Is This the Best Campaign Money Can Buy?
You will not read it in the NY Times, Post or Daily News. Word on the streets from the common voter -- you know, the ones pollsters and opinionators don't reach -- is that Michael Bloomberg is the most divisive mayor in recent memory. When the words “mayor” and “divisive” are in the same sentence, the reference used to be Rudolph Giuliani, who was known to be an over-the-top piece of work all by himself, particularly on the subject of race. But Bloomberg's term limits power grab, defying the will of 70% of voters in 2 referenda, has divided New Yorkers across racial, class, religious, language, and neighborhood boundaries in ways Giuliani could only dream of.
Against this backdrop, what does the Bloomberg campaign do? They decide to hold a Bloomberg-Guiliani tag team match in Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Boro Park.
A week ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor Guiliani, and others were invited to speak at the Boro Park Jewish Community Council's annual legislative breakfast. During the event, while supporting Bloomberg's re-election for a third term, Guiliani reportedly said “You know exactly what I’m talking about. This city could very easily be taken back in a very different direction — it could very easily be taken back to the way it was with the wrong political leadership.”
When asked about the comment, Bloomberg referred to Detroit as a city where “gains are always in danger of being turned around.” He added, “But Detroit went from a city where it was a great city with lots of good-paying jobs to a city that’s basically holding on for dear life.”
Both men were criticized for engaging in racial politics two weeks before November 3rd election. Many elected officials weighed in, including Democratic nominee for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who said the comments “verged on race baiting.”
Hamodia, a highly influential newspaper serving Orthodox Jewish communities, garnered citywide attention primarily because of the clumsy management of the Bloomberg campaign. The campaign, and by extension, Mayor Bloomberg, were inattentive to Hamodia's requests for an interview. Bill Thompson had responded to the newspaper's inquiries weeks ago. Meanwhile, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, the Bloomberg campaign “has been trying to strong-arm the publisher into endorsing and writing positive puff stories on the Mayor.” A source close the Hamodia's editorial board said, “We do not live off NYC tax-payer money, and Mayor has very little leverage over our operations,” and added “We owe our loyalty to our readers, and the Mayor is highly unpopular in our community, if the Mayor wants to reach our community its kind of foolish to ignore us, but that’s just fine with us, the most important thing for us is not to offend our readers.”
(Just for the record, other newspapers across the city have been receiving repeated phone calls asking for placement of pro-Bloomberg articles, above and beyond sending press releases. Some comply, others do not.)
Hamodia's tepid relationship with the Mayor was clear from the manner in which the paper covered Bloomberg's appearance at the Boro Park Jewish Community Council's annual legislative breakfast. The Mayor's appearance was buried within the story published Monday Oct. 19, with this statement: “Guiliani's suggestion that Bloomberg be elected for a third term was met with polite applause.” (See Exhibit A: Hamd1)
Another story in that issue featured a story (Exhibit B: Hamd2) about Rabbi Yehoshua Balkany, dean of Bais Yaakov yeshiva, who is endorsing Thompson. The article quoted Rabbi Balkany: “I endorse Bill Thompson because he is the best man now for the job.”
That same issue of Hamodia published a Letter to the Editor. (Exhibit C: Hamd3) The letter's writer, Elimelech Freiman, attended the event, and wrote” the number of “people who freely indicated to me they intend to vote for Thompson surprised me.”
Freiman described the atmosphere after the event: “While listening to the street debates, it was disheartening to hear some pro-Bloomberg activists trying to disparage Thompson by citing his race. One person grabbed my suit collar, and asked me, 'are you going to vote for the shvartze?'”
Freiman continued his letter with a personal assessment: “I think such talk is morally indefensible. This person was by his looks and demeanor obviously not a member of our community. But his free use of this kind of language was certainly based upon an assumption that such talk is acceptable and effective when talking to a Chassidic person like me. It is scary to think that a person would assume that such hate talk wouldn't offend a Chassidic-looking person. When I heard it, that assumption worried me more than the actual offensive language.”
On Tuesday, Hamodia published op-eds (Exhibit D -D16 and Exhibit E – D18-19) from Assemblyman Dov Hikind and State Senator Eric Adams denouncing fear mongering and race baiting from the Bloomberg campaign. Hikind called it “under-handed, political maneuvering.” Adams called Guiliani's comments “a blatant attempt to terrorize New Yorkers and stir up divisive emotions,” and the comments “breach the boundary of appropriate political discourse and reek of bitter, divisive and reckless politics.” Adams added “Mayor Bloomberg clearly believes he benefits from such negativity.”
By midweek, Rudolph Guiliani's Police Commissioner, Bernard Kerik, officially became inmate #210-717 at the Westchester County Jail in Valhalla. Interestingly, no one has heard a peep from Guiliani, the “crime-fighting” mayor, since.
By Thursday, Assemblyman Hikind formally endorsed Bill Thompson.
On Friday, Mayor Bloomberg deemed it necessary to meet with the editorial board of Hamodia.
Well-crafted spin leaves the impression that Mike Bloomberg is a effective manager. Recent events surrounding his campaign question that impression. Over the years, Mike Bloomberg has voluntarily disclosed he was fired from Solomon Brothers for “incompetence.” Maybe Solomon Brothers knew something we don't.