Interviews

Bloomberg on FAA travel ban: Israeli airport security 'infinitely better' than US

Former NYC mayor speaks out in Jerusalem

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," July 23, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, back to FAA's travel ban to Israel, at least on the part of American carriers.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg not part of that. He says he thinks traveling to Israel is perfectly fine, hopped on an El-Al flight yesterday to do just that. He joins us from Israel right now.

Mayor, very good to have you. Do you think, is this an overreaction on the part of the FAA?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Well, I think compared to the security at American airports, security at Ben Gurion Airport is infinitely better.

Compared to the security getting on and off American Airlines, El-Al security is infinitely better. You have got to remember that Israel has been under threat since 1948, when it was founded. And so there's always been threats. And they take security much more seriously here and on El-Al than -- around the world -- than we do in America.

The FAA's got a job to do, and I think the FAA by and large does a very good job. I have been a big -- I'm a pilot registered by the FAA. That's where my license comes from. And I think they do a good job.

But in this case, I think that if it hadn't been for the Malaysian airline disaster, they probably never would have done this, but this is not the same thing. A rocket here, not a controlled rocket, but a ballistic rocket, fell a mile away from the airport.

And if you had -- if you closed down JFK every time something dangerous happened within a mile or so of Kennedy Airport, we wouldn't have a city. We couldn't get people in and out of New York. The real world is that things happen.

And in this case, I felt as safe as I could possibly feel coming in on El-Al and coming into this airport. And if we let terrorists frighten ourselves into closing travel to different cities around the world, the economies of the world will collapse and terrorists will have won.

CAVUTO: Would you and were you planning to go to Israel anyway, Mayor, or did -- after this ban, you said, well, that's ridiculous, I'm going to go to Israel and make my point?

BLOOMBERG: I had no plans to come. I have got to get back tonight. Right after this, I'm flying back to New York. But late yesterday afternoon or middle of the afternoon, I had heard about the ban, and I said, I want to show that I think it's safe, and so called El-Al, got a ticket, went to the airport after dinner, flew here, had a great flight, and here I am.

CAVUTO: You know, Mayor, you mentioned that none of this probably would even be happening right now if not for the Malaysian Air crash last week.

But that did change things, and it did give people pause that in war zones or danger zones, maybe we should be extra cautious. What do you say?

BLOOMBERG: Well, we should. And, unfortunately, that's every place in the world in this day and age.

You know, you can bring a small boat into New York Harbor, and if you have a powerful missile, you can do an awful lot of damage very quickly. We live in a world that is dangerous. And we have to make sure that we support our security forces, that we invest the kind of money. We want to able to make sure that we protect people's rights, but the days of just laissez-faire saying, oh, well, don't have to worry about it, I live in a safe part of the world, are long over.

And if we didn't learn that message from 9/11, I don't know how we're ever going to learn the message. You couldn't have been more safe in New York City right up until the morning of September 11, 2001.

CAVUTO: That's a very good point.

Mayor, I have talked to a number of Israelis on the phone who have been saying that they wonder if this was political payback and that maybe we were punishing Israel, knowing that this wouldn't hurt Hamas, it would hurt Israel in terms of business, tourism and the rest. What do you make of it?

BLOOMBERG: Well, look it, you can always accuse anybody of politics. I always try to think of our government, particularly American government - - I'm so proud of America. I have always been.

We don't do everything perfectly. And there are some bad people and people sometimes do stupid things or bad things. But the bottom line is, American policy isn't set just by politics. Every once in a while, it impacts you in a minor way, but I think the FAA is not a politically conscious organization.

It is true, however, that the FAA ban gives Hamas a win. And Hamas even put out a statement to that. They're thrilled that they were able to cow somebody into stopping commerce and hurting Israel. And we cannot let them do that. We just can't do that. And, hopefully, the FAA, after looking at all the precautions that Ben Gurion Airport takes, will remove their ban and that airlines will start flying here again.

