When Mayor Michael Bloomberg brought in Stephen Goldsmith at the start of his third term, it looked inspired. He had sterling qualifications for a second-in-command, having served as a mayor of major city (Indianapolis) and an academic (he taught at Harvard Kennedy School of Government) on the topic of government efficiency.
But he is quickly looking like the worst hire in of the Bloomberg administration. Not only did he clash with the city’s unions, but he botched the handling of the December blizzard, and now, even out of City Hall, he continues to haunt the administration.
This morning, columnists at all three daily newspapers took aim at the mayor over his handling of Goldsmith’s domestic violence arrest, with each implying that it seemed symptomatic of a larger sickness of the mayor’s third term.
In The Times, Michael Powell writes that the mayor still tends to treat city government like a private business.
Now 10 years into his mayoralty, Michael R. Bloomberg still tends to view the office of the mayor as akin to a hallway at Bloomberg L.P.
Rules apply as the boss prefers. He wants a deputy mayor to run his foundation, which in turn ladles out dough to constituents’ nonprofits? Done. With precious little input, he wants to pick a Park Avenue friend as schools chancellor? Done.
You want to take undisclosed vacations to undisclosed mansions on undisclosed islands? That too.
So it’s not surprising to find the mayor at it again on Sunday, this time defending something less defensible: His refusal to disclose that Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith resigned under duress, after police had arrested and jailed him on a domestic violence charge in Washington…
Loyalty is an admirable trait in a leader, although quite a bit more so when employed in a public defense as opposed to a private coverup. In early August, the mayor could have said: Mr. Goldsmith’s been arrested. I trust he and his wife can sort this out. He’ll take a leave until then.
Writing in The Daily News, Michael Lupica notes that the city has no problem touting the arrest of low-level city workers, with the NYPD pushing out regular press releases on how a Dept. of Education official was charged with assault or a Parks Dept. official busted for a DWI:
Goldsmith lost his job last month because he got arrested in Washington in July when his wife called the cops on him after a domestic dispute. Only that is not what Bloomberg told everybody at the time. He told everybody Goldsmith was leaving his administration to explore opportunities in the private sector.
When the mayor of New York finally had to answer questions Sunday outside a church in Brooklyn, he apologized for nothing. He really has got to be kidding. You would say that Bloomberg has some nerve here, but we knew that already. We are way past that, into arrogance and the sense of entitlement that got him this third term in the first place.
And writing in The New York Post, Michael Goodwin sees a mayor who no longer cares about the job:
Face it, New York. Our mayor is just not that into us anymore. Bloomy Dearest has checked out and moved on.
The job of mayor is beneath him, and it’s no longer worthy of his full attention. Besides, there’s no point being a billionaire if you have to follow the same rules as everybody else…
In 30 years of covering New York politicians, I’ve never seen anything as boneheaded as his conduct yesterday. He admitted he lied, insisted it was right to do so, and declared he would “make no apologies.”
He’s been hiding since Thursday. He should have taken a few more days to come to his senses.
It’s no secret among supporters and others in government that Bloomberg is growing increasingly cranky and distracted. His mixing of City Hall aides with his media business and foundation work has created unprecedented conflicts of interest and splintered his fading attention.
Meanwhile, crime is rising and the city is careening toward another fiscal crisis. The school system is far from fixed, and pension costs continue to rise.
And now this. By my reckoning, he served notice that he no longer will even pretend that he hopes to salvage the third term. Mentally and emotionally, he’s finished.
There will be consequences. He has further damaged his sinking reputation and buried his fantasy of being considered a great mayor. Going through the motions and expressing contempt for the public won’t cut it.
He has also cemented his role as second fiddle to Gov. Cuomo. The governor’s popularity and power are rising and increasingly will stand in sharp contrast to Bloomberg’s decline. This is not good for city taxpayers, but it’s not as though Bloomberg much cared about them anyway.
Finally, and perhaps most damaging, Bloomberg has given the public reason to doubt every word that comes from his mouth or any of his aides.
After all, savvy New Yorkers know the rule: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
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