What’s the frequency, Michael?

So, did Mike Bloomberg rule out at 2008 presidential bid on Dan Rather’s new HDNet show last night? You might just as well ask the age-old “If a tree falls in the woods…” question, since nobody I know seems to have HDNet-TV – or even knows what it is.

Rather sure thinks he got a scoop, though, boasting during a taping of Chris Matthews’ syndicated show that “Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York, told me that he was not going to run for president. In a direct answer to a direct question, would he run under any circumstances, he danced around a bit and finally said ‘No.’” He then added that Bloomberg had also ruled out running for Vice-President and serving in a future Cabinet. (This may have been the longest a guest has ever spoken on Chris Matthews’ show without being interrupted by the host.)

Most news reports about the HDNet interview have emphasized Bloomberg’s statement – hyped by HDNet ahead of time – that “nobody’s going to elect me President of the United States.” That’s hardly a denial, though. If anything, it’s reminiscent of Lou Holtz’s days at Notre Dame, when even in the middle of an undefeated season, he’d swear up and down to the press that his team had no chance against, say, Temple. In other words, it shows that Bloomberg understands the value of appearing modest.

So what, exactly, did the mayor say last night? Buried on the clumsily designed site for Rather’s show is the most difficult-to-read transcript ever created. I’ve tried to clean it up, though, and here is the fruit of my agony – what appears to be the money exchange between host and guest:

Rather: Let’s get it out of the way. Are you running for President?

Bloomberg: No.

Rather: Are you going to run for President?

Bloomberg: No.

Rather: Any circumstances in which you would?

Bloomberg: Oh I don’t know. Any the answer – if I don’t say no categorically you’ll then read something into it. The answer is no. Look, I have my own beliefs. They’re not tailored to what’s politically popular. It’s what my parents taught me and what I’ve learned raising my two daughters that are the love of my life. I believe that certain things and if somebody asks me where I stand, I tell them. And that’s not a way to get elected generally. Nobody’s going to elect me President of the United States. What I’d like to do is to be able to influence the dialogue. I’m a citizen. I’m going to leave this country which I love which has given me enormous opportunities for my kids. I’m going to try to do what mayors across this country along with many governors are trying to do, address the issues that Congress seems unwilling to address.

OK, so he did say “no” to a point-blank question. But the hesitation before he finally uttered it seems just as telling. My hunch is Bloomberg won’t ultimately run – but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the trial balloons, either.

Did anybody actually catch the interview? What did you think? And what is HDNet like, anyway?

UPDATE: Woops…Azi put the transcript up yesterday. Could have saved myself some work there.