“Hi, I’m Mike Bloomberg” said Mike Bloomberg as I stood next to him and another chap at the Lincoln Center’s “Mostly Mozart” fundraising benefit last night. The Mozart performance was accompanied by some ‘melancholy Mahler’, and the evening was terrific.
During the dinner, I sat next to one of the co-founders of C-Span, John Evans, as well as telecom and media dealmaker (and Obama economic advisor) Leo Hindery and also a person who previously served as Deputy Director for Intelligence at the CIA and is now into “sovereign risk analysis” for one of the big financial houses. We were all the guests of Rita and Gustave Hauser — and we discussed Obama, the war, poetry, Mahler’s melancholy, former Governor Cuomo who was also there, and which CIA notables were decent and which made up stories out of “whole cloth”. It was a fantastic evening.
But back to Bloomberg. He said hello, which I hoped he might. I told him I was a think tank guy in Washington at the New America Foundation which now had Eric Schmidt of Google as its chair and Steve Coll of the New Yorker as its President. This was friendly name-dropping designed to let him know that we had a decent footprint. I didn’t overdo it. Nonetheless, Bloomberg wryly said “great” and proceeded on with the other conversation he was having.
Then I said, “I also write the blog, The Washington Note and have written quit a lot about why the pragmatic center in American politics needs people like you [Bloomberg], Hagel, and others going after the top jobs.” I said that I was impressed with what his communications director Kevin Sheekey had pulled off in terms of the “possibility of a Bloomberg run.” Bloomberg said, “Even Sheekey couldn’t take all the heat and speculation any more so he’s left town for a week. Vacation.”
And then Bloomberg, who seemed to know The Washington Note more than the New America Foundation said, “Steve, you want me to tell you what you should write about?” Sure, of course, I nodded, sort of stumbling in a kind of affirmative way. . .
“You need to write about how these guys [McCain and Obama] are going to work with Congress. Who cares if they say they are going to sign this or promise that?! Congress authorizes and funds — and without Congress, their grand plans are nothing. Nothing! How are they going to work with them? No one is drilling into the reality that it’s Congress in the end that makes this stuff happen — and you need to write about this.”
So I will. It’s an important point because if Obama wins, he’ll still need Republican votes to move things — and on economic policy and on national security strategy, the Dems are seriously divided.
Bloomberg was fun to watch at this dinner of New York heavyweights. He knows he’s a rock star and he wears a bit of New York style arrogance because it’s expected — but when one watches how he works a room and interacts with people, there’s far more humility in his manner than I expected. He listens too. Surprised me. And he makes his engagement with people matter if they are able to get by the friendly but perfunctory “Hi, I’m Mike Bloomberg.”
I was quite impressed with him I must admit.