Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Fool On The Hill

Ms. Tsouris, a regular contributor to nyceducator.com called mayor mike a "kurva"
that pretty much nails it
from the 11/5/07 nytimes: A Tongue That’s Tough to Tame By DIANE CARDWELL
Ever since Michael R. Bloomberg entered politics, he has worked hard to control his impolitic tendencies.

Gone is the man who mused to reporters that there was not much racial discrimination in the Northeast, derided the annual incomes of his opponents as nothing and joked about firing thousands of city workers.

And yet, as is clear from his recent remark about a police detective who died after working at ground zero, Mr. Bloomberg’s intemperate side is like a dandelion in a suburban lawn: Despite his best efforts to get rid of it, it just keeps popping up.

Today, Mr. Bloomberg is scheduled to meet with angry relatives of the detective, James Zadroga, to try to undo the damage he caused last week by saying he was not a hero. Although a New Jersey pathologist concluded in 2006 that Mr. Zadroga’s death was directly related to his hundreds of hours of work on the smoldering World Trade Center pile, New York City’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Charles S. Hirsch, rejected that finding. He concluded that misuse of prescription medication was the culprit.

Dr. Hirsch’s finding has come under attack from other experts, and Mr. Bloomberg’s remarks — in which he said that “science says this was not a hero” — came amid a spirited defense of a member of his administration. But facing, as he so often has, outrage and charges of insensitivity from a grieving family, Mr. Bloomberg quickly softened his stance, though stopping short of the apology the relatives demanded.

Whether Mr. Bloomberg, who has a terrier-like tendency to dig in on his positions, will apologize today remains to be seen. But it is clear that the proudly contrarian, politically incorrect, potty-mouthed guy from the Wall Street trading floor still lurks close to the surface. At a public school in Brooklyn on Tuesday, for instance, after answering questions from a group of third graders, Mr. Bloomberg warned of the need to “reduce the amount of crap that we put into the air.” (The children had by that time left the room.)

Certainly, the annals of New York history bulge with mayoral gaffes that have alienated constituents. Edward I. Koch came under fire in 1988 when he said that Jews would be crazy to vote for Jesse Jackson, and Rudolph W. Giuliani issued a rare apology to his Democratic challenger, Ruth W. Messinger, in 1997 for charging that she did not care about Italian-Americans because she skipped a Columbus Day Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

By contrast, Mr. Bloomberg, whose aides declined to comment for this article, has stayed clear of making those sorts of ethnically divisive remarks and has won plaudits for ushering in a period of relative racial harmony. But many of the blowups surrounding Mr. Bloomberg’s statements have been of a piece, reflecting his seeming inability to empathize with the difficulties faced by New Yorkers, whether from an overwhelming event like 9/11 or a more mundane challenge like moving the car after a snowstorm.

“I think all Bloomberg was really trying to say was that he supports the M.E.’s office, which he could have said without trying to define a hero, and he got into trouble,” said George Arzt, a political consultant who was press secretary to Mr. Koch. “In the age of television, mayors in general speak out an awful lot, and when you speak out a lot you’re going to slip sometimes. In this case, this was a rather insensitive statement, especially given that Zadroga had worked 400 hours on the pile.”

Still, Mr. Bloomberg has, over the past year or so, occasionally shown an ability to pivot from a hard-line stance and strike a compromise. Last winter, for instance, after his administration set off a furor by upending children’s bus routes in the midst of the school year, he defended the actions for days, attacking his critics as complainers who “have no experience in doing anything.” He later conceded that the matter might have been better handled.

Soon after, he incensed drivers by failing to suspend parking rules as a snowstorm iced in vehicles across the city, and told New Yorkers to stop “griping” over the thousands of tickets that had been issued. Then, he abruptly canceled them.

And in March, when Mr. Bloomberg went ahead with a planned trip to Miami despite a deadly fire in the Bronx that killed nine people, he bristled and defended his decision at first. Then, he returned early and attended a hastily arranged meeting with relatives of the fire victims, along with 150 community members and leaders.

Recently, Mr. Bloomberg has followed this pattern in matters concerning the terror attack as well, first angering families and then relenting somewhat. Toward the end of last year, for instance, he brokered a compromise on how names will be listed on the memorial. On this Sept. 11, he found a way for relatives to descend into the pit while the commemorative ceremony went on across the street.

Now, Mr. Bloomberg finds himself in yet another standoff, with another family. Whether they can come to terms on how to remember Mr. Zadroga is a question that remains unanswered.

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