Last night, we got our first real look at candidate Bloomberg as he took the stage in his first Democrat presidential debate
‘I’m not going to be president of the United States,’ Michael Bloomberg told me when I interviewed him for CNN in 2012.
In fact, he went further: ‘I’m not going to run for president – for the presidency.’
This, it turned out, was fake news.
Bloomberg IS now running for president.
And last night, we got our first real look at candidate Bloomberg as he took the stage in his first Democrat presidential debate.
Since belatedly launching his candidacy last November – after reiterating in March, 2019 that he would NOT run – Bloomberg has splashed the cash in precisely the kind of wanton extravagant manner you’d expect from a man worth $60 billion.
He’s blitzed the airwaves all over America with expensively made glossy commercials in which he comes over as cool, calm, collected, and a leader.
Bloomberg’s sales pitch has been simple: ‘I’m the guy to beat Trump.’
It’s been working; his poll numbers have moved steadily up in direct correlation to his spectacular spending spree.
But all the money in the world can’t hide a candidate from the brutal reality of a live debate stage being beamed into tens of millions of American homes.
For Michael Bloomberg, last night was the moment the façade came crumbling down and it wasn’t a pretty sight.
Out went the cool, calm, collected Magic Mike that’s come to save us all from Deadly Donald – and in came a stumbling, stuttering, petty, tetchy, snooty, arrogant, and woefully ill-prepared Monotone Mike who looked like he’d stumbled into a savage barroom brawl without any tools to defend himself other than his wallet.
It all kicked off in the first few minutes as first frontrunner Bernie Sanders ripped into Bloomberg for his racially incendiary stop-and-frisk policy as New York Mayor, and then Elizabeth Warren, fighting for her own future in the race, turned on Bloomberg like a ravenous lioness gorging on a slab of fresh new meat.
It all kicked off in the first few minutes as first frontrunner Bernie Sanders ripped into Bloomberg for his racially incendiary stop-and-frisk policy as New York Mayor
She tore her prey apart on the highly sensitive issue of Bloomberg’s behaviour with women, and in particular his refusal to release former female employees at his company from Non-Disclosure Agreements which are believed to hide potentially explosive details about his inappropriate behaviour with women.
‘I’d like to talk about who we’re running against,’ she spat, ‘a billionaire who calls women “Fat broads” and “horse-faced lesbians”.
Then came the kicker of all kickers: ‘And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump, I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.’
In a few choice explosive words, Warren exposed the main problem with Bloomberg: he’s another Trump, only without the charisma.
Both men are famous, cocky, trash-talking, skirt-chasing New York billionaires prone to divisive race-baiting rhetoric (and policies), dodging full scrutiny on their tax returns, and inappropriate conduct with women.
As Warren pointed out: ‘Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.’
The audience roared Warren on as loudly as they regularly booed Bloomberg.
CNN commentator Van Jones summed it up perfectly: ‘This was a disaster for Bloomberg. He went in as the Titanic, a billion-dollar machine Titanic. Titanic, meet iceberg Elizabeth Warren.’
Bloomberg never recovered from this early mauling, limping embarrassingly on through the next two hours of the debate like Harvey Weinstein arriving at court on his walker.
Elizabeth Warren, fighting for her own future in the race, turned on Bloomberg like a ravenous lioness gorging on a slab of fresh new meat
And by the end, the self-acclaimed savior of the Democrats stood impassively at his podium with the cold, hard expression of a man, used to winning, who just took a gigantic shellacking and knew it.
As debut presidential debate performances go, given all the self-promoted hype, this was as bad as it gets and handed a massive gift to a gleeful President Trump.
‘Mini Mike Bloomberg’s debate performance tonight was perhaps the worst in the history of debates,’ Trump tweeted, with his usual non-hyperbolic understatement, ‘and there have been some really bad ones. He was stumbling, bumbling and grossly incompetent. If this doesn’t knock him out of the race, nothing will. Not so easy to do what I did!’
