Michael Bloomberg's debut in Democratic primary debates

Reader feedback at end

Billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg may have been a new face on the stage at the Feb. 19 Democratic primary debate (Las Vegas, NV), but he’s been pondering a presidential run for years.

Thus, Mayor Bloomberg attended a University of Oklahoma conference in early January 2008 on how to stop “partisan polarization” in Washington. After having been elected and re-elected as a Republican, he had registered as an independent in 2007. The discussion inspired the university president (also a former US senator and Oklahoma governor) to write a short book, which was published the following month.
“A letter to America” by David Boren.

It’s time to replace pandering partisans with real statesmen, even if it means electing independents to Congress and a nonpartisan, independent president of the United States.

For whatever reason, Bloomberg subsequently announced that he wouldn’t be running for president and that appeared to be that. Who would have thought that he would be running for the office as a Democrat twelve years later? But that’s what’s happening, and Bloomberg’s autobiography – originally published in 2001 when he was running for mayor – is now available in a revised and updated edition. Bloomberg on Bloomberg, 2nd edition,
January 7, 2019.

Since announcing his candidacy, Bloomberg has been spending substantial amounts of money (reportedly over $400 million to date) on advertising buys and the creation of a nationwide campaign organization. He didn’t get his name on the ballot in the early primary states (IA, NH, NV, SC), however, choosing to start with the 14 states (including CA & TX) whose primaries will take place on Super Tuesday (March 3).

Bloomberg hasn’t been seeking political contributions from anyone, a stance that is consistent with his previous practice of self-funding campaigns in New York City. This way, he argues, he won’t be beholden to contributors – and if he wants to spend his own money to defeat Donald Trump what’s wrong with that? Also, the Democratic debates were just “entertainment,” and they had experienced declining ratings. Video (1:42), youtube.com, circa
Dec. 2019.

The Democratic National Committee subsequently eliminated this prong of the requirements for debate participation. Some criticized the rule change (effective for the Las Vegas debate) as undercutting the campaign of Bernie Sanders, but other candidates weren’t pleased with the status quo. Bloomberg was buying a level of advertising they couldn’t match – jetting around the country to give short, cleverly written speeches without taking questions from the audiences – and inexorably rising in the polls while their own standings waxed and waned.

Some of the angst had been expressed at the Feb. 7 debate in New Hampshire. Tumultuous times in national politics,

One thing that all of the candidates seemed to agree on was that they weren’t looking for Michael Bloomberg to swoop in and become the presidential nominee. First, surely one of them was the right candidate for the job. Second, this immensely wealthy man should not be able to “buy the presidency.”

Even before it was announced that Bloomberg would be in the Las Vegas debate, several candidates (notably Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar) expressed their desire to take him on. Speculation swirls over whether Bloomberg will make the Las Vegas debate stage, Julia Manchester, thehill.com,

At 9:00 PM (ET) on Feb. 19, the broadcast from Las Vegas began. Reflecting the interest created by Bloomberg’s participation and the battles that would predictably result, this event attracted some 20 million viewers. TV ratings: Ninth Democratic debate beats record for the party, Rick Hill, msnbc.com,

A. Drama – If viewers were tuning in to witness conflicts between the debaters, they must have been pleased by the results. Transcript, 2/19/20.

Screen Shot 2020-02-23 at 2.55.29 PM

All the other candidates went after Bloomberg, particularly in the first hour of the debate, as he and his advisers should have expected (but perhaps didn’t). For example:

•Sanders - Mr. Bloomberg had policies in New York City of stop and frisk which went after African-American and Latino people in an outrageous way. That is not a way you're going to grow voter turnout.

•Warren - Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, and of supporting racist polls like redlining and stop and frisk.

•Biden - The mayor says that he has a great record, that he's done these wonderful things. Well, the fact -- the fact of the matter is, he has not managed his city very, very well when he was there. He didn't get a whole lot done. He had stop and frisk, throwing close to 5 million young black men up against a wall. And when we came along in our administration, President Obama, and said we're going to send in a [mediator] to stop it, he said that's unnecessary.

•Klobuchar - I actually welcomed Mayor Bloomberg to the stage. I thought that he shouldn't be hiding behind his TV ads, and so I was all ready for this big day. And then I looked at the memo from his campaign staff this morning, and it said that he actually thought that three of us [Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar] should get out of the way. That is what his campaign said because we should "pave the way" for him to become the nominee.

•Buttigieg - We shouldn't have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down [Sanders] and another candidate [Bloomberg] who wants to buy this party out. We can do better.

Bloomberg struggled to defend himself, but generally wound up giving ground and didn’t present the strongest arguments in some cases.

He had changed his mind about the “stop and frisk” policies used by the NYPD while he was mayor after coming to realize that the policy was mistaken. More could have been made of the fact that stop and frisk, started by the previous mayor (Rudy Giuliani), had contributed to a more peaceful city and saved numerous lives (including black lives).

