Billionaire Mike Bloomberg stunned the political world by entering the 2020 presidential race. He is no stranger to the Irish.

In the end newly-minted presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg might be the best argument for money in politics. When in power in New York he confounded his critics because he simply did not have to worry about fundraising or making enemies.

Donald Trump made the same argument but comparing the two is like looking at a rocking horse and a racehorse, Bloomberg simply dwarfs Trump in terms of personal wealth and philanthropy.

He has also given $6 billion away and continues to fight fearlessly for more restrictions on guns.

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The Irish in New York know him well. A key figure in his operation is Patrick Brennan brother of Martin, who does the same job for Senator Chuck Schumer. You will not find two smarter political operatives.

Bloomberg picked well when mayor with his liaison to the Irish community, broadcaster Adrian Flannelly who has been a key figure for decades.

Bloomberg made one unforced error with the Irish, describing out of thin air drunk Irish hanging out of windows at the American Irish Historical Society during the St. Patrick’s parade. The formal membership of the august historical society were the last people you’d imagine doing that.

He wouldn’t be wasting time tweeting either. ”Keep in mind, I’m a workaholic,” he said during our interview.”I haven’t had a vacation in seven years. But it isn’t because I couldn’t take one.

Michael Bloomberg. Credit: Getty Images

Michael Bloomberg. Credit: Getty Images

“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?”

His other piece of advice was instinctive for a very successful man — “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.” (It has been a huge success.)

On immigration, a hot topic back then, he was adamant hardworking immigrants help.

“We should open the borders, not close them. And you need to open them in tough times more than you need to open them in good times. And government has to lead, and I don’t think most of our leaders are willing to do that.
What nobody quite understands about the undocumented, and I think it’s true no matter where they come from, all the conventional wisdoms of Lou Dobbs -- who has done an enormous amount of damage to this country – the undocumented have very low (rates of) crime. Why? Because they don’t want to go near the government.

“Undocumented pay taxes. Why? Because their company deducts and there’s no place to send the refund. Undocumented don’t use our schools very much. They tend to be young people coming here who don’t go and have families. They tend to send money back home.

“Undocumented don’t use our hospitals much. Why? Because most of us use three quarters of our medical expenses in the last three years of our life, and these are young people who come here. And the argument that undocumented take jobs away from Americans is just not true. You cannot get Americans generally to do these jobs.

“Now you can say wait a minute and pay them more, but if you did that, yes, more Americans would take them, but the organizations couldn’t survive. Golf courses can’t survive if they have high-cost grass cutters. To answer your question on what do you do, it’s the elected officials (who must act).

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“What I can do for local government is to make sure that we welcome immigrants, and that people understand how valuable they are.”

I asked him What’s your best memory of Ireland?

“Well, I did have a six and a half hour dinner at Bono’s with Penelope Cruz sitting across the table from me -- I’ll remember that! Javier Bardem was there but I didn’t know who he was!

“I love the country.(Ireland) it’s not a culture where they sit back and depend on the government to do things. There’s an understanding that you’re responsible for your own success.”

Looks like Irish Americans will be hearing a lot more from him.

Michael Bloomberg in October 2019.Getty Images