|John Marshall Mantel/ASSOCIATED PRESS|
Dispatch from 2017: How Bloomberg won
It is Jan. 20, 2017, and Michael Rubens Bloomberg, an honorary Knight of the British Empire, is about to take the oath of office and become the 45th President of the United States of America.
The media have been given a copy of the inaugural address — which, as advertised, will be the shortest one ever delivered, less than two pages. This type of brevity has served our next President well. Throughout his career, he has let his actions, organizing ability and money speak for him.
It was that winning combination that took him all the way to the White House during the tumultuous election year. Exhibiting his smarts as a bottom-line businessman, it was in the early summer that Bloomberg said he would give $200 to everyone who voted for him in November. That promise kept his advertising expenses down.
To justify his generosity, President-elect Bloomberg proudly declared that he had always paid his own way and no one could buy him — to the contrary, he could buy others.
Bloomberg was simply updating the same formula he used to gain re-election as New York City mayor in 2009, when he beat Bill Thompson by 4.4 percentage points. Then, he spent $183 per vote, which tapped his wallet to the tune of $102 million. This allowed him to run without depending on outside funding and the influences and obligations that attach to such campaign contributions — an opportunity that only extremely wealthy people can take.
At the national level, it became a slightly costlier proposition, but Bloomberg kept his per-vote costs down by cutting out the consultants and ad buys and sending the cash directly to the people — provided they’d cast a ballot for him. At a cost of $200 for each of 66 million votes (the number Obama won in 2012) — which were strategically spread around the country to maximize electoral vote totals — his purchase of the presidency set him back $13.2 billion, leaving his net worth at a comfortable $25 billion.
And that is likely to grow, given that it is now being placed in a “blind trust” for the duration of his term or terms in the Oval Office, much as it grew in his 12 years at City Hall.
True to character, Bloomberg ran an economical race. He used only two slogans, both of which could be considered a bit self-deprecating, perhaps, to show his sense of humor: A Bicycle in Every Garage, and He’ll Save You From Yourself.
At the same time, he was able to fend off a couple of sticky issues raised anew last year. Bloomberg again denied his corporation created a hostile climate for women, who were said to have been given hush money to settle harassment suits. It didn’t hurt that one of his opponents was a fellow billionaire known for objectifying and insulting women.
And Bloomberg simultaneously scoffed at criticisms that, as New York City mayor, his administration’s supposed accomplishments were largely the result of a massive news management operation and press agents keeping unfavorable stories out of the media.
One of the handful of times he really got testy as mayor was when reporters kept asking how anyone could take seriously his claims about raising city students’ reading scores.
Last but not least, 73-year-old Bloomberg had to address the age factor. During the election, scrutiny on that point, too, was blunted by the fact that both opponents were also veritable geezers.
Now that it is inauguration day, pundits are already speculating about a second term — or a third, the Constitution’s 22nd Amendment be damned. Bloomberg has good reason to believe that in 2024, the Supreme Court’s new chief justice, Joel Klein, will find a way to interpret the amendment to suspend term limits.
In the interests of disclosure, I voted for Michael Bloomberg for President. We need a businessman running our country. And with my occasional need to purchase print cartridges, $200 is nothing to sneeze at.
Smith, a testing specialist and consultant, was an administrative analyst for the city’s public schools.