Certainly, El-Al and British Airways both said, we're going to fly. It's a safe place.

And I happened to fly in on a 777 today, and I was honored to be in the cockpit with the pilots. I'm a pilot. And I can just tell you the precautions they take here are better than precautions we certainly take in the United States.

CAVUTO: What we're talking about, fear, terror and the rest, Mayor, I would be remiss if I didn't mention what you know is going back home in the city that you ran for a better part of 12 years, these guys who ascended to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge and put up these bleached American flags.

A lot of security experts say it could have been a lot worse. They could have put a bomb up there, they could have put anything up there. What did you make of that?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I don't know. I just saw the headline in the paper. Clearly, there should be protections against people climbing up on bridges. It's dangerous for the people that climb, and also they can do some real damage if they were terrorists. And I think the P.D. just has to check what their procedures are.

Keep in mind, the NYPD is a group of the most talented, trained, well- managed police departments in the whole world. And they can't be everyplace, and there's always going to be something that will give you a story. But, generally, I feel as safe in New York City as I possibly would feel anyplace else in the world. And part of it's because of the NYPD that just has done, for the last 12 years, when I was very close to it, and from what I can read after that, done a great job.

CAVUTO: Now, I don't know how you're flying back home, or whether you're going to stop in Rome early. You know that your successor, Bill de Blasio, is there. What do you think of the job he's doing?

(LAUGHTER)

BLOOMBERG: Well, Bill's a new mayor.

And I have said that I will not comment on him or his policies or anything. But just let me say, I and my family live in New York City. I and my family plan to continue to live in New York City. My business is in New York City.

I think it's the most wonderful city in the world, no offense to Jerusalem, where I am now or any other city, many of which are great cities.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOOMBERG: But I'm a New Yorker.

CAVUTO: But you don't think he's chasing them away, Mayor? I talk to some business types in New York who fear that his sort of anti-business tone and get-the-rich tone is hurting and will hurt the city.

BLOOMBERG: Well, look, you have got talk to them. I'm going to stay away from local politics.

My predecessor gave me the great gift of never criticizing. And I will give my successor exactly the same gift.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOOMBERG: It's not up to me.

I just go about my business in New York every day feeling safe, looking at an economy that's bustling, where people are coming for education and for medical treatment, and to create businesses and to start work, and to enjoy great cultural institutions. And I think that will continue.

CAVUTO: Are you going to run for president?

BLOOMBERG: No.

CAVUTO: You looked at the idea of an independent run. You obviously have the mean and the resources of doing it, but you must have crunched the numbers or looked it and the odds. And what happened?

BLOOMBERG: This is a two-party country. I suspect it will always be.

I find it hard to see how a third-party candidate could win. But, in any case, my future, it's not politics. My future is working a little bit at my company, a lot at my foundation, and trying to do other things. And I'm an awful lucky guy, Neil, and I have got a lot of things on my plate.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: I understand, Mayor, but a lot of people are frustrated with the two-party system.

We have a poll out today that shows frustration with both parties is at its highest level ever, ever. And I'm wondering whether therein lie the seeds for a credible third-party run.

BLOOMBERG: That does not mean that...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: I understand that, but Ross Perot...

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOMBERG: Neil, that doesn't mean that they would do something else.

CAVUTO: I know, but Ross Perot in a less divisive environment got 19 percent of the vote.

BLOOMBERG: Ross Perot was a fiction created by the press.

He may have gotten 19 percent, but he wouldn't have gotten more than 19 percent. I do not believe that a third-party candidate can win. And I can tell you categorically I'm not running for president. And I don't know who I will support.

CAVUTO: Would you support more a Republican or a Democrat? You have been complimentary of Hillary Clinton.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOMBERG: I thought -- and Jeb Bush, who is a friend of mine.

CAVUTO: Yes.

BLOOMBERG: I just have said it -- let me repeat what I said.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOOMBERG: I'm not going to tell you who and I haven't decided who I will support, but you can rest assured that, in two-and-a-half years, when there is a presidential election, or two-and-a-third years, I will vote and I will vote for one of the parties of the two major candidates -- the two major parties.

