Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The shell game's easier when you can hear the pea rattling around. But a lot less fun.

Mike Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York, is not running for President. He'll tell you that himself, as he did just a couple of days ago:

"No matter how many times you ask the question, I'm not a candidate," Mr. Bloomberg said this morning during a press conference at a school in Harlem, when asked if he is paying for national polling right now. "That's the answer. I can't go into nit picking. This is ridiculous."
So, why, you may be wondering, do people keep asking? It's because he's unusually serious about not running for President.

Now, personally, I'm not running for President, and it hasn't cost me a dime. But that's because I'm not as serious about not running for President as Bloomberg has been. He's run ads before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries, to say a few things about illegal guns, and, no doubt, to reassure the voters that he is not running for President. He's spending millions of dollars on polls, no doubt to determine how lousy an idea it would be for him to run. And he just formally went through the rigamarole of placing all of his assets in a blind trust, so people can be sure that his decision not to run for President was untainted by any conflict of interest.

But to date, at least, the centerpiece of his campaign to convince people that he isn't running for President has been his appearance at the Unity08 confab --- a rather strange event which was organized by the eminences grises of the 1976 Presidential campaign (Jimmy Carter's guru, Gerald Rafshoon, and Gerry Ford's, Douglas Bailey). It featured a number of ex-Senators and the like, from both parties (and even more impressively, actor Sam Waterston, who plays a hard-ass prosecutor on TV) decrying the tone of partisan bickering which, they say, has paralysed Washington. But the only truly newsworthy thing that seems to have happened was an appearance by Bloomberg at which he, once again, denied that he's running for President:

"I'm not a candidate, number one. I am a former businessman and a mayor," he said in a panel discussion and news conference at the University of Oklahoma.
And he even got the host of the meeting, ex-Senator David Boren, to back him up:
"I don't think he has the ambition to run for president and I think he's like the rest of us, hoping against hope that the two parties rise to the occasion," Boren said.

And yet, some people just don't get the message. The latest on this front is that Rafshoon and Bailey have decamped from Unity08 to form a "Draft Bloomberg" committee, with a slick interactive website letting you add your name to a petition. Click on the "Why Mike Bloomberg" link, and the page opens up to reveal links to a number of puff pieces which, no doubt, prefigure the sort of campaign they'd want to run in case they got the opportunity: the featured story by Newsweek is a pure personality piece (in the spirit of the American Revolution, he liked the book Johnny Tremain!), which doesn't even talk about the problems of actually governing New York City, let alone the country as a whole. Which may be the beginnings of a new Rafshoon/Bailey strategy for transcending partisan bickering in politics, by endorsing politicians who strive to take no position at all on any substantive political issue.

Too bad they'll never get the chance, since Bloomberg is so serious about not running.

(As for Unity08, by some sad coincidence, their funds have suddenly dried up, to the point that they can no longer afford an interactive web site at all. The sole page on their web site, as of right now, blames the FEC, in the spirit of "transparency". They had this ballot access thing going that a number of their staffers must have really believed in. I wonder if any of them feel they got used?)

More: Well, one of them seems happy enough. In comments on another thread on the subject, erstwhile Unity08 Marketing Director Bob Ross popped in to deny these annoyingly persistent rumors that Unity08 has simply transformed itself into the "Draft Bloomberg" movement:

... the truth of the matter, if you are interested, is that the closure of Unity08 was not a process of tranfering, redirecting, re-allocating, re-structuring, re-constituting, or re-organizing into a pro-Bloomberg effort. No member information or money was moved from one organization to the other. They are completely separate organizations.
Which prompted the obvious question on what he's going to be doing next. His response, in a subsequent comment:
I’ve decided to retire to my home state to spend some time with family while also helping out some friends get a few different projects off the ground. As I am sure you might find if you read several political blogs, one of those projects happens to be the movement.
Which is, once again, a completely separate organization which just happens, by some totally strange coincidence, to have the same leadership and staff.

The pea is under the shell on the left. Honest!


Blogger mw said...

"I wonder if any of them feel they got used?"

Well - only if they think about. Great post. I was exploring a similar theme when the announcement that Baily and Rafshoon were going to "Draft Bloomberg" briefly appeared on the Unity08 tombstone but then disappeared. Circumstantial evidence points to Unity08 being a stalking horse for Bloomberg all along. Who would've thunk it? I posted about it on my blog and at Donklephant. Some interesting feedback in the comment thread at Donklephant.

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Andrew MacRae said...

We've actually had an independent citizens effort to Draft Mike Bloomberg for over 6 months now.

9:24 AM  

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