last beginning to wind down, with a mayoral primary that would begin the process of choosing his successor scheduled for Tuesday, September 11, 2001, tragedy struck the city, with 3000 people murdered in one morning. The chaos in the city, which I personally experienced, was worsened by the fact that Giuliani had unaccountably chosen to locate the city’s emergency response center in the World Trade Center, even though the WTC complex had already been a bombing target, in 1993. Overnight, the titular head of city government found himself the beneficiary of sympathy and concern from people around the world. The object of all this empathy responded by suggesting that the scheduled election should be canceled, so that he could stay in office an extra few months. He claimed to be an indispensable leader, one for whom the democratic process should be abrogated; many New Yorkers believed differently.
In the months that followed, before Michael Bloomberg won the election and was inaugurated as the next mayor, Giuliani basked in the notoriety associated with his supposedly excellent stewardship of the city, but again, many residents of New York City knew better–he was just an autocratic and divisive pol who hadn’t been changed it all by the events of 9/11. The only thing that was new was the national press’s unwarranted celebration of him. The accurate reality of Rudy Giuliani was typified when, during the 2008 presidential primaries, candidate Joe Biden, said,
“And the irony is, Rudy Giuliani, probably the most underqualified man since George Bush to seek the presidency, is here talking about any of the people here. Rudy Giuliani… I mean, think about it! Rudy Giuliani. There’s only three things he mentions in a sentence — a noun, a verb, and 9/11. There’s nothing else! There’s nothing else!”
This brings me back to Bloomberg, who actually surpassed Giuliani’s anti-democratic tendencies when in 2009 he engineered the overthrow of term limits that he had earlier claimed to support, thus allowing him to run for a third term. Now it was him claiming, amid the recession of 2008, that he was supposedly the indispensable pol. The one-time Democrat who became a Republican to run for mayor, gave the Bush-Cheney ticket the keys to city for the 2004 Repub convention, sacrificing civil rights and free speech. After this, he next became a so-called independent in his second run for mayor. Truth is, he was never independent of the things the city needed him most to be an honest broker on, such as preventing monied interests–Wall Street, big banks, and real estate–from controlling the city.
In today’s NY Times, frequently a mouthpiece for the Bloomberg administration, we learn that the mayor doesn’t approve of the presidential candidates. He claims neither Mitt Romney nor President Obama is willing to tackle hard problems, implying that he would if he were president.
“This business of ‘Well, they can afford it; they should pay their fair share?’ Who are you to say ‘Somebody else’s fair share?’” . . . . A solution, he said, would be to allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire as scheduled at the end of this year. Mr. Obama supports allowing them to expire for those with household incomes of more than $250,000, a delineation that Mr. Bloomberg said was unfair, arbitrary and fiscally irresponsible.”
So the billionaire mayor believes that middle class Americans, who’ve been hammered by predatory economic policies for years, should pay higher taxes? As a New Yorker fed up with the mayor’s tiresome sanctimony, given an opportunity I would remind him that in the negotiations to raise the debt ceiling in summer 2011, President Obama tried to strike a grand bargain that would have cut spending in exchange for higher taxes on wealthy Americans. It was congressional Repubs that said no.
The Times’ reporter Jim Rutenberg should have reminded readers of what I remember as Bloomberg’s opposition to the Dodd-Frank law. Moreover, he opposed other sensible reforms that would rein in Wall Street, and also failed to support the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was set up by Elizabeth Warren, and for which President Obama was forced to make a recess appointment of Richard Cordray to run it, since national Republicans refused an up or down vote on the former attorney general of Ohio to run the CFPB.
And, on what Rutenberg calls Bloomberg’s “signature issue of gun control,” we learn the mayor’s unhappy with the president. I share his advocacy of new gun laws, and of course, I’m frustrated with the stranglehold the NRA exerts over politicians. But in the last debate, the president spoke of his interest in re-imposing an an assault weapons ban. For his part, Mitt Romney said that he believes no new laws are necessary. That’s a big difference between the two, especially when you consider that the NRA has tried to demonize and demagogue the president ever since he took office, and recently endorsed Romney.
As shown by the examples of our last two mayors, New York City is portrayed in all sorts of false and inaccurate ways in the media; if you actually live here you come to see that these media portraits are often wildly at odds with the reality of the city and the way our so-called leaders are actually perceived by New Yorkers.