CAVUTO: All right, you're not really giving me any answer, Mayor, which is fine.

BLOOMBERG: That is true. That's exactly right. You got that one.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: All right. What do you think of Chris Christie?

BLOOMBERG: Chris Christie is a governor of a state.

I have become a casual business friend, I would say, of his. We work together. I was with him at a conference about two weeks ago. His wife happens to work at the same company my son-in-law works, so there's connections.

He's a New York Ranger fan. I have seen him at games or at -- a Knick fan. I have seen him there. The governor has got a very tough job. The politics of New Jersey are complex, and the economics of New Jersey are very problematic.

And Governor Christie's going to be judged on how well he deals with the -- getting jobs back into New Jersey and getting the budget balanced and getting the pension funds funded.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: In that regard, how do you think he's done and whether the bridge scandal is done and over or not? Is he -- I heard some who say he's toast, his presidential prospects are gone.

BLOOMBERG: You know, it's not my job to say.

And, in any case, I'm not -- I don't live in New Jersey, so I'm not as current with it as perhaps I should be.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: You are very familiar with markets. As you know, Mayor, they have been running up fast and furious. Some people say they're feeling a little bit like helium. They have almost defied gravity and reality. Do you agree with that?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I think there's a number of things taking place here.

The most important thing is the Fed has pumped an enormous amount of money into the economy. That's forced rates way down. That has heightened asset values, which exacerbates the rich/poor problem. This does not end well. And somehow or other, the Fed has got to get itself out of a situation where, if they show they're going to stop pumping money in, the markets will collapse.

I don't think the markets will collapse. But if interest rates went up, people would have alternatives to the stock market to invest. And then I do think you would probably see the market come down.

But I have always been pessimistic, in the sense that, if I'm wrong, I want to be wrong on the side that makes me put a smile on my face. And so I always prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

CAVUTO: Mayor, you mentioned the markets. You mentioned what could happen. A lot of people worry that interest rates are ridiculously low, maybe bubble-type low. What do you think?

BLOOMBERG: You know, I will let you know in a few years. Call me then, and I will tell you what happened back when. I can't predict the future, and I don't know very many people that can.

CAVUTO: No. You became a billionaire, so I would trust your judgment, rather than a lot of these analysts' judgment.

BLOOMBERG: Well, but I didn't do it by speculating in the market.

CAVUTO: No, you didn't. No, you didn't. (CROSSTALK)

BLOOMBERG: I did it by building a business.

CAVUTO: Do you think that it is tougher, though, in this environment if you had to build that business all over again to repeat what you did?

BLOOMBERG: No.

I think that the opportunities to create businesses in America are as good, if not better, than they have ever been before, stock markets at record highs, so you can raise capital. Interest rates are record low, so you can borrow moneys.

The only fly in the ointment is, we have a crazy immigration policy that's preventing people from around the world to come here and create the businesses that will create the jobs that we desperately need. We don't need more profits. We need more jobs.

And the ways you get that is you have people around the world start the businesses that are going to employ people, create the new industries that we want them created here, rather than other places around the world. And right now, the current immigration policy is devastating to American industry. It's devastating to American higher education.

People are doing things overseas that they should be doing here. And once they start overseas, it's going to be almost impossible to get them back here. Congress just has to stop this, come to its senses, pass an immigration bill that lets people come here to take the jobs that Americans don't want on one hand, create the businesses that we need created here on the other.

CAVUTO: Governor Rick Perry of Texas is sending 1,000 troops to the Texas border because he said the president is not doing what he should be doing. What do you think?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I don't know. It's hard to understand how you control a border as long as it is.

I do agree that we should be in control of our border. I don't think we have an obligation to take people from other parts of the world because they don't like where they are or aren't doing well. We should take people into this country that we want to help our existing citizens and our existing businesses and create new businesses.

