New York City Mayor Bloomberg Lashes Out at 'Wrong-Headed Course' in Washington

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for reversing America's "wrong-headed course" and healing Washington's partisan gashes on a day he sidestepped questions about whether he might enter the 2008 presidential race.

During California appearances Monday, the Republican mayor delivered a stinging critique of politics-as-usual that echoed assessments heard along the campaign trail.

At stops at Google Inc. in Mountain View and later at a conference in Los Angeles, Bloomberg never singled out President Bush or congressional leaders by name but blamed Washington gridlock for a litany of unresolved issues, from immigration reform to fixing Social Security.

The mayor, in taking critical aim at national politics, is likely to flame speculation he has an interest in the White House.

On Monday, he refused to rule out launching a presidential campaign while telling reporters he planned to serve out his term at City Hall, which runs through 2009.

Still, Bloomberg's very presence at Google raised more questions than he answered. His pilgrimage followed in the footsteps of four announced presidential candidates who have addressed employees there.

Later in Los Angeles, Bloomberg revisited the partisan theme, kicking off a two-day conference sponsored by the University of Southern California exploring ways of bridging the nation's political divide.

He said his initiatives on education and the economy were built on "nonpartisan leadership," while Washington is sinking "into a swamp of dysfunction" because of bitter party divisions.

"We can turn around our country's current, wrong-headed course, but only if we start basing our actions on ideas, shared values and a commitment to solve problems without regard for party," Bloomberg said.

For a conference looking at ways to surmount partisan differences, Bloomberg made an easy choice for speaker -- he's been in both major parties.

The one-time Democrat avoided a crowded mayoral primary in New York in 2001 by becoming a Republican, and he has displayed an independent streak at City Hall on issues from gun control to climate change.

At the same time, the billionaire founder of the Bloomberg media conglomerate calls himself a proud Republican and has donated heavily to party causes. He gave $7 million to the committee that ran the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. He also spent $7.5 million of his own money to bankroll a ballot proposal in 2003 that would have established nonpartisan elections in New York City races. It was defeated.

"We do not have to accept the tired debate between the left and right ... between Congress and the White House," Bloomberg said Monday.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was scheduled to speak Tuesday.