Was that Michael Bloomberg on stage in the Democrat’s debate in Las Vegas on Feb. 19?
The 78-year-old man up there all the way on the left, next to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), sure looked like the former New York City mayor and billionaire backer of what we might as well call Gun Control Inc.
But he just didn’t act like the presidential candidate we see in the endless TV commercials and Facebook ads … and that we hear about in the paid-for endorsements. The politician in those narratives is supposed to be an earthy man of the people, a guy who pulled himself up by his own bootstraps. The guy on stage, however, seemed more like an out-of-touch billionaire, a Wall Street tycoon used to moving with security details between the gated walls of his life. On stage, he seemed as clueless and as smug as Tom Wolfe’s elitist character “Sherman McCoy” from the satirical novel The Bonfire of the Vanities.
Right, he seemed that way in person because that is precisely who Bloomberg really is.
Bloomberg’s gun-control bona fides, meanwhile, sure didn’t make his first debate any easier.
“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against—a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians. And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump; I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg,” said Warren. “Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women and of supporting racist policies like red-lining and stop-and-frisk.”
Right from the start, the other candidates aimed for the stop-and-frisk hole in Bloomberg’s record.
With no emotion in his face or in his voice, Bloomberg said he regretted letting stop-and-frisk go on for so long, claiming it “got out of control.”
Bloomberg’s explanation was blood in the water for the other candidates.
“It’s not whether he apologized or not; it’s the policy,” said former Vice President Joe Biden. “The policy was abhorrent. And it was … a violation of every right people have.”
Later, Pete Buttigieg, who was until recently the mayor of South Bend, Ind., said that a two-person race between Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Bloomberg would feature “the two most polarizing figures on this stage.”
“We’ve got to wake up as a party,” Buttigieg said. “Let’s put forward someone who’s actually a Democrat.” This line from Buttigieg was designed to point out that Bloomberg was once a Republican of convenience, and for a while after that an “Independent.”
Sanders also called Bloomberg’s use of stop-and-frisk “outrageous.” Biden would say that Bloomberg’s policies threw “close to five million black men up against a wall….”
Evidently, all of Bloomberg’s well-paid political experts just couldn’t prepare him with any one-liners to parry these obvious attacks. Or perhaps it was just that Bloomberg doesn’t have the wherewithal, the personality, or the capacity to deal with people who are critical of his views and past actions. Usually, he just fires people who disagree with him, or buys them off and has them sign non-disclosure agreements.
Bloomberg’s performance was much like one of those American Idol contestants who just can’t sing, but who has no real friends to tell him so before he shows up for the televised auditions. He is certainly used to telling others how to live—from big things, like whether people can defend their own lives, to little things, like what beverages people should be allowed to drink—but he clearly has no clue how to respond to personal criticism.
At one point Bloomberg did show a little emotion. He said in what seemed like an off-script moment: “This is ridiculous, we’re not going to throw out capitalism … that’s been tried. It’s called communism.”
He got boos for that comment from the crowd of Nevada Democrats and promptly shut up.
Bloomberg might have liked it if one of the other candidates did more than talk about stop-and-frisk. Maybe Bloomberg would have liked to talk about his many schemes for taking away Americans’ Second Amendment rights. But then, all of the politicians on the debate stage are in step with his desire to take away our right to keep and bear arms, so none of them was going to give Bloomberg a chance to talk about his lifelong quest to disarm law-abiding Americans.