The following was written before and during NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg’s address to the U.S. Mayors Conference on Friday, Nov. 2. Technical problems and, um, life intervened, so I’m only now getting it up. Sorry.
Well, here I am, in a restaurant on the Seattle waterfront, hip deep in irony. I’m here to cover the keynote address of NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, except … I can’t get the &*$%! wireless to work, so I can’t blog about it in real time. And oh yeah … Bloomberg’s entire speech was leaked to The New York Times this morning, and Charlie already blogged about it, so it’s safe to say I could have better served you readers by just staying home. Sigh.
As you already know, Bloomberg decried the political timidity of national leaders. He laid out four principles that should guide our response to climate change:
- We need way more energy R&D — we’re only spending a third of what we spent in the ’70s.
- We need to stop determining tax credits and tariffs based on pork barrel politics. In particular, it’s ridiculous that we subsidize corn ethanol and penalize imports of sugar ethanol.
- We need to get serious about energy efficiency.
- We need a carbon tax.
You can read the speech yourself for details. I’ll just make a couple of general observations.
Bloomberg went on a while about how the U.S. needs to end its "go it alone" approach on foreign affairs, and how global warming is a national security issue. One might wonder exactly what that has to do with the administration of New York City’s affairs. One might wonder whether a bold, high-profile speech on national issues portends a run for the presidency. But unless I was hallucinating, I’m pretty sure Bloomberg specifically denied that, in a line that wasn’t included in the written text of his speech. I paraphrase: "You might ask why I’m talking about this stuff, whether it’s about running for higher office. No. These are issues that face you and I every day." That "no" sounds pretty deliberate to me.
Bloomberg’s been a CEO for a while, and it’s quite evident in his disdain for "politics." Of course every politician distances themselves from politics rhetorically, but Bloomberg seems genuinely impatient and contemptuous toward it. We’re supposed to admire this high-mindedness, I suppose, but I’m pretty sure it would be disastrous for a president. U.S. presidents are immersed in politics. They need to understand horse-trading, when to use the bludgeon and when to use a light touch. Bloomberg, so used to getting what he wants when he wants it, would quickly find that Washington’s inertia is greater than any man can overcome by force. Sometimes deftness with politics is a necessary asset.