Mike Bloomberg’s Quest for Redemption May Be Good For Everyone

Michael Bloomberg

start by saying that there will be ideologues, activists and many people deeply invested in identity politics who will take extreme exception with some of what I have to say in my analysis. Without a doubt, some who are easily triggered to unhealed wounds are going to make all sorts of assumptions about the writer that are based in their own bias, not in any knowledge of my own lived experience. Hear me when I tell you that, simply because I have arrived at some different conclusions, does not mean that I am impervious to your lived experience. But the polarization of our culture and our politics has everything to do with the lack of understanding — the lack of circumspection — that informs us that people heal differently and just because I have arrived at a different understanding of a given experience does not mean that I don’t ‘get it.’

recent article — What if Mike Bloomberg is a 21st Century FDR? — got some thoughtful response from those who were craving a more complex and contextualized discussion of Michael Bloomberg’s place in our national discourse. It also got some predictably guttural reaction from Sanders’ supporters because what else is new. But some people were genuinely repelled by the idea of giving a man who has — they feel — damaged them on a deeply personal level any reasoned hearing at all, let alone comparing him — in any way — to Franklin Roosevelt. I understand that, but my point was that, like Roosevelt, Mike Bloomberg is more than his press. He’s done some reprehensible things, but he’s also — especially later in life — done some extraordinarily generous things that he could only do because he has accrued more money than God. And exponentially more real wealth than the grifter Donald Trump.

Unlike Trump, who is essentially a cartoon caricature of evil personified — literally, there is nothing redeeming about that flesh bag— that you can’t even call him a complicated man at this point. That would imply mixed motivations behind contradictory actions. There are none. He’s not that interesting, which is the thing a dysfunctional personality like his fears the most: that if he stops doing whatever it takes to get reactions from outside himself, he will cease to exist. It doesn’t matter anymore the nature of those actions — good or bad — or the consequences, as long as he has constant attention. The manifestation of a supremely weak man’s fear of death, legacy be damned.

Michael Bloomberg is the polar opposite of Trump: he is a complicated man who — like FDR — has done some self-serving, thoughtless and sometimes cruel things: let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he regrets. Because we have all done those things, but when there’s so much money and influence involved, the scale can be epic. And Mike Bloomberg does care about his legacy. He’s sane and, much as media types and other detractors are trying to frame Bloomberg as the flip side of the toddler-n-chief so they don’t have to work any harder to acknowledge his humanity — cause then they might have to up their heretofore pitiful game — he may well be at the stage of life when one seeks redemption. Just sayin’, it’s a premise.

It’s my premise and Jonathan Capehart makes that case beautifully so I elect to let him.

a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes…”

tarting with what really should not need to be said, but apparently — in this crackpot-rich climate — does need to be said: no matter what the spastic ‘queen-o-the-hyperbolic-nonsensical-rant’ Nina Turner declares, Michael Bloomberg is NOT an ‘oligarch.

“…when Michael Bloomberg sets out on a mission to give all his money away to charity, to fight climate change or destroy the National Rifle Association before he dies, or commits all of his wealth to beating Donald Trump or to using all the money he has to help the Democratic nominee beat Trump, that is NOT an oligarch. You may not like that he has the money to do all that by himself, but — by definition — Mike Bloomberg is not an oligarch...”

As my country momma used to say, ‘this is so dumb.’

Ola Ojewumi was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart condition, at a young age. By the age of eleven, she had received a heart and kidney transplant which caused her to have limited mobility and chronic illness.”

Ola Ojewumi

t’s impossible for anyone with a heart not to feel for this beautiful activist who fights with such commitment for people with disabilities as she struggles to articulate all the ways that she feels then Mayor Bloomberg’s administration failed her particular interest group in their efforts for more equitable treatment by NYC taxi drivers. Who doesn’t want people whose daily lives are already such a mammoth undertaking to get fairer treatment when procuring a taxi cab? Sounds so simple and so obvious, but there is more to it, even if Mayor Bloomberg was clumsy in his efforts to address her concerns. And I feel pretty sure the press would have found the details a real snooze fest.

The details: the cost of operating a medallion cab in NYC peaked at over $1,000,000 in 2013, the last year of Mike Bloomberg’s last term as mayor. The developing conflict between medallion cabs and the emerging ride-share companies, Lyft and Uber — who used their venture capital flood the streets with cars — drove the value of a ‘yellow cab’ down dramatically. Drivers who’d supported families driving a cab in NYC could no longer compete with the unregulated — and often tactically mercenary — independent drivers.

The DeBlassio administration was finally forced to press for a solution after the seventh medallion cab driver in NYC committed suicide owing to the financial pressures caused by the unfettered competition.

