Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s default expression for the last six years has been a grimace. But on the morning of June 25, nearly a week into the frenzied speculation over his Presidential ambitions, he entered the Blue Room of City Hall with a barely suppressed smile.
“Good morning, everyone,” Mr. Bloomberg said, looking around at the packed seats, rows of manned video cameras and reporters standing in the wings for a press conference about energy conservation. “Big crowd.”
The Mayor’s quiet move last week to drop his Republican affiliation has fueled all sorts of theories that he might mount an independent Presidential run. It has also, to his apparent delight, forced the press to hang on his every nasal, monotone word. For the moment, he has eclipsed his Republican predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, and Democratic front-runner Senator Hillary Clinton in media interest, coyly denying any national ambitions while discussing national issues far outside his official purview.
One week in, the press already seems a little tired of it.
“Since you told us numerous times you are not running for President, there has been all this speculation,” said New York Post City Hall bureau chief David Seifman at the press conference on Monday. “Can you advise the press to stop writing about all this?”
“I think the press should start writing about the things that are changing in this city,” Mr. Bloomberg responded, before segueing into a catalog of city accomplishments including lower crime, higher test scores and a stronger economy since Sept.11. “Those are the things that I am working on and will continue to work on. I think it’s a great story and it’s a great story for the country.”
It was on the afternoon of June 20 that Mr. Bloomberg, dressed in a dark business suit, blue shirt and crimson tie, made his first public appearance as an independent. It was at a hastily organized press conference to mark the occasion of the 50 millionth caller to the city’s 311 line.
Under high ceilings at the Maiden Lane offices, Mr. Bloomberg faced more than a dozen television cameras, a parapet of kneeling photographers and squinting reporters studying him for telltale signs of Presidential ambition.
City information-technology commissioner Paul Cosgrave sarcastically commented that everyone had obviously showed up for the 311 milestone.
“That’s why they’re here,” said the Mayor.
Fidgeting with a pen and propping his elbows up on a cubicle wall off to the side, Mr. Bloomberg’s closest political aide, Kevin Sheekey, watched closely. Early last year, Mr. Sheekey had planted the Bloomberg for President story line with some of the very same reporters in the room. Back then it seemed like a joke. Now, characteristically tie-less and unusually nervous, he watched the fruits of his labor ripen.
Mr. Bloomberg again asserted he had no interest in running and that he was more than happy in his present job.
“But I’m confident that this country will have options,” Mr. Bloomberg said when asked what he would do if the country proved unsatisfied with the nominees the two major parties offered. “I do think the more people who run for office the better, and then as we narrow it down, people will I think pick and choose and the choices will look good and hopefully this country is smart enough to pick somebody to lead this country forward.”