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Saturday, December 04, 2010

Why President Obama Should Hire Michael Bloomberg

Clearly, Michael Bloomberg wants to be President. He once stated on the record that there are four supremely perfect jobs in the world: Mayor of New York, the Papacy, Secretary General of the United Nations and, finally, President. In that time, Bloomberg was elected to three terms as Mayor of New York and because of his religion, the Papacy is out of the question, and because of the politics at the UN, the Secretary General is also out of reach.

That leaves only the Presidency within the billionaire's grasp.

Michael Bloomberg has flirted with the Presidency for some time now. Various names have been floated for years -- Oklahoma Governor David Boren, former Congressman and current broadcaster Joe Scarborough, Evan Bayh -- but nothing has ever materialized on the political landscape. And there is little doubt that the maneuverings, the backroom Beltway third party chatter, all suggests, in so many words, that Michael Bloomberg would not be particularly inconvenienced if he were asked to run in 2012.

The only problem is that rosy Bloombergian scenario is that Bloomberg cannot win if Barack Obama runs for a second term -- a likely event -- because the two campaigns would cannibalize each other, appealing, essentially, to the same rational, centrist, urbane, sophisticated base of Americans, thereby electing the Republican. Awkward.

Parallel to that, Bloomberg is a fundamentally decent man and in 2008 balked at the idea of running against and somehow spoiling the legacy of the first elected African-American President. It just doesn't seem in the cards of a Bloomberg Presidential campaign if Barack Obama remains in the race. That might explain why people on the Bloomberg payroll have been not-too-subtly floating the idea of a one-term Obama Presidency (shame on Doug Shoen: he should know better). All told, it is not inconceivable that Michael Bloomberg's time for the best, most perfect job has passed him by.

Bloomberg isn't quite like any other candidate. He is the most powerful elected independent in the country. Young urban administrators with bright futures ahead of them, like Cory Booker look to Michael Bloomberg as a mentor, as an ideal pol -- a player with the personal resources and lack of a political party obligations that allows him to take risks and do bold urban policy experimentation. Like most -- if not all -- billionaires, Bloomberg shares traits with monarchs. Both billionaires and monarchs exist in a bubble, shielded from contemporary reality, catered to and pampered, thus they develop acute personal eccentricities. They also tend to be -- but are not always --unpredictable, because billionaires can act on a whim, according to their fancy, and almost never encounter opposition from within their bubble (for further reference, see: billionaire Ross Perot's quixotic exit and re-entry into the 1992 Presidential race) Bloomberg is a well-known eccentric and has been known to go off message, offering pronouncements.

According to Forbes, he is the richest New Yorker and the eighth richest man in the United States. Bloomberg finances his own campaigns. He surrounds himself with some of the smartest people in contemporary American politics -- super heavyweight political wonks and grinds of the highest magnitude. But Bloomberg is trapped, as i said before, unable to run for President, but also wanting to play in the big leagues. So why doesn't President Obama hire Michael Bloomberg?

Michael Bloomberg is many things, a politician, a billionaire, a media executive, a former Wall Streeter, but what is of greatest interest to this embattled White House is the fact that Michael Bloomberg is a businessman. They have had their differences, but they could be -- and should be -- allies. And Barack Obama has a problem -- and not a small one -- with the Chamber of Commerce, a fact that was became most evident on election day 2010 when he lost the House of Representatives. As Bloomberg told the December issue of GQ, which named him The most interesting—and most fearless—politician in America:

 “One of those things that I’ve urged the president to do is to get some business people in his close, tight circle,” Bloomberg said of the president. “I think business is—one of the president’s job is to promote American business around the world, sell our products around the world, get people from around the world to come and invest here. That’s a big part of the job. That’s our tax base. That’s how Americans earn a living and I don’t think he has enough advisers.”
Whether or not this helps Obama in the general election in 2012 -- business is not the most popular profession in America right now -- he needs non academic, non politicians in senior advisory positions who thoroughly understand the business class perspective. Michael Bloomberg is a two-fer, a businessman with Wall Street cred with a powerful political brand with independent voters (and Jewish voters as well). President Obama hire Michael Bloomberg -- and his kitchen cabinet of policy wonks -- to serve in some senior advisory position. While the administration is at it they might want to look at hiring the gritty, dirt-under-his-fingernails populist Ed Rendell -- outgoing Governor of Pennsylvania -- as Chief of Staff to provide balance to Bloomberg's centrist idealism. Rendell has a deep, pragmatic understanding of the white working class, a staple of the Democrat party -- a key to winning Ohio and Michigan and Pennsylvania -- that Barack Obama has had trouble attracting throughout his political career.

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