What Bloomberg’s complicated record means for his White House bid

What Bloomberg’s complicated record means for his White House bid

February 20, 2020 0 By Luis Garrison


JUDY WOODRUFF: And now Lisa Desjardins dives
into Michael Bloomberg’s complicated and, at times, controversial record. LISA DESJARDINS: Activist, billionaire, big
city mayor, and occasional subway rider, Michael Bloomberg is many things at once, including
now both disrupter and established politician. MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, Presidential Candidate:
The momentum in this city is the legacy we’re really leaving. I, Michael R. Bloomberg, do solemnly swear… LISA DESJARDINS: Bloomberg began his 12 years
as New York City mayor as a Republican in January, 2002. MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: So help me, God. Thank
you. (APPLAUSE) LISA DESJARDINS: Mere months after the September
11 attacks shook the city’s heart. MAN: He is definitely what New York needs
as far as finance goes. Like, after September 11, we definitely need more commerce, more
business in New York. LISA DESJARDINS: Eighteen years later, that
image of a deliverer is one Bloomberg’s running on. NARRATOR: He took charge, becoming a three-term
mayor who brought a city back from the ashes. LISA DESJARDINS: By the end of the Bloomberg
era, more than half of New Yorkers polled said the city’s economy was doing good, and
about a third believed quality of life was better. There was wide approval of some of his initiatives,
like banning smoking in restaurants and adding miles of bike lanes. But other Bloomberg policies
stirred discontent or outright protest, things like his failed proposal to ban large sodas. His extension of stop and frisk police tactics,
which targeted mostly black and Latino men, was deeply divisive, both then and now. Bloomberg
renounced stop and frisk late last fall, but just five years ago defended his approach
as appropriate. MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Ninety-five percent of
your murders and murderers and murder victims fit one M.O. You can just take the description,
Xerox it, and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities 15 to 25. LISA DESJARDINS: Supporters point out that
Bloomberg has spent millions aiming to lift up marginalized communities, but critics say
words like those belie a deeper problem. And, yesterday, BuzzFeed news reported that,
last year, Bloomberg seemed to scold Democrats who campaigned for transgender rights. He said: “If your conversation during a presidential
election is about some guy wearing a dress, that’s not a winning formula for most people.” Above all, Bloomberg stresses that he is a
man who knows how to get things done, one of the world’s most successful businessmen.
But here too are questions. Multiple news stories, including a recent Washington Post
report, have highlighted profane, sexist comments he made while leading his namesake financial
data company, Bloomberg LP. Bloomberg denies that, and told the hosts
of ABC’s “The View” last month, women thrive in his workplace overall. MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: You talk to most women
in the company, they would say, equal pay, equal promotion, equal opportunity, it’s a
great place to work. Did I ever tell a bawdy joke? Yes, sure I
did. And do I regret it? Yes, it’s embarrassing. But, you know, that’s the way I grew up. LISA DESJARDINS: His company is also under
scrutiny because the Bloomberg LP news operation has a policy of blocking any in-depth investigations
of Bloomberg or his primary rivals. He told CBS this: MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: People have said to me,
how can you investigate yourself? And I have said, I don’t think you can. QUESTION: But even your own news reporters
have complained. They think it’s unfair that they’re not allowed to investigate other Democratic
candidates because their boss is in the race. MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: OK, we have — you just
have to learn to live with some things. LISA DESJARDINS: Bloomberg’s opponents have
not held back their criticism. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), Presidential Candidate:
Well, I got news for Mr. Bloomberg, and that is, the American people are sick and tired
of billionaires buying elections. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) LISA DESJARDINS: Bloomberg’s team rejects
this, and defends him as someone doing the hard work. He’s visited 25 states so far and
60 cities, and he is campaigning on his past national activism, especially on guns and
climate change. His biggest pitch, maybe the biggest question
for Democratic voters, does past accomplishment guarantee success in November? For a closer look at the man shaking up the
race for the White House, I’m joined by Eleanor Randolph, who has covered Bloomberg’s mayoral
career as a member of The New York Times’ editorial board and is the author of “The
Many Lives of Michael Bloomberg.” Thank you for joining us, Eleanor. Let me just ask you right away, why do you
think Michael Bloomberg is running? ELEANOR RANDOLPH, Author, “The Many Lives
of Michael Bloomberg”: Well, he’s always wanted to be president. And he even talked about
being — running for president when he was in college. And he looked at the races — 2016, he looked
very seriously at the race, and then he didn’t run. And I think, actually, in March, he decided
he wasn’t going to run. He decided that, you know, the numbers weren’t there. And then his people came back to him and said,
you know, what’s happening in the old blue wall, the blue states, you know, Michigan,
Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Trump is winning. So why don’t we get out there and go after
him? So Trump — Bloomberg decided that he should
be the one to do that. LISA DESJARDINS: Let’s talk about how Michael
Bloomberg is running. He is spending a lot of money. I spoke to his campaign today, and they confirmed
he now has 2,400 campaign staffers in 43 states, has spent at least $400 million. That’s according
to the most recent analysis, likely a good deal more than that. And that’s just in a handful of months that
he’s actually had a presidential campaign. Can you talk about how Bloomberg leverages
his resources, his money and also his personal alliances from being a top Democratic donor? ELEANOR RANDOLPH: First of all, he’s worth
over $60 billion. Many of the ads that people have seen have been anti-Trump ads. And what Bloomberg is trying to do is soften
Trump up for whoever is the Democratic nominee to run against him in November. LISA DESJARDINS: I’m curious, what do you
think he thinks of the optics of him running as a New York billionaire, at a time when
Democrats are trying to take out another wealthy man from New York and who criticize President
Trump as being out of touch, because he is a man of such wealth? How does Michael Bloomberg see those optics
regarding himself? ELEANOR RANDOLPH: Well, you know, he sees
himself as a different kind of billionaire and a different kind of businessman. And, also, he’s spent — he’s promised that
he’s going to give away his money before he dies. I don’t think that Donald Trump has
come anywhere near that. And so, I mean, Bloomberg’s philanthropy has been vast. And it’s been
very pointed, even more than the political money that we have started to see now. So I think Bloomberg sees this money as a
way — as a way to deal with some of the problems of the world, like climate change and gun
control, and Donald Trump. So, you know, he’s spending whatever he can
to try to get Trump defeated. And he’s said, no matter who on that stage ends up being
the nominee, he’s going to support them. LISA DESJARDINS: What do you think is Michael
Bloomberg’s biggest challenge? ELEANOR RANDOLPH: He’s not a great speaker.
He’s probably not going to do exceptionally well in this debate tonight. And there are
some other ones. There’s one in South Carolina. And he doesn’t — unlike Trump or Bernie Sanders,
he doesn’t connect with an audience. He has to sort of explain to people that he’s Mr.
Fix-It. He likes to get things done, and he would — if he were president, it would be
a quieter presidency. And maybe there’s some people that want that. He just — he doesn’t — he’s an ex-engineer.
Well, he trained as an engineer. He doesn’t show his emotions very much or very well.
And you don’t see him hammering the podium. You don’t see him sort of raising his voice
to the crowd. He will never be that person. LISA DESJARDINS: Eleanor Randolph, biographer,
journalist, thank you for joining us. ELEANOR RANDOLPH: Thank you.