Michael Kinsley's first Bloomberg View column: What it should say.

Media criticism.
April 27 2011 6:06 PM

Michael Kinsley's First Bloomberg View Column

What it should say.

Michael Kinsley. Click image to expand.
Michael Kinsley, journalistic nomad

My friend and former boss Michael Kinsley has packed his smartphone and khakis and is leaving Politico for a job at Bloomberg View, Bloomberg LP's soon-to-be-launched editorial and opinion website. 

It's easy to joke about Kinsley's nomadic ways. Just last September, he took a columnist job with Politico. One year before that, he joined the Atlantic crew. For a brief moment in 2006, he worked for the Guardian, and before that he spent a year and some change as the editorial-page editor of the Los Angeles Times. And, from 1996 to 2002, he edited the website you just clicked on and was also its founding editor. I won't delineate his prehistoric career path but will only mention that it included positions at CNN and Harper's and several stints at the New Republic, not to mention his freelance positions.

Kinsley's inability to hold a job—I mean, Kinsley's restlessness—speaks to no character flaw. He does what every man and woman would do if it were in their power: He works at a place as long as he likes it. When the day arrives that he no longer likes his job, he puts it in a box, wraps it in pretty paper and a bow, and tosses it to the curb. He then finds a job he thinks he will like better, and usually it's a better position at better pay.

He is terrible at genuflecting, can't keep his views to himself, and refuses to suffer fools. But there are a lot of people like that who don't have jobs. The reason Kinsley can switch uniforms so often and is now batting in the Michael Bloomberg lineup has more to do with his journalistic stardom than it does his wanderlust. All publishers long to hire him, and most have.

Advertisement

Kinsley previously labored for software billionaires, a narcissist, a megalomaniac, two faceless corporations, and a foundation. But he's never worked for an American Caesar like Michael Bloomberg before, so it's imperative that Kinsley write about the mook.

Bloomberg, already mayor for life of New York City, wants to be president—something we know because he frequently denies it. During the 2008 campaign, he polled extensively to test the waters and built a shadow Cabinet of sorts. Given the size of his wallet and the current crop of Republican candidates, he would be a fool not to run in 2012 as an independent.

But even if the 23rd richest man in the world doesn't run in 2012, he'll still be the high-profile governor of the 51st state and an obvious target for political columnists like Kinsley. I'm not saying that Kinsley has to play the role of a fifth column inside the Bloomberg media-and-politics octopus. Nor am I suggesting that working for Bloomberg will somehow entwine him in some ungodly conflict of interest. Kinsley worked at the New Republic for more than a decade, where owner and editor-in-chief Marty Peretz worked full-time on electing Al Gore president, and remained upright. Besides, I'm more worried about journalistic lack of interest than I am of conflict of interest.

As best as I can tell from searching Nexis and the Web, Kinsley has yet to write about Bloomberg, which means the pompous bipartisan is wildly overdue for his drubbing. My acquaintances and friends from Reason magazine have already hammered Bloomberg for his "petty tyranny," his reformist fantasies, his gun policies, and his meddlesome regulation of smoking, food, noise, and more, and in 2009, Slate's Jacob Weisberg knocked him for his paternalist utopianism. So Bloomberg offers Kinsley a smorgasbord of Kinsleyan topics to tear into. He's a technocratic plutocrat who spent $108 million on getting himself elected to a third term as New York City mayor. That's $185 for each vote he collected in the general election!

I'm not worried that Kinsley won't enrage Bloomberg eventually. Which boss hasn't he offended in his career? The primary difference between Kinsley's new boss and his earlier bosses is this: The only thing the other bosses had over the man in the street was economic power. Even so, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer couldn't make you purchase Microsoft products, Marty Peretz couldn't force you to support Israel, and Rick MacArthur couldn't compel you to buy his bull. Bloomberg, on the other hand, has political power, likes to flex it, and wants even more. A man who wants to dictate what you eat cannot be trusted.

All I'm proposing is that Kinsley get the awkwardness out of the way with a swift kick to Bloomberg's twig and berries, just to remind him who's in charge. OK, a couple of swift kicks. And maybe a hard one.