Bloomberg on 2012: 'Can't Win'

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With disarming candor and deadpan delivery, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg talked  expansively about his views on President Obama, immigration issues, education policy, and whether or not he would run for president. 

Interviewed by Fox News's Chris Wallace at the Washington Ideas Forum, Bloomberg delivered zinger after zinger to an appreciative audience. When Wallace asked why he wouldn't run for president, Bloomberg answered, "Can't win." The implication: If he thought his chances were better, he just might run.


"Mayors never go on to anything else because they make decisions," Bloomberg said. "Every time you make a decision you alienate those who are against it. ... After five decisions in a row, it's pretty much me and my mother."

Governors and presidents, on the other hand, are better able to play both sides, he said.

"The legislative side lets you vote for the war but not fund it. It lets you be pro-choice, but not for women," he said. "One of the criticisms of President Obama that's not fair is that he never said he would be any different than he is now. He's always been... pro-union, not particularly interested in business."



Earlier today, Bloomberg testified about immigration reform before a House subcommittee. "Unless it's comprehensive, it's meaningless," he told Wallace. "There's no reason to talk about it."

But Wallace wanted to pursue the topic. "Unlike the City Hall press corps, we're not so easily cowed, Mr. Mayor."

"I would trade our press corp for yours any day," Bloomberg retorted. 

The exchange was emblematic of a faux-hostile repartee between the two men.


 
On immigration, Bloomberg explained that he's in favor of a three-pronged policy that would secure the borders, provide visas to people already in the country illegally, and reduce the demand for undocumented workers. Unless Congress tackles all three goals simultaneously, he said, reform would be useless.

Wallace asked about the recent defeat of Mike Castle, a Republican congressman running for Senate in Delaware, to Tea Partier Christine O'Donnell. Bloomberg, who has campaigned for Castle as well as other moderate Republicans, became agitated. "To judge the whole mood of the country based on one Delaware election that was won by 2,000 votes is ridiculous. ... The public is furious, and they're going to be furious if Republicans take the House and don't do anything."

The mayor also took a few subtle jabs at Obama, criticizing his loose control over Congress. "The executive branch should frame legislation and then go and sell it. But you don't turn the stimulus or health care reform over to the Congress."

On the subject of the Bush tax cuts, Bloomberg sided with former White House Budget Director Peter Orszag, saying he would extend the cuts for two more years. "What I don't like about the tax cuts it that they're creating a class society," he said.

Wallace wound down the interview with a question about the DC mayoral primary, in which incumbent Adrian Fenty, known for his reform-oriented approach to education, was defeated by Vincent Gray.

Bloomberg seemed agitated again. "It contributed to the defeat of all of the schoolchildren in New York City," he said. "Adrian Fenty will be fine. He'll get a job and make a lot of money and do well. That's not true for the kids of Washington, DC. It's the same for Michelle Rhee [Fenty's education commissioner], but it's not true for the kids of Washington, DC. ... I don't know what the newly elected mayor of Washington is going to do, but the politics seem to suggest he'll walk away from a lot of the reforms because a lot of his support came from people who opposed the reforms, even though there's no question they were working."

The mayor also praised both Obama and President George W. Bush for their efforts on education reform.



One theme echoed by Bloomberg: the country is "committing national suicide" on immigration, education, and the economy. He reeled off solutions to these problems and seemed to delight in the independence he has as big-city mayor compared to the political infighting he'd face if he worked in Washington.


Full session below

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Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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