New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg sat down with IrishCentral publisher Niall O’Dowd for an hour-long interview at O’Neill’s Restaurant in Midtown Manhattan on last Wednesday, June 17.
Little wonder, because an opinion poll that morning had showed him with a large lead in the latest mayoral race polling.
But the mayor is clearly leaving little to chance in an unpredictable year with an uncertain economy. Politicians everywhere are struggling against a strong tide of voter anger at how the economy has plummeted.
Bloomberg knows better than most that he is still identified as a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic town, and that voters could still send a strong message in the November election against the incumbent if they so choose.
Blessedly, he is still a politician who listens to questions, doesn’t come out with rote answers and genuinely appears to think through answers, unlike so many of his counterparts. It made for a lively discussion with the IrishVoice, and one that he clearly relished.
In the end Michael Bloomberg may be the best argument for money in politics. He clearly outshines the machine politicians who make up New York’s core and who make few decisions that do not pander to the mythical base. Bloomberg’s independence allows him to think otherwise.
We began our interview talking about the latest poll numbers.
N’OD: Good news this morning on the opinion poll.
MB: Yes, but the only poll that matters is November 3, I might point out. There’s been a lot of people who were guaranteed to win, who never got there, so it’s a good lesson for all of us.
Someone said to me the other day, ‘Would you be active and do things in your third term?’ and I said ‘Look, I thought my second term was going to be my last term, and we did more in the second term than in the first term. People expect you to do it.
Keep in mind, I’m a workaholic. I haven’t had a vacation in seven years. But it isn’t because I couldn’t take one.
The fact of the matter is I like going to work every day. I even liked going to work the day I knew I was going to get fired from Salomon Brothers. As long as you’re healthy how can you have a bad day?
I think there’s a lot of things you can do, and what I’ve got to do, I’ve said to my staff -- assume we only have a number of days between now and December 31, because that’s when you know for sure -- don’t walk away from controversial things.
Somebody said to me, for example, we should postpone the experiment of closing off Broadway through Times Square and Herald Square. I said, ‘If you ever had an argument to convince me to do it, you just made it,’ that we should just go ahead and not walk away. But I think the public recognizes that what I look for.
I don’t know about the polls, I think it’s how you ask the question. When I walk down the street or take the subway, this morning I just noticed a lot of people smiled, ‘Good morning Mayor, good morning.’ If they didn’t like you, they wouldn’t say nasty things necessarily, but they wouldn’t reach out.
How do you feel at this stage of your career?
I’m 67 years old and I like people. If I didn’t like people I’d be in the wrong job. I love going on the subway, I love walking on the streets, I was at a baseball game the other day. With Brian Williams and his wife, at the Yankee game, which was not a great game because it was not competitive.
But people every place … the Puerto Rican Day parade, great response from one end to the other. I remember the first time I did it, somebody hired some people to boo on both sides.
Everybody is deeply concerned about the economy. Obviously you‘re more than just a mayor, you’re a brilliant entrepreneur yourself. How do you feel?
We have a crisis of confidence, and we sort of create what we’re afraid of. We haven’t been saving for a long time, we’ve been overspending, not being prudent, but nobody wanted to end it, so when they say who’s responsible for the recession, I would say look in the mirror --we’re all responsible.
Nobody wanted to stop people getting mortgages, nobody wanted to stop stocks going up, nobody wanted to stop the ability to buy anything, if you wanted to use your credit card or mortgage your house for some money. So we’re all sort of part of that.
And then all of a sudden everybody realized, for a variety of reasons, but really had nothing to do with the real cause, what came out of it. You have these mortgage products, and lots of the derivative stuff, and then all of a sudden you kind of get scared and somebody says they’re not going to buy it, which meant they didn’t have any value, which all of a sudden created its own reality.