Advocates like Ms. Ojewumi have been demanding for years that taxis be required to be more accessible to the disabled, but retrofitting existing vehicles is costly. Drivers who could not afford to operate their cars at a profit certainly didn’t see the cost of retrofitting those vehicles for handicapped access as a priority and no one can compel contract drivers to do likewise. So I’m a bit baffled as to how Mayor Bloomberg was expected to resolve this conundrum of these divergent special interests by waving his wand of mayoral fairy dust.

In 2013 the city established the goal of having 50% replacement cabs handicapped accessible by 2020. But there are fewer medallions on the streets and the contract drivers simply won’t pick up high-maintenance fares.

In addressing this the former mayor may have appeared inartful — and insensitive — in his explanation that it was ‘hard for the drivers’ to collect fares from physically challenged patrons that Ms. Ojewumi perceived it as Bloomberg’s unforgivable indifference. But maybe what he was trying to avoid saying was that cab drivers are ill-equipped and cannot afford to pick up those fares, and they can’t really be blamed for that.

Certainly not a very satisfying summation — and it hardly begins to cover all the other respective interest groups who had skin in this game — but I’m not really sure what disability advocates expected from the mayor. Perhaps some touchy-feely hand holding? And I’m pretty sure the least of the medallion cab drivers’ concerns was his lack of feigned good love.

When you are the mayor of the biggest city in the country, every single issue is far more complex than any single interest group admits — or cares to know.

Personally, Mike Bloomberg’s lack of a bedside manner is the least of my concerns.

top and Frisk’ was dreadful policy, no one is disputing that. It was a racist policy, but Bloomberg didn’t start it and New York City was not the only U.S. city to implement it. Bloomberg is being crucified by those mired in identity politics — and evidently completely impervious to the existential threat of the moment we are in — over that policy as if he were the singular person to make that bad call, but Bernie Sanders voted for 1994 Crime Bill that proved to be among the most heinously racist criminal justice policies ever. We don’t hear a peep from progressives about that while Sanders whistles past the graveyard as if that atrocity had nothing to do with him.

Sanders also voted to deploy military style equipment like those used by Ferguson, Missouri cops to control crowds after the Michael Brown shooting, but he doesn’t mention that to his mostly young white crowds of screeching acolytes and no one is calling him to account for it. Sanders has been one of the most egregiously racially ‘tone deaf’ people in Congress for decades but he is not getting even remotely the brutal criticism that Bloomberg is for something that he was held accountable for — and that he changed. At least Bloomberg concedes his mistake, but single-issue activists are myopic, unrelenting and unforgiving on the subject, to the extent that a rational conversation on forgiveness, never mind the simple expediency of the moment, is not possible. That ‘while Rome burns’ meme comes to mind.

African-American civic leaders were vocal in their support of the ’94 crime bill and many — who grasp the concept of human fallibility — are now showing some circumspection on the subject of ‘Stop and Frisk’ because they feel more legitimate, urgent anxiety about what a re-elected and emboldened Donald Trump will do to civil rights in this country. Mike Bloomberg is being singled out for social media flogging for a particular screw up, but there is absolutely no evidence that he will deter from the Democratic platform on matters of civil rights, or anything else for that matter. As a manager, he just doesn’t roll that way: he is not dug in around a pathological drive to do harm to a particular constituency. Policy will be determined by the directives of the Democratic party. As a ideological litmus test, this one effectively portends exponentially more damage on the horizon than is justified, and it will be self-inflicted.

Stop and Frisk was loathsome, but — like the ’94 crime bill — it ain’t coming back, so let’s deal with the here and now.

A good salesperson is like a man who tries to pick up women at a bar by saying, ‘Do you want to f — -? He gets turned down a lot — but he gets f — — — a lot, too!’ Bloomberg was quoted …as saying.”

hat’s pretty awful, but do you know what else it is? It’s Mike Bloomberg’s forty-eighth birthday party in 1990.

“Bloomberg staffers… laughed off the comments in the 32-page booklet, ‘The Wit and Wisdom of Michael Bloomberg,’ as a macho side of one of the nerdiest men on Wall Street.”

before anyone launches into a #metoo-esque screed about how things ought to have been, let me say a bit about how things were done in New York City’s corporate culture at that time, because I was there. So I trump most people on ‘lived experience’ on this one.

I’ve written an entire article on the absurdity of Warren’s assertions regarding NDAs, Elizabeth Warren’s Misleading NDA Stunt May Not Have Her Desired Outcome, the night she jumped the shark in the Democratic debate.

The masculine attitude towards the ‘feminine specter’ could be dreadful, but so could women’s participation in the dynamic. This was the world of Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein and Donald Trump: actual prolific sex offenders in positions of extreme power. As a young actress and model, there was no place to complain to when I worked at the networks on daytime television. I’d find names like Bill Cosby’s written on the ladies’ room stalls with the word ‘rapist’ next to it. This is how young women warned one another of the danger. And I can name some famous men who would blow your minds if I wanted to get sued.

women — who were reminded implicitly and explicitly — bought into the theory of the day that, to succeed at a high level, they had to play like the boys. And they did. There were more relationships within the companies I worked for than one could now imagine: it was normal. So the language and the interoffice ‘banter’ was sexually — and what would now be considered inappropriately — charged.

