It’s a sign of respect for Michael Bloomberg’s candidacy that suddenly the press is filled with controversial statements from his past. That doesn’t happen by accident.
He’s also drawing increasingly aggressive jabs from the man whose job he wants—and is quickly hitting back.
Bloomberg’s 12-year record as New York’s mayor, his main calling card in the campaign, is of course fair game. No one, no matter how rich, gets to waltz to the nomination without being vetted by the press.
But the surge in oppo research also reflects the muddled state of the Democratic race, with Joe Biden reeling after Iowa and New Hampshire while Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar try to seize the moderate mantle. And some of those who dismissed Bloomberg’s big-bucks, skip-the-early-states gambit are now taking him far more seriously.
"Bloomberg is the biggest threat to President Trump in the fall," former Trump spokesman Jason Miller told the Washington Examiner.
The liberal Huffington Post played up the latest story with this searing headline: “FLASHBACK: MIKE SCAPEGOATED END OF RACIST ‘REDLINING.’”
As the AP reported, in a 2008 appearance at Georgetown University, the then-mayor blamed the financial crisis on “a lot of pressure on banks to make loans to everyone. Redlining, if you remember, was the term where banks took whole neighborhoods and said, ‘People in these neighborhoods are poor, they’re not going to be able to pay off their mortgages, tell your salesmen don’t go into those areas.’…
“And then Congress got involved ― local elected officials, as well ― and said, ‘Oh that’s not fair, these people should be able to get credit.’ And once you started pushing in that direction, banks started making more and more loans where the credit of the person buying the house wasn’t as good as you would like.”
Now it happens to be true that the financial collapse was precipitated in part by banks making way too many loans to people who couldn’t afford to repay them. But since redlining is code for discriminating against minorities, “Bloomberg appears to be blaming policies intended to bring equality to the housing market,” the AP says. Campaign spokesman Stu Loeser said that Bloomberg “attacked predatory lending” as mayor.
I feel safe in saying that someone pointed the Associated Press to those remarks.
Earlier, there was audio from a 2015 Aspen Institute speech in which Bloomberg, defending his stop-and-frisk policy, said:
“Ninety-five percent of murderers—murder and murder victims—fit one M.O. You can just take a description, Xerox it, and pass it out to all the cops. They are male, minorities, 16 to 25…
“And the way you get the guns out of the kids’ hands is to throw them up against the walls and frisk them.”
Now the first part may be accurate, but the second part—throw them up against the walls—sounds belligerent toward minorities. Bloomberg launched his candidacy by apologizing for championing stop and frisk.
The audiotape was unearthed by an African-American podcaster named Benjamin Dixon, who says he was acting on his own and only recently came to support Bernie Sanders. He also says the Bloomberg camp asked Aspen not to release the videotape.
For others, Politico says, the tape “would pose a potentially fatal blow to their candidacy. But Bloomberg, in the roughest 48 hours of his young campaign, rallied a vast network of black surrogates and community leaders whose causes he’s backed or personally invested in to vouch for his character as he works to contain the firestorm.”
The president reacted by calling Bloomberg a “total racist,” though Trump, who has faced similar accusations, later deleted the tweet.
But he had this to say yesterday: “Mini Mike Bloomberg is a LOSER who has money but can’t debate and has zero presence, you will see. He reminds me of a tiny version of Jeb ‘Low Energy’ Bush, but Jeb has more political skill and has treated the Black community much better than Mini!
“Mini Mike is a 5’4” mass of dead energy who does not want to be on the debate stage with these professional politicians. No boxes please. He hates Crazy Bernie and will, with enough money, possibly stop him. Bernie’s people will go nuts!”
For the record, the billionaire is 5’8”.
Bloomberg’s response was mogul to mogul:
“We know many of the same people in NY. Behind your back they laugh at you & call you a carnival barking clown. They know you inherited a fortune & squandered it with stupid deals and incompetence.”
Bottom line, as the corporate types say: Bloomberg has moved up to third or fourth place in several national polls, drawing Democratic support as high as 17 percent. That’s what is driving these attacks. And how he handles the media criticism will help determine whether he has a shot at seizing the nomination.