The contradictions of Bloomberg

NyMag has an excellent profile on the soon-to-be-departed Mayor Bloomberg. Lots of interesting anecdotes and quotes; the thing that struck me, however, was the consistently recurring theme of Bloomberg engaging in what I like to call “arguing by anecdote.” On everything from the economy to grading Obama’s presidency, Bloomberg consistently invokes his own prior experiences and personal relationships to make his points:

When people say, “It’s not fair, you had an advantage,” I’m thinking, Well, they had an advantage—they went to better schools, or they came from wealthier families. My father was a bookkeeper. He worked seven days a week until he checked himself into the hospital to die. My mother went the next day to the library, got a book on driving, taught herself to drive on our quiet street, because she said, “I’m gonna have to be the chauffeur from now on.”

He’s [President Obama is] very thoughtful. He is honest, and he is earnest. He’s got a tough row to hoe with Congress, but if I’ve been critical at all, it’s because I think he could do more reaching out to more sides of the aisle. He gave a speech on immigration and said that we have to have bipartisan support, but the Republicans were the problem. I wouldn’t do it that way. In business, I would kiss you and then ask for something. In government, they tend to take a swing and then ask for something.

The most interesting thing about this method of argument is how it is juxtaposed with Bloomberg’s penchant for facts and data and objectivity. The same mayor that says John Boehner can’t really do anything about gridlock because he has to serve his constituency (his House GOP members) goes on to argue that Obama needs to ‘kiss’ the Republican members of the House in order to pass immigration–completely failing to comprehend the fact that the Republican members in Congress aren’t opposing Obama out of spite, but because they are serving the members of their constituency (they may also be opposing him out of spite haha).

The same mayor that says that he didn’t have an advantage growing up and that he earned all of his success by working harder than everyone else in the room (which I am not disputing) has worked harder than any previous NYC mayor to improve the NYC public school system, because he understands that luck and access to high-quality schools (and safe living environments) play a huge role in later success.

Over and over throughout the interview these little contradictions pop up; it’s fascinating to read and I think it gives a lot of insight into the type of personality that is needed to drive large-scale change.


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