For political pot-stirring, it’s hard to top the story that Mayor Bloomberg urged Hillary Rodham Clinton to run for mayor. It has all the elements that tickle New York’s erogenous zones — big names, big money, big surprise.
There’s even a juicy touch of betrayal, with Bloomy’s pledge to back City Council Speaker Christine Quinn suddenly looking shaky. It’s hard not to squirm at the painful description of a New York Times reporter informing Quinn of the call to Clinton, and Quinn’s surprised answer of, “Really?”
Quinn wouldn’t say more, but somebody’s talking and there’s a reason when a private conversation like this one gets out. The intrigue is not diminished by the fact that the call happened several months ago, and that Clinton said no.
Why does the news break now? If there was nothing to it, what’s the point of leaking it?
As Agatha Christie’s detective Hercule Poirot would say, find the person with a motive. In this case, there are two suspects. Clinton and Bloomberg both have something to gain by publicizing the details.
Start with the mayor, who has become a power junkie. There’s lots about the job he doesn’t like, but he couldn’t let go of City Hall after the two-term limit, and bought himself a third term when Quinn lined up the council votes to allow it.
Picking a successor is the ultimate power move in his world, and the mayor long ago seized on Quinn as his heir apparent. He told many people he thought she would be a good mayor, and tried to talk other leading Democrats out of running.
Unspoken, of course, is that he owed her for the third term and for often acting like a deputy mayor instead of the leader of the legislative branch. His loyalty was admirable but, now we know, also conditional.
His willingness to dump Quinn leaves me with mixed emotions. On one hand, I’m delighted that Bloomberg seems to realize that it was at least premature and maybe wrong to settle on her.
He should want her to prove to voters that she’s up to the responsibilities. Anointing her in hopes of shutting down opposition isn’t good for the city and could backfire on Bloomberg’s legacy if she doesn’t win or screws up the job.
On the other hand, Clinton is a very strange alternative. While not the Cathie Black of politics, the former first lady, senator and soon-to-be former secretary of state would almost certainly find City Hall a confining and confounding drag. It’s a working job, not a pit stop for a worn-out globe-trotter.
Still, Clinton might have wanted the conversation revealed. It came during the presidential campaign, but now that the election is over and Clinton is casting about for her next gig, the call reminds people not to forget her.
“For the Clintons, it never hurts to be talked about,” said one insider. “They love it.”
The mayoralty buzz also temporarily trumps nagging questions about Clinton’s role in the Benghazi terror attack, which killed four Americans, including our Libyan diplomat. She has plenty to answer for in what seems a coverup designed to protect the Obama campaign; she is scheduled to testify to Congress this month.
There is also a small chance that the phone call was floated as a trial balloon, to see whether the out-of-the-box idea gets any traction. For now, both participants can have it both ways.
The mayor can downplay the call, as he did yesterday, and Clinton can pretend not to care. That might be the end of the whole episode.
Or maybe not.
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