Michael Bloomberg is one of the wealthiest individuals who have ever lived. A personal fortune of $65 billion is quite simply inconceivable, even to the person who owns it. Add to that – he did not inherit any of his wealth. He was a brilliant and innovative businessman. He was three times elected Mayor of New York City and is the only one of only four men to have held the job for 12 consecutive years in the past two centuries. In 2018, he gave $100 million to the campaigns of different Democratic Party political candidates.
Bloomberg’s record as mayor of New York City is now sneered at by jealous rats, cockroaches and other insects. But it was, in fact, one of remarkable accomplishment. He restored and maintained the prosperity and confidence of the city after one of the greatest catastrophes in its history – the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Towers on September 11, 2001.
Bloomberg even maintained the city’s economic prosperity and its recovery through the years of George W. Bush’s inept presidency and through Bush’s true legacy, the worst economic crisis since the 1929 Wall Street Collapse in 2008-9.
No wonder therefore that when Bloomberg threw his hat into the presidential arena, outsiders to U.S. politics assumed that the enormous gravitational pull of that $65 billion made his clinch of the Democratic Party’s nomination inevitable.
However, the Race is Not Always to the Swift, Nor the Battle to the Strong, as the cynical old author of the Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us. Even in modern America, wealth does not always conquer all and is not always irredeemably evil, whatever simplistic old fools like Noam Chomsky may imagine.
For Wednesday’s debate – Bloomberg’s first foray on national television before the American people as a heavyweight presidential candidate – was a catastrophe for him. The man who easily won election three times in a row in one of the largest and most diverse cities in the world was pummeled, assaulted, slandered and abused on all sides. New York City politics were no match for the ravening wolves in a national presidential contest.
Bloomberg never had a chance: That underestimated mistress of low blows and dirty fighting, Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Richard Nixon of modern American politics mugged him at the beginning of the night.
Warren launched into a ferocious attack at the start of the evening – sticking her hand in the air like an eagerly destructive little child – to accuse Bloomberg of calling women “fat, ugly broads” and “horse faced lesbians.”
The accusation, it turned out, came not from the documented columns of The New York Times or The Washington Post (which would be problematic enough) but from a slim satirical book affectionately produced for Bloomberg by employees who actually liked him around 30 years ago. It did not matter. Warren had drawn first blood. Immediately, the other four surviving Democratic candidates forgot their visceral loathing for Donald Trump and joined the frenzy to rip Bloomberg to shreds.
Anyone who has seen packs of wolves or Arctic dog teams ferociously clawing each other to bits in the bloody struggle for supremacy will recognize the process immediately. For me, it was reminiscent of nothing less than the alcohol-filled, joyous, violent and ferocious Northern Irish newsrooms of my own Impressionable Youth 40 years ago.
How should we interpret this debate – infinitely more abusive than anything Trump and his fellow Republicans descended to four years ago?
We should certainly withhold judgment about its impact on voters until enough of them actually vote. That means waiting until the string of nine primaries across the U.S. South and elsewhere are held on Super Tuesday, March 3.
Perhaps moderate mainstream moderate Democrats were impressed by Bloomberg’s strange combination of bewildered shock and genuine dignity in his response to the attacks. He never appeared afraid: But he never appeared commanding or resilient either.
At least Bloomberg had no cringe-worthy moments like ridiculous “Little Pete” Buttigieg who looked terrified that Senator Amy Klobuchar was going to hammer him through the floor of the auditorium at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas as she angrily reduced the Mighty Mayor of South Bend, Indiana to whimpering blubber by icily asking him – “Are you trying to say that I’m dumb” (which in reality he was trying to say).
Klobuchar is listed as 5 foot 4 inches tall – 162.5 centimeters. Buttigieg is officially 5 foot 8 inches tall – 172 inches. But the cool, icily furious Klobuchar appeared to tower over the Incredible Shrinking Mayor.
The NBC Mainstream Media spin-doctors who revere Buttigieg contorted themselves to make it claim Klobuchar was hysterical and lost her dignity. It was another Big Lie. It was Klobuchar’s moment: It will be endlessly replayed on YouTube. And it may yet propel the lady senator from Minnesota into the vice presidential spot behind Senator Bernie Sanders.
First polls after the debate showed Bloomberg losing precious momentum rather than gaining it and Sanders soaring into the Democrats’ lead more than ever. Even in 21st century America, there are limits to the national credibility that unlimited billions of dollars can buy: Just ask Jeb Bush (Jeb!) and Hillary Clinton.
The night was Sanders’ from beginning to end. Bloomberg, at age 78 an elderly gentleman who has done so well for so long in so many worlds, was simply not remotely prepared for dealing with this new one.
I learned the basic principles of survival in attack dog environments in those Northern Irish newsrooms 40 years ago. Mayor Bloomberg, for all his wealth and achievements has up to now lived a far more sheltered life. His first presidential debate was a rude awakening.