Demi Moore and Michael Douglas made a bad movie called Disclosure in 1994 about a female aggressor in that highly charged environment, so it is hard to claim that it was all about bad boys. It was the culture. That movie made a lot of money. Just sayin’.

And somewhere in all that, the women who didn’t like being subjected to it, or arbitrarily decided one day that their threshold for that nonsense had been breached, started doing something I have always been ambivalent about: they started suing colleagues and employers for the most inconsequential — if stupid and rude — ‘comments.’ By the early 90s women were filing suit over things men said in conversations women were not even involved in, instead of simply saying directly to the guy’s face, ‘What you said makes me uncomfortable and I would prefer you didn’t talk that way around me.’ Many of these women NEVER did that before they initiated litigation and sometimes with good reason, as theirs actually was a hostile workplace. But sometimes it was just a guy being a jerk in an work environment that had, up to that point, never questioned it. That was the rocky beginnings of what has evolved into a #metoo movement that has — more often than some activists will admit — jumped the shark.

am all in on prosecuting repugnant reprobates who rape and assault women in the workplace — or the Oval Office — bury them under the jailhouse along with the ones who sabotage a woman’s career for rejecting their advances or ending their relationship. Been there. But that is not what Mike Bloomberg was accused of.

David Zielenziger, who was there when Bloomberg told a pregnant saleswoman to ‘kill it’ said the comment was ‘outrageous. I understood why she took offense.’ Yeah, that was disgusting and she was compensated for that coarse behavior.

There were other cases of actual sexual assault by other employees of Bloomberg companies. Left leaning publications can harp on that incessantly to gin up the fervor of an ill-informed base without ever contextualizing: the company is over thirty years old and has over 20,000 employees, no organization of that size has not had litigation of that sort spanning those years. It’s hard to know what litmus test one might take to satisfy this particular purity test, because these particular purists will never be satisfied. That horse is never going to be dead enough for those who think this stat proves something conclusive and disqualifying about a man like Michael Bloomberg.

Clearly, Mike Bloomberg wasn’t of exemplary character as a corporate leader — who is? — but in the more than two decades since he has done as much as anyone could to make recompense. He is surrounded by powerful women, he has given extremely generously to women’s causes, he has released female employees from Non-Disclosure Agreements allowing them to talk about the suits they filed against his company.

Decades ago, Mike Bloomberg’s own staff called him ‘one of the nerdiest men on Wall Street,’ — they didn’t sound overly frightened of the guy — and if you were a nerdy Jewish guy hanging out in that macho culture you over compensated with some seriously ‘dick-ish’ behavior. That does not make Mike Bloomberg a predator or a criminal, it makes him a crude schmuck and not even remotely out of place in the corporate culture in NYC in the 80s and 90s.

And young Bernie Sanders was an absolute perv who thought his most ridiculous prurient musings needed to be made public. This nonsense certainly helps explain his attraction for a whole lot of other knuckleheads later in life: the bros seem to have found their socratic mentor in this sexually unsophisticated fool. I wonder what kind of jerk he would have been if he’s had the cash to back it up?

And none of it is remotely comparable to the savagery of Donald Trump.

personally don’t really care whether Bloomberg was spontaneously ‘enlightened’ or if this is all just insanely expensive political expediency — he will take that up with his maker in the end — he is putting his substantial wealth where his mouth is. He is seventy-seven years old, he is unlikely to relapse into such callous indiscretion and he is surrounded by powerful women — and in all likelihood a female VP if it comes to that — this will not ever be an issue again.

Ladies, we need to get over this and quit living in the past when the existential threat is right in front of us: right here, right now. An actual unrepentant abuser of women who — given the opportunity — would certainly do it again, and abuses any and all women in all kinds of ways all day, everyday is squatting in the White House.

Get a grip.

ike Bloomberg is not the enemy. His desire and his willingness, at this moment in time, to spend all his money and what will amount to the rest of his life using his considerable managerial skills to help save the republic and the planet from the carnage Trump has wrought ought to be welcomed.

this is what Michael Bloomberg’s quest for redemption looks like, I say ‘lucky fucking us.’

About the Author:

Gayle Leslie is a writer, political consultant, published author, actor, and policy wonk publishing extensively on Medium and other platforms. She is a native Texan, graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and Circle in the Square Theatre School in NYC. She wrote her serialized memoir, Dwelling in the Vast Divine Vol. 1 & Vol 2. You can follow on Twitter at @gayleleslie7

Author of “Dwelling in the Vast Divine.1 & .2" Political consultant, policy wonk. https://www.amazon.com/Dwelling-Vast-Divine-1-Serialized-Memoir/dp/1495477746

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