But the politics of it are difficult and the practicality of it is particularly difficult. Everybody says, sends 50,000 kids home. Where? They don't have passports. We don't know where they come from. A lot of them probably don't remember. They're very young and don't even remember their last name, certainly can't tell you what town they came from.

The practical aspects of solving this problem are not easy. And I don't know that I think the state National Guard should be involved, but I do agree with Governor Perry that America should be in charge of its own borders. And I know President Obama does that as well. And maybe if Congress would vote moneys not based on who's given them campaign donations, but based on where they really would do some good along the border, perhaps we could slow down and even stop this influx.

Nevertheless, it's probably also true that more people are leaving America across that border than coming into America. The economy in Mexico is booming. The economy in Canada is booming, much more so than our economy. And people are looking and saying, well, the opportunities are elsewheres. That's not good for us.

We have got to find out what to do with 11 million or whatever the number is of undocumented here. Deporting them is ridiculous. It could not happen. I don't happen to think it should happen either. We need these people. They tend to have very low crime. They tend not to use our hospitals. They tend not to use our schools. They tend to pay taxes as much as the documented people here and people who were born in America.

There are all of these beliefs about the undocumented that happen to be wrong. But whether they're right or wrong isn't the issue. The practical aspect is we have got to do something about this and get on. We're shooting ourselves, not just in the foot. We're starting to work our ways up the body.

CAVUTO: So you're not in agreement with Republicans who say the way we're handling these 50,000 or 60,000 largely young illegals who come to this country in such a way that we're actually encouraging others to do the same right now, to complicate and make our situation worse?

BLOOMBERG: I don't know what they're talking -- Neil, I don't know what they're talking about. And if they have some got concrete things that the president could do, I'm sure he and the rest of the public would love to hear them.

But just criticizing when we have a tough problem is not helping anybody. It's hurting everybody and I think it's hurting the Republican Party. People don't want people that just criticize and say no. They want real-term solutions.

And the next president of the United States is going to be somebody who offers real, concrete solutions that everybody believes are implementable and practical and addresses the real world as it exists and the needs of this country.

CAVUTO: Mayor, you mentioned the president before, and I talked to a number of Israeli leaders who say privately that they're kind of chagrined by the tone and the enthusiasm, or lack of it, that comes out of the White House, and this supposedly off-mike comment that Secretary of State John Kerry made in an interview with my friend and colleague Chris Wallace, taking a call about the latest Israeli airstrikes and whether they were going beyond pinpointed strikes.

Do they -- do you think this administration is as much a friend to Israel as it states?

BLOOMBERG: Well, number one, I don't think you can have a proportional response when people are lobbing rockets at your citizens.

We would not have a proportional response in America. We'd go in with every single thing we have. And the critics of the president would be leading the charge on that. So let's first step back and realize what's going on here.

The president is trying. And while I don't think the president or this administration or the Republicans and the Democrats in the Senate are giving enough support to Israel, because, as Israel goes, so will America. This is the only democracy in this part of the world. This is an ally we need and they need us, just like our special relationship with the Brits and other of the Western European countries and our two partners on the borders of our country on the north and south.

But we have to go and we have to find some ways to solve these problems, rather than just complain about them. And I will say that the administration has put in the latest bill where they want more money for border security, more money to help the Israelis build more of these anti- rocket rockets, the dome that they call it here that has been shooting down rockets before they ever land.

What the Israelis do is, they calculate the track of the rocket from the instant it gets off the ground. If it's going to land out in an open field, they don't do anything. If it is going to land in a populous area, their computers are good enough to then fire off a missile and with something like 90-plus percent accuracy, they shoot down those missiles, saving an awful lot of lives.

But then they have got to go into those places where the missiles are originating from. And Hamas has, like every coward around the world, hid themselves among people who are defenseless, so that when the Israelis strike or when the Americans strike in Afghanistan or Iraq or every place else we fight wars, that -- civilians that will get hurt.

