Bloomberg's power grab.

Bloomberg's power grab.

Bloomberg's power grab.

Scrutinizing culture.
Oct. 9 2008 12:28 PM

The Bloomberg Syndrome

The New York mayor's power grab is a symptom of a national problem.

(Continued from Page 1)

Take Bloomberg, for instance. Twice the voters of New York City voted in referendums in favor of term limits for mayors and other elected officials. According to the New York Daily News,Bloomberg supported it ardently both times. But now, suddenly, those limits apply to him, and he just doesn't like it. Or, as he disingenuously and utterly unconvincingly says, he's doing it for us—he wants to give us the opportunity to enthrone him once more.

By the way, I'm against term limits; I can see the problem of corrupting incumbency they address, but I don't like the term-limit solution, which arbitrarily limits voters' choice of candidates. On the other hand, my point of view lost—twice!—and I actually believe that in a democracy, those in the majority on a referendum win. And not just until some mediocre self-congratulatory mayor stomps his foot like a petulant child and says he wants more.


But this mayor of mediocrity, enemy of trans fats who lets killer cranes crush people and buildings on a regular basis because of lax enforcement, the mayor who hasn't managed to get a 9/11 memorial off the ground in seven years (yes, I know there are other entities involved, but that basically says he's too weak to knock heads together and make it happen), suddenly this self-inflated suit looks in the mirror and decides: "The city cannot live without me."

The excuse being given is that in this time of crisis we need a steady hand at the helm. And, of course, he was so prescient about the magnitude of the current crisis. You remember all those speeches he made in the past seven years about the potential market instability that subprime mortgages threatened? He was a lone voice crying in the wilderness. What's that, you say? You can't remember those speeches? Well, neither do I, but he must have made them because that might qualify him to say he is a better candidate than the other bungling billionaires who have wrecked our economy to protect our city from the consequences. Of course, Bloomberg had no access to detailed financial information. Oh, wait ...

Anyway, here is the insultingly disingenuous way he turns the fact that the bill he sought to turn his power grab into some kind of virtue: "The mayor maintained he was still a supporter of term limits," according to the Times. "You're not taking away term limits," he said. "You're simply going from two terms to three terms."

And then, if he feels like it, maybe three terms to four terms. Just ignore the law the same way. It's such an insult to the intelligence that it alone should disqualify him.

He will be employing a dodgy, sketchy, barely legal (if that) maneuver to get the city council to pass a bill to nullify the two democratic citywide referendums that established term limits just for Mayor Mike. At least he hasn't attempted the Paulson-ian ploy of placing his power grab beyond judicial review: There are already several entities lining up to sue him to force him to follow the law.

The New York Daily News quoted someone close to the situation saying, "I think people are troubled when it looks like one person is more important than the system. Everyone here is struggling with that."

Struggling with it? Struggling with one-man rule that tosses democratic votes in the trashcan?

The people of our city have voted twice on term limits, first in favor of establishing them, later against scrapping them. If the people want them done away with the way to do it is by popular ballot not through a [City] Council vote by members who will also be extending their jobs.

But nobody seems much to care or connect the dots to the banana republic shock-doctrine mentality. Although an amazingly frank quote in the Times should help. In a story about the reaction of city council members to this, the Times said: "They decried the mayor's strategy as overly exclusive and were especially upset that the mayor had solicited support from newspaper executives and Ronald S. Lauder, the cosmetic heir, which suggested to them that the plan had been hatched by a select group of billionaires and power brokers solely with the mayor's interests in mind" (italics mine).

Well, not solely the mayor's interests; the other billionaires weren't secretly "hatching" this plan for their health. Sound familiar—this secret meeting of cronies—to Paulson inviting his Goldman crony into a meeting to save said crony's $20 billion?

It's disgraceful; do you think Bloomberg's billionaire buddies might have some "special extralegal influence" on decisions about the term-extended mayor's policies? It would make them the unofficial plutocrats junta of New York City, more capable of protecting their own empires from feeling the heat—the consequences fiscal and legal—the way Paulson's cronies did with Hank.

You don't think it matters that much? You think we should let it slide? Extraordinary circumstances and all that. But that's the mentality of the shock doctrine. A populace too panicked and a media too cowed to protest.

Because you know when this latitude, this sleazy complicity in shock-doctrine tactics will matter? After the next terrorist attack, when the president will have the freedom to invoke the shadowy (because still partly classified, kept secret even from Congress) and untested executive order known as National Security Presidential Directive 51—issued in May 2007. I warned about this here about a year ago. It's a guaranteed constitutional crisis in the making since it allows the president to declare any "catastrophic emergency" an excuse to turn the entire power of the government over to the "national continuity coordinator" and his handpicked "Continuity Policy Coordination Committee," who will on the face of the document have unlimited "I am the law" power to render all actions by the judiciary and the legislature basically null and void until—if—the president declares the "catastrophic emergency" over.