Trump, predictably, later followed up with a more definitive statement: ‘Worst debate performance in history!’
I wouldn’t go as far as that, but it was an undeniably terrible night for Bloomberg that may yet prove to be the real-life manifestation of his famous ‘Bloomberg Terminal’ for his campaign.
And I hope it does.
Not because I have anything personal against Bloomberg, he’s always been perfectly pleasant to me whenever we’ve met or I’ve interviewed him, and I strongly agree with him on issues like gun control on which he has been a loud, passionate and generous campaigner for decades.
No, it’s because Michael Bloomberg is the very last person in America who should be leading the Democrats into an election.
For one thing, he’s not a Democrat – or not a real one anyway.
In a few choice explosive words, Warren exposed the main problem with Bloomberg: he’s another Trump, (pictured at a rally in Arizona on Wednesday) only without the charisma
Having claimed to be one all his life, he switched to be a Republican in 2001 to run for Mayor of New York.
Then, after winning a second term in 2005, he quit the Republicans and became an ‘independent’.
And to complete his chameleon-like political journey, Bloomberg identified as a Democrat again in 2018.
What does this say about him? It says to me that he’s a ruthless unprincipled operator who will attach himself to any party that will help him win power.
And when he gets that power, Bloomberg abuses it.
His controversial stop-and-frisk policy as Mayor was divisive enough before we heard, from his own lips in a recently unearthed audio clip, his shocking way of implementing it: ‘We put all the cops in the minority neighborhoods. Why do we do it? Because that’s where all the crime is. And the way you get the guns out of the kids’ hands is to throw them up against the wall and frisk them.’
Bloomberg, who always mocked politicians for ‘going on apology tours’ has now been on his own apology tour about stop-and-frisk. But all his mollifying words now can’t change what he said and did at the time, and the huge damage it caused to race relations in New York among black and Latino communities.
Then there was his authoritarian move to change the laws so he could serve more than two terms as Mayor, a stunt Vladimir Putin would be proud of and one Democrats have been furiously warning they fear Trump may try to do as president.
And when it comes to authoritarian behaviour, what about Bloomberg’s disgraceful decision to ban his own 2,700 journalists at his global media company Bloomberg News from investigating him during his presidential campaign?
To ‘be fair’, Bloomberg also ordered them not to investigate any of his Democrat candidate rivals. Yet he has authorized them to carry on investigating President Trump.
‘Mini Mike Bloomberg’s debate performance tonight was perhaps the worst in the history of debates,’ Trump tweeted, with his usual non-hyperbolic understatement
It’s hard to imagine a more grotesquely UN-fair abuse of a media tycoon’s power, and shame on the Bloomberg News journalists for accepting this outrageous command.
So, in almost every single possible way, Michael Bloomberg represents everything the Democrats claim to hate in Donald Trump.
Yet here many of them are, holding their collective noses and preparing to back him because they fear their frontrunner Bernie Sanders can’t win in November.
They’re right to have that fear: I don’t think there’s a cat-in-hell’s chance of a diehard old socialist winning the 2020 election against an incumbent president whose approval ratings are soaring almost as fast as the U.S. economy.
We just had a direct parallel for this in Britain where another ageing diehard socialist Jeremy Corbyn got flatlined by Boris Johnson in the General Election.
Sanders, unlike Bloomberg, is at least true to his principles.
But he can’t beat Trump.
And after last night’s debacle, it’s clear that Bloomberg can’t either.
He can spend all the money he wants, and he will, but that can’t buy popular support of the kind you need to win a presidency – or the kind of natural connection Donald Trump has to voters in middle America.
The Democrats have dug themselves into the worst possible election year ditch where their choice of nominee is now very likely to be either an unelectable socialist or a charmless, way less popular mirror image of the man they’re trying to beat.
The real winner of last night’s debate was Donald Trump.