Networks Convey Excitement Over Bloomberg, 'Candidate of the Media'

OpinionJournal.com's James Taranto on Wednesday proposed that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the preferred presidential “candidate of the media, ideologically as well as professionally,” a supposition demonstrated by media excitement over his separation from the Republican Party in preparation for a possible independent bid. “The presidential race just got a whole lot more interesting,” gushed Today co-host Meredith Vieira in plugging Wednesday's top story while, on CBS, Early Show co-host Harry Smith excitedly relayed how “we want to get right to our top story, and that's a bombshell from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.” On ABC's Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer enthused about how “the hugely popular Mayor of New York City ditches the Republican label and declares independence, asking if other Americans are ready for a change.” Robin Roberts insisted that “many are asking now whether he is destined to be a contender.”

All day Wednesday the cable networks were full of speculation over Bloomberg and in the evening all three broadcast network newscasts ran full stories on his possible candidacy. An on-screen graphic on ABC's World News asked “Will He Run?” and the NBC Nightly News looked at the possibility of three candidates from New York. But the CBS Evening News was the most promotional. Katie Couric highlighted how a poll “found more than one out of three Democratic primary voters and more than half of Republicans want more choices. So how about an independent? Today a certain Mayor of New York was the talk of the town and a lot of the country.” More likely, the talk of America's newsrooms. Noting how Bloomberg is “sparking imaginations,” Jim Axelrod recited some of Bloomberg's liberal positions: “So no one really knows what this 65-year-old billionaire who favors gun control, gay marriage, and abortion rights is up to, aside from sparking the imaginations of those uninspired by the current field.”

Diane Sawyer announced at the top of the June 20 GMA:
“This morning, who needs Washington? The hugely popular mayor of New York City ditches the Republican label and declares independence, asking if other Americans are ready for a change. Has the presidential race just been thrown a giant curve ball?”
Robin Roberts added:
“The race to ‘08 is getting a shot of adrenaline this morning from someone who is not even in the race. No, New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg did not throw his hat in the ring. But he did declare his independence from the Republican Party. That move, along with his multi-billion dollar bank account, well, many are asking now whether he is destined to be a contender.”
This week's Time magazine also hyped Bloomberg, putting him on the cover with Arnold Schwarzenegger, touted in the cover story as “The New Action Heroes.” Michael Grunwald's idolatrous first sentence: “On an unseasonably hot May day in Central Park, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- the pint-size billionaire whose last name needs no elaboration for anyone who knows anything about finance or the media -- was talking about saving the planet.”

In his lead item Wednesday for his “Best of the Web Today” compilation, James Taranto of OpinionJournal.com outlined why the media are excited about a Bloomberg candidacy:
New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg "announced Tuesday that he has left the Republican Party and become unaffiliated," the Associated Press reports. The AP notes that Bloomberg was a "lifelong" Democrat until 2001, when he opportunistically switched parties to get a clear shot at the mayor's office. It also itemizes some of his views, and they sound as if they're lifted from the Democratic Party platform:
Throughout his five years as mayor, Bloomberg often has been at odds with his party and [President] Bush. He supports gay marriage, abortion rights, gun control and [federal funding of embryonic] stem cell research and hiked property taxes to help solve a fiscal crisis after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Bloomberg is so out of step with the GOP that he opposed the confirmation of John Roberts as chief justice. He is term-limited and thus cannot seek re-election, which means that the Republican line is no longer of any use to him. So why is it news that he is abandoning his Republican affiliation?

Because, according to the AP's Sara Kugler, "many believe [it] could be a step toward entering the 2008 race for president."

To make sense of this assertion, you need to be fluent in the dialect of American English known as Journalese. In Journalese, many can be either singular or plural, and it is a first-person pronoun.

Which is to say, Bloomberg is the candidate of the media, ideologically as well as professionally. The positions Kugler enumerates are all very popular among journalists. And while they are also popular among Democrats, Democratic politicians do not necessarily support them, or support them sincerely.

The Dems have of late been playing down gun control, figuring that they have more to lose than to gain from a strong anti-gun stand. They would do the same with abortion if they thought it would profit them politically. (The list of Democrats who have gone from anti- to pro-abortion is a long one, as of course is the list of Republicans who've moved in the other direction.) John Kerry in 2004 said he opposed same-sex marriage, though everyone assumed he didn't really mean it, and he was one of only 14 senators to vote "no" on the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996.

Bloomberg, by contrast, is a conviction politician, and his convictions match those of the liberal media....
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the June 20 CBS Evening News story:
KATIE COURIC: Stem cell research is sure to be an issue in the upcoming presidential campaign, and while there may be a lot of candidates, apparently the current field is leaving some people hungry for more. A recent CBS News/New York Times poll found more than one out of three Democratic primary voters [35%] and more than half of Republicans [57%] want more choices. So how about an independent? Today a certain Mayor of New York was the talk of the town and a lot of the country. Here's Jim Axelrod.

JIM AXELROD: Michael Bloomberg made front-page news when he said he's no longer a Republican. Today he tried to cool the flames -- sort of.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: I'm not running for President, and I'm going to be mayor for the next 925 days. But there's a reason why my picture was there-

AXELROD: The reason, he says, is widespread dissatisfaction with the highly partisan political landscape.

BLOOMBERG: Today you're a piranha if you are seen having coffee with somebody from the other party, in many cases.

AXELROD: So no one really knows what this 65-year-old billionaire who favors gun control, gay marriage, and abortion rights is up to, aside from sparking the imaginations of those uninspired by the current field.

GERALD RAFSHOON, UNITY08: The politics of polarization has hurt the country quite a bit. The two parties don't talk to each other. At the same time, 40 percent of the people consider themselves independents. There is not that much party loyalty.

AXELROD: Of course, if he were to run, it would set up this place, Times Square, as the crossroads of the political world. Imagine New York's top three political heavyweights -- Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg -- all duking it out. But for Mayor Bloomberg it may be even bigger than that. Maybe he wants to measure the appetite for a third party. But it certainly didn't sound that way when asked if he and Arnold Schwarzenegger ran together, who'd get the top spot.

BLOOMBERG: There would be a fight to see who would be the presidential candidate and who would be the vice presidential candidate. He would want to arm wrestle for the top spot. I would want to check the Constitution.

AXELROD: The Constitution says the foreign-born Schwarzenegger is not eligible, so maybe Bloomberg was joking. Or maybe it's just one less rival to be concerned about. Jim Axelrod, CBS News, New York.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center