And America has exactly the same problem with doing that that the Israelis have. And, incidentally, our solution to the problem was exactly the same. You have to go in, and you can't let them use human beings as shields.

Sadly, that's exactly what they have been doing. And the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are taking -- paying a terrible price. And it's because of Hamas. And I think if you went and asked the Palestinians, you would find exactly the same thing. They understand that.

They don't want somebody walking into one of their schools and setting up rockets and saying, leave your kids in class, you can't take them out because we don't want somebody to strike. And that's exactly what the Hamas is doing.

CAVUTO: Well, in this environment, then, Mayor, do you think it's wise for the president to go to fund-raisers?

BLOOMBERG: Oh, he's got lots of things to do. You know, the president can't sit there all the time, Neil, and work on any one problem. He has a staff. He has people. He sets policy. He listens. He makes decisions.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: You have no problem with just the optics, Mayor? Just the optics of that, you have no problem with?

BLOOMBERG: The optics, you can argue, are terrible.

But the real world is that the Republicans and Democrats are raising enormous amount of money. And it's not clear to me that that money is being well-spent on either side and it really impacts the election. If I were running for office, I would say, this is what I stand for, whether it's politic or not. And I think people would respect that.

And it does cost money to get the message out.

CAVUTO: Indeed.

BLOOMBERG: I certainly spent a lot of my own money to do that.

But, nevertheless, I will leave the decisions like that to the president. And he's got to decide whether he likes the image of it or not.

CAVUTO: You have been very patient, Mayor.

Finally, you mentioned money, and I want to mention this fellow named Rupert Murdoch. I think he's making a bid for Time Warner.

BLOOMBERG: I have heard of him.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Yes, as have I.

And if he were to succeed, there are some -- he would have to sell off CNN, and that Bloomberg would be interested in buying CNN. Is that true?

BLOOMBERG: I can't think of why we would be interested in buying CNN.

We have got a business. We have got to reinvest in our business and work very hard. CNN -- and I just did an interview in the same building, Neil, with Wolf Blitzer on CNN. A lot of people like CNN. A lot of people watch it. It's -- Ted Turner had a great concept when he started it.

I don't know who else would buy it, but -- or whether Rupert would sell it off. My guess is, if Rupert can't buy Time Warner, CNN would not get sold. And who knows how that deal is going to turn out.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But you're saying, if it were to get to that point, Mayor...

BLOOMBERG: I don't -- I don't, you know...

CAVUTO: ... CBS would be interested, presumably Disney would be, but Michael Bloomberg would not?

BLOOMBERG: You never say never, but, in this case, I can say probably never.

CAVUTO: All right.

Now, we have had an African-American president. You already said before your view on this, that you will not be running to be the first Jewish president. But when do you think that day comes?

BLOOMBERG: I don't think, all kidding aside, that ethnicity or religion or gender or orientation or any of those kinds of distinctions are what's important.

If you remember, the vice presidential candidate was Jewish four years before this, and his wife's name was Hadassah. And I don't remember anybody talking about that.

CAVUTO: You're right, talking about Joe Lieberman.

BLOOMBERG: And I would argue that in the case of -- sure.

And in the case of Barack Obama, I'm sure there were some people that didn't vote for him because of his ethnicity, and I'm sure there are some people that did vote for him because of his ethnicity. But most people voted for Barack Obama because they liked what he said.

And then he had to go out and do it and prove to them that what he said he was going to do. Four years later, he faced the voters again, and no matter what some people think, the voters once again elected him.

And I find it offensive and dangerous and sick that people say, oh, I hope he fails in the next two-and-a-third years. We need Barack Obama to succeed. Republicans and Democrats, we have to pull together and help him. People say he doesn't want help. I don't believe that.

CAVUTO: Right.

BLOOMBERG: But even if he doesn't, we have to find ways to help him, because that's the future of our country and the world.

CAVUTO: Michael Bloomberg, a real pleasure. Thank you very, very much. Safe travels back.

BLOOMBERG: Neil, thanks.

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