Sunday, November 04, 2007

Newsweek Does Bloomberg's P.R. For Him

When you're a media mogul with a billionaire dollar TV, radio, and Internet empire, you can drive your own press coverage.

Mayor Moneybags, ever the savvy media mogul, managed to get editor Jon Meacham to put him on the cover of the latest edition of Newsweek and write a glowing 11 page article about him and his presidential ambitions.

The article reads like little more than a press release from Bloomberg LP's p.r. department with Meacham slobbering all over the little mayor with such sycophantic assessments as this one:

From TR to FDR to Reagan, our greatest politicians have understood that showmanship is a critical element of leadership, and Bloomberg is among the best showmen and leaders at work in American politics.

Much of the rest of the article is full of similarly laudatory drivel. Clearly Bloomberg would not have given Meacham access to him if the article wasn't going to be overwhelmingly positive and help him drive home important campaign themes and memes for his future White House bid in 2008.

So Bloomberg is allowed to wax nostalgic about growing up in New England and tell what it was like to face the challenge of anti-semitism and still come out ahead by working harder than everybody else and believing in the American Dream.

Bloomberg is described as a man who is a "good father" (take that bad daddy Rudy Giuliani) with "limitless energy" (take that lazy Fred Thompson) who has "patriotism in his blood" (take that Super Patriot John McCain) and plenty of "sanity" (take that Ross Perot.)

He is lauded as a someone who "has learned a lot in his city-hall years" (take that George W. Bush, who has apparently learned nothing during his White House years) and prides himself on his "candor" (take that super-secretive Hillary Clinton) and "centrism" (take that John Edwards.)

Most of all, Bloomberg's pals and Bloomberg himself are given space to tell what a wonderful guy he is and how he has brought everybody together in New York City in ways that Bad Daddy Rudy Giuliani didn't and couldn't.

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch (the guy who supported "uniter" George W. Bush in 2004) says Bloomberg has made New York a "more tolerant place" by "virtue of his personality."

Bloomberg himself says he can do for the country and the world what he has done for New York City:

"The job of being president is to lead the country and the legislature, and it is pulling those together. And because America is the only remaining superpower, you are the leader of the free world, it is having the credibility and working with other countries to get them all to work together to stop genocide, to stop nuclear proliferation, to make sure we have fair trade among countries … Trade, immigration, terrorism, fighting disease—all of those things require cooperation. And one of the sad things is that at the moment America is not liked around the world. We are closing our eyes. We have this view that we can do it alone, as we are getting more into a world where you can't. You couldn't do it before, and you certainly can't do it now, and it's inconceivable that you could do it tomorrow. And I don't hear from the candidates how they would go about pulling the world together, getting people to respect us. How do you get people to respect you? Show them recognition, respect, that you are listening to them. I don't care how smart we are, other people have good ideas, and what works here isn't perfect for them."

So there you have it - vote for Bloomberg in '08.

He's a uniter who listens to others, can make the world a more tolerant place, knows what problems need to be solved and knows how to solve them.

Plus he's a nice guy and his ex-wife loves him.

Oh, and the press love him too (Little Tommy Friedman of the New York Times all but declared his support for a Bloomberg presidency at a dinner for Conservation International when he introduced Bloomberg by saying "The only thing a lot of us would like to change about Michael is his job title, but I won't go there …")

It's not until page 8 that Meacham manages to mention the sexual harassment and gender discrimination allegations that have plagued Bloomberg throughout his career:

he is far from a universally revered boss; there have been serious questions raised about the treatment of women within the Bloomberg corporate culture. In 1998, in a complaint against Bloomberg and the company filed in federal court in Manhattan, Sekiko Garrison, one of the earliest recruits to Bloomberg's largely female sales force, claimed that Bloomberg insulted and harassed her and other female employees. Garrison's most startling allegation was that when she told Bloomberg she had become pregnant, he told her to "kill it." She said that Bloomberg also expressed dismay that she was the 16th company employee to go on maternity leave. (A Bloomberg LP official called the allegations about discrimination against pregnant women "ridiculous … untrue," and said that the company "really goes above and beyond the norm in providing family benefits, and it's an incredibly family-friendly culture.")

In 2000, Bloomberg tried to walk out of a deposition after being asked about claims that he had pointed to various women in his office with the explanation, "I'd do her." "It was resolved," Neal Brickman, Garrison's lawyer, told NEWSWEEK. "I'm very happy with the resolution." He added that he could provide no further details—including financial details—about the settlement because the terms were "confidential." (Bloomberg and his city-hall office declined to comment on the details of the lawsuit. "We made a settlement and agreed not to talk about it," Bloomberg told me.)

But even here Meacham does Bloomberg's public relations work for him and dismisses the charges, writing that Bloomberg's friends say Bloomberg has "steadily grown out of a prolonged adolescence" which presumably means he's no longer telling female staffers he wants to "do" them.

I guess that means he's safe to be around White House interns.

At any rate, the Newsweek cover story will get the Washington CW class all atwitter about a potential Bloomberg bid.

You can bet that most of the Beltway press are rooting for Bloomberg to run (as Little Tommy Friedman acknowledged this week), especially as the current press favorite, Barack Obama, continues to peter out as a candidate (the latest Newsweek poll shows Obama trailing Hillary Clinton by 20 points even after the Democratic debate in Philly last week in which Clinton was hammered from all sides as "phony," "dishonest" and a "loser.")

With over a billion bucks to throw into the race and with plenty of cronies in the media like Jon Meacham at Newsweek and Little Tommy Friedman at the NY Times to do much of his public relations work for him, Bloomberg will have a much easier shot at running for the presidency as an independent than any other independent candidate in recent history.

This doesn't mean he actually has a shot to win.

He doesn't.

But he will affect the race in ways that are difficult to figure right now.

The latest Newsweek poll finds a Bloomberg candidacy hurts Republicans and helps Dems, but I still find it hard to believe that pro-gun control, pro-carbon emissions tax, pro-gay rights guy who the NRA loathes takes votes away from the GOP.

I will make one prediction that I think is a gimme: as we get closer to the primary season and as the Republican and Democratic nominees for president become clearer, additional laudatory Bloomberg stories will show up in the mainstream media, planted by the mayor's top political aide Kevin Sheekey (the same Bloomberg aide embroiled in a lobbying scandal that the Daily News reported on last week.)

Bloomberg hopes that voters will be turned off by the polarizing figures of Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani and he can come in as the "uniter" with the can-do spirit and "limitless energy" who can "go about pulling the world together."

With Jon Meacham, Little Tommy Friedman and so many other reporters and press people waving their pom-poms for Mayor Moneybags, I wouldn't totally count him out even against long odds.

A billion dollars and positive press coverage can go a long way toward making Moneybags into a viable presidential alternative to Rudy and Hillary.
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