He planned to furnish his tax returns, but there were thousands of pages involved and it would take time to get the package together.

There had been some sexual harassment complaints against him, but he didn’t propose to release the women from nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) they had voluntarily entered into. After the debate, however, it was announced that NDAs would be waived for three women (apparently a fraction of the total number) if they so requested.

He denied having ever (a) supported “red-lining,” i.e., the practice of denying mortgages based on race versus financial capability, or (b) blamed the financial meltdown of 2007-08 on the ending of red-lining.

And yes, he doubted that a socialist candidate (Bernie Sanders) could beat President Trump in the general election. Here, Bloomberg pulled no punches.

I can't think of a ways that would make it easier for Donald Trump to get re-elected than listening to this conversation [the case Sanders had just made for Medicare for All and other proposals to make America work for everyone rather than just for the billionaire class]. It's ridiculous. We're not going to throw out capitalism. We tried. Other countries tried that. It was called communism, and it just didn't work.

There was also a good deal of sparring between other candidates, especially Buttigieg and Klobuchar, some of which seemed rather petty. So what if Klobuchar had lost track of the name of the Mexican president in a previous appearance? Many people forget a name from time to time, and this one is a bit of a mouthful. No wonder Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is often referred to colloquially as “AMLO.”

Some observers suggested that the real winner of the debate was Donald Trump, as the Democratic candidates conveyed the impression of being in disarray and were diverted from their real job of staying united against the president. Tom Steyer [another billionaire candidate, who failed to make the cut for the Las Vegas debate]: Trump won the Democratic debate, Mike Brest, Washington Examiner, 2/20/20.

. . . I saw so much bickering between Democratic candidates, tearing each other down and going after each other and forgetting the fact that what really counts is beating Donald Trump in November of 2020. I saw people going after each other’s personality and records instead of remembering that, in fact, the Democratic Party needs to win in November.

Another reaction was that Bloomberg’s debate performance had been so bad as effectively destroy his credibility as a presidential candidate unless, perchance, he could stage a huge comeback in coming debates. The best Democratic debate in years, Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal,

It is being called a very bad night for Mike Bloomberg. It was not. It was a catastrophe. The only question is whether it is recoverable. Can he turn it around in the debate next week, and after? Is it possible to recover from a night so bad?

But it’s also been suggested that Bloomberg didn’t have to shine in the debate, he simply needed to show up and come across as a serious person who wasn’t going away. Arguably, he had done just that. The debate’s big winners: Mike Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders, Nicholas Waddy, townhall.com,

Make no mistake — Bloomberg is not a gifted debater, but his goal was not to dominate the debate but to survive it (and to let his massive ad campaign do his talking for him thereafter). As it turned out, the other candidates made his job easy. The audience was too dumbstruck by the constant barrage of attacks flying in all directions to notice Bloomberg's occasional stumbles. In fact, Bloomberg's reserve and his poise may have set him apart in a positive sense, on a night when virtually everyone else seemed determined to draw blood.

Sanders won the Nevada caucus handily on Feb. 22, and he is now the delegate leader (with Buttigieg in second place). Bloomberg skipped the early primaries, so his vote-winning appeal will not be tested until Super Tuesday.

Current polling suggests that Sanders will probably win more delegates in the primaries than any other candidate, but he may well fall short of 50%. If so, the Democratic Party would have the first contested convention” for either major party since 1952 (when Adlai Stevenson was nominated by the Democrats). With “super delegates” able to vote after the first ballot, it’s anyone’s guess as to who would emerge as the winner. Bernie Sanders Democratic rivals make clear they’re hoping to take him out at convention, Philip Klein, Washington Examiner,

[At the Las Vegas debate,] NBC's Chuck Todd asked a straightforward question of all six candidates on state: If at the end of all the primaries none of them receive the outright majority of the delegates needed to clinch the nomination on the first ballot, should the candidate with the most delegates be the nominee? Sanders said he believed the nomination should go to the candidate who had won the most delegates, whereas the other five candidates favored letting the convention process play itself out.

B. Issues – Aside from personal wealth, what qualifies Michael Bloomberg to run for president? In his closing statement, he claimed to offer managerial competence that set him apart from the current president.

Look, this is a management job, and Donald Trump's not a manager. This is a job where you have to build teams. He doesn't have a team so he goes and makes decisions without knowing what's going on or the implications of what he does. We cannot run the railroad this way.

This country has to pull together and understand that the people that we elect -- and it's not just the president of the United States -- they should have experience, they should have credentials, they should understand what they're doing and the implications thereof.

And then we should as a society try to hold them accountable so the next time they go before the voters, if they haven't done the job, we shouldn't just say, oh, nice person, gives a good speech. We should say, didn't do the job and you're out of here.

Does this mean the former NYC mayor for three terms would pursue uniquely enlightened policies designed to serve the best interests of the country? Judging from the positions he has taken thus far, it would be hard to differentiate his policy instincts from most of the other candidates in the Las Vegas debate.

#HEALTHCARE – Bloomberg disagrees with the premise of Medicare for All that all private healthcare coverage should be summarily eliminated, as was made clear in his exchanges with Sanders.

You don't start out by saying I've got 160 million people I'm going to take away the insurance plan that they love. That's just not a way that you go and start building the coalition that the Sanders camp thinks that they can do.

All of the so-called “moderates” in the Democratic nomination race have similar reservations, e.g., Biden wants to supplement the Affordable Care Act with a public option, Buttigieg envisions Medicare for Those Who Want It, etc. But the difference with Sanders is basically a matter of tactics, in that their apparent goal is a continually growing government role in the healthcare system.

Bloomberg’s position seems to be in line with that of the other candidates. Create a Medicare-like public insurance option, improve and expand enrollment in Affordable Care Act plans, cap healthcare prices, etc. Health[care] coverage, accessed

#CLIMATE CRISIS – All of the Democratic candidates claim to support aggressive reduction in the use of fossil fuel energy, as was most recently brought out in the Las Vegas debate. Bloomberg was right in synch with the others, and he didn’t express any reservations about cost or practicality, not even to the extent of suggesting that nuclear power might be a better bet than wind and solar power if one believed that a climate crisis was imminent.

If you're president, the first thing you do the first day is you rejoin the Paris Agreement. This is just ridiculous for us to drop out. Two, America's responsibility is to be the leader in the world. And if we don't, we're the ones that are going to get hurt just as much as anybody else. And that's why I don't want to have us cut off all relationships with China, because you will never solve this problem without China and India, Western Europe, and America.

He further supports propelling the US towards a “100% clean energy future,” making environmental justice a national priority, ensuring all new vehicles are “pollution free” by 2035, etc. Climate change and clean energy, accessed 2/23/20.

#TAXES – Like the other Democratic candidates, Bloomberg has endorsed raising taxes – in his case by $5 trillion over the next 10 years. And the goal is not eliminating deficits, which are currently running around $1 trillion per year, it is paying for new government spending programs that he plans to advocate. Bloomberg proposes tax plan to raise $5 trillion for policies, Laura Davison & Mark Niquette, bloomberg.com,

#IN SUM – Critics bridle at the distinction being drawn between Sanders/Warren and the so-called “moderate” candidates. The problem with this view, as one Manhattan-based pundit put it, is that “moderation on the part of Democrats is no more than stylistic.” There is no “moderate” Democrat running in 2020, Deroy Murdock, newsmax.com,

If there were an exception to this conclusion, moreover, it wouldn’t be Michael Bloomberg.

Former New York City mayor and multi-billionaire Michael Bloomberg has seconded the left’s prescriptions — from aggressive gun control to anti-"global warming" orthodoxy to robust rejection of his own mayoral law-enforcement practices. These candidates advocate steep tax hikes, a new carbon levy, lavish federal spending programs, freebies for illegal aliens, subsidized abortion — on demand, without apology, and until natural delivery — and truckloads more government intervention.

C. Other thoughts – If Sanders and Bloomberg are indeed the strongest Democratic presidential candidates at this point, it’s sobering that they are both 78 years old. Do they have the charisma and stamina to capably fill this demanding position? Could they relate to the thinking of younger Americans? Would they govern by trying to avoid mistakes of the past, or seek to address challenges of the future?

We noted the existence of issues with aging candidates four years ago, and they seem even more pronounced now. Can your candidate keep up in a fast changing world? News Journal,
8/24/15. Maybe a contested Democratic convention wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

If nothing else, younger running mates would seem to be in order. Yet the Bloomberg campaign floated the idea of having Hillary Clinton run for vice president, apparently based on polling data. Not a good idea!

Finally, bear in mind that a lot of elections are scheduled in November and the congressional outcomes will play a big role in shaping the course of future policy. Americans should pay close attention to what the congressional candidates are promising to deliver, assess whether the promises make sense or represent “pie in the sky,” and cast their votes accordingly.


#A new conspiracy theory (Dick Morris): Bloomberg running interference for a Hillary nomination in 3rd round voting of brokered convention. If Sanders doesn’t get the nomination, expect a repeat of the violence of '68 from his far left supporters. – SAFE director

#Did Bernie improve his chances by praising Castro? – SAFE director

Comment: That’s not likely to sway Florida in his favor, there are too many Cuban immigrants who remember what living under Castro was like.

© 2020 Secure America’s Future Economy • All rights reserved • www.S-A-F-E.org