Mike Bloomberg's heaven and hell

Mike Bloomberg's heaven and hell
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Look, up in the sky! Is that a Bloomberg, soaring majestically across America, or a Hindenburg, doomed to a spectacular and expensive crash and burn?

Many have cheered billionaire businessman and former New York City mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergBiden's great challenge: Build an economy for long-term prosperity and security The secret weapon in Biden's fight against climate change Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE’s entry into the Democratic presidential primary arena. The combination of inexperience and off-the-rails radical ideas from other candidates, combined with the endlessly awkward campaign of former vice president Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation US records 2,300 COVID-19 deaths as pandemic rises with holidays MORE, has caused many moderate Democrats and independents to seek a savior who can beat President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE in 2020 and govern responsibly. 

Bloomberg is their hope. To win, he needs to fully understand and embrace that role, and embody full-throated and strong, competent, moderate, humane leadership. While everyone in the Democratic primary field is saying “yes” to everything, he needs to find the strength and courage to say “no” to a lot, based upon his common sense and experience. He is fully capable of embracing this nationally-unifying role, and a large percentage of centrist voters, unhappy with Trump’s behavior, likely are hoping he does.


But, thus far, Bloomberg is failing, spectacularly. If he keeps this up, he will quickly go down in flames as another old, white, male billionaire, rather than soaring above the fray as a strong, mature and thoughtful leader.

His first, colossal error was groveling to the radical left and delivering a humiliating apology for his “stop and frisk” policy in New York. Most Americans are fully aware of the dismal decline of our major cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Baltimore and New York) into lawlessness, the dual economic catastrophe of high taxes and financial chaos, and infrastructure collapse. Perhaps well-meaning but often incompetent — and perhaps, occasionally, corrupt — leaders are making these cities dangerous, uninhabitable and unsustainable. Bloomberg’s strongest credential (other than his capacity to grow a $55 billion business fortune in finance, technology and media) was his success in running New York City. 

Rather than apologize, Bloomberg needs to double down on “stop and frisk.” Data indicate it dropped New York City murders 80 percent, from 2245 in 1990 to 419 in 2012, saving a projected 40,000 lives — mostly young African Americans and Hispanics — in New York’s most dangerous and vulnerable neighborhoods. While Bloomberg inherited the program from Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiEx-Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell files lawsuits in Michigan, Georgia Trump set for precedent-breaking lame-duck period As Biden administration ramps up, Trump legal effort drags on MORE’s administration, and may have embraced it too aggressively (the courts mandated reforms in the enforcement process), it made NYC safer; the poor and minorities benefited far more from it than the free-for-all that succeeded it. But the nascent Bloomberg campaign already has melted under the moderate heat of the radical left, not unlike a fresh-cut daisy wilting on a hot summer New York sidewalk. 

Another huge error was serving as an apologist for the Chinese leadership confronting Hong Kong protesters. Americans are increasingly aware of the serious threat from China. While Trump has courted them, he also has shown a lot of steel in trade talks with Beijing and moving the Pacific Fleet closer to Chinese and North Korean shores to counter potential aggression. Bloomberg has a great deal of global experience, but he needs to show real toughness in defense of American vital interests if he wants to have a chance. 

He has been a global leader on the environment and it should be a centerpiece of the Bloomberg campaign. But it is also a trap. The extreme rhetoric and crazy economics of the Green New Deal and green social justice must be rejected out of hand. No serious scientist, anywhere, is claiming that the world will end in 10 years or 100 years. And the Green Deals would collapse the U.S. economy. Paying blackmail to India and China under the Paris Accord also is a dead end. Bloomberg must reject the radicals and find the sensible middle ground.


Building “Medicare for All” on the back of the faltering Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is only a formula for complete system failure and Medicare for none. The collapsing American health care system needs radical reform, and a man who built a massive business empire has the bandwidth to seriously attack that problem and find an answer. 

While it is an obvious double-edged sword, Bloomberg would know better than anyone that “soaking the rich” tax policies lead to declining investment and capital flight and hurt the poor the most. African American, Hispanic and female unemployment levels are at record lows. Bloomberg cannot position himself to reverse that. 

When you make a huge personal fortune, two things happen — you eat well, and no one ever tells you the truth. Bloomberg represents real hope for many, but he will need to ignore polls and challenge “smart advice.” He will need to be firm and tough; say “no” loudly to radical ideas; say “yes” loudly to great ideas to move the country forward; speak with passion; and personally embrace social media. 

He cannot be the anti-Trump — that is also a trap. Trump has had successes in domestic and foreign policy. Rather than trashing all of Trumps policies, Bloomberg is the only candidate who can co-opt Trump, attracting moderate Democrats and independents and not a few Republicans, promoting sensible centrist policies with a more decent, more humane style. It a road through progressive hell. Many won’t like it, but they will respect it, and it might get him to the White House. The alternative is a sudden, very large, flaming crater. 

Grady Means is a writer and former corporate strategy consultant. He served in the White House as a policy assistant to Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and a staff economist in the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Follow him on Twitter @GradyMeans.