As Michael Rubens Bloomberg frequently points out, he is, at heart, just a middle-class kid who’s guided by the values he learned from his mother and father in Medford, Mass.
But since becoming Mayor, Mr. Bloomberg—a committed capitalist who made his fortune in the international free market—has forgone the distinctly New York brand of populism of Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani for something distinctly more cosmopolitan. In both his personal and professional style, he has acted, for all intents and purposes, like a European.
This is not inconsistent with his personal sensibilities. He owns an apartment in London and wears British-tailored suits. His alcoholic drink of choice is red wine. And he has an exquisitely continental attitude toward the women in his life, remaining on comfortably friendly terms with his ex-wife and dating a (tall, thin) woman for years without showing any signs of actually proposing to her.
Mr. Bloomberg’s tenure as Mayor has had a similarly European bent.
His recently announced, rather foreign-sounding PlaNYC calls for the city’s greening, “to ensure that all New Yorkers live within a ten-minute walk to the park.” It envisions a New York dominated by bicycles, fuel-efficient buses and ferries, and set out benchmarks to increase clean-energy sources and reduce global warming, basically making New York an honorary signatory—in defiance the Bush administration’s summary rejectionism—to the Kyoto Protocol.
In arguing for its most controversial proposal, a congestion-pricing strategy that charges drivers a fee for entering the city center, the Mayor’s plan specifically cited Stockholm and London, even including a special case study that praised London’s paleo-socialist mayor, Ken Livingstone, for introducing “an internationally proven congestion mitigation strategy.”
As an administrator, Mr. Bloomberg has wholeheartedly embraced the European model of selective governmental interventionism. His stamping out of cigarettes from the city’s bars and restaurants—on its face an anti-European move—is now serving as an example to the municipal authorities in the nicotine-addicted cities of Italy, France, Germany, Britain and Ireland. And his unprecedented war on trans fats has, essentially, made him into a rich, noncommunist version of French farmer José Bové, who famously drove his tractor through the wall of McDonald’s to protest the invasion of le fast food.
Mr. Bloomberg has a European’s distaste for America’s frontiers-y tradition of gun ownership, as manifested by his uniquely aggressive approach to thwarting the proliferation of illegal firearms. (Last month, Mr. Bloomberg announced a further expansion of his nationwide coalition of 200 pro-gun-control mayors and once again asserted that preventing illegal handguns “requires local governments to work together.”)
Although the Mayor’s high popularity has helped fuel the staff-generated speculation that he might run for President, his brand of pro-business, socially agnostic liberalism would be more logical in the context of a run for the Bundestag as a member of Germany’s Free Democrats or, say, for the Camera as a member of Italy’s Radicali.
It should come as a surprise to no one, then, that if and when the boy from Medford does run next year, it will not be as a member of a major American political party. The Mayor, again, will find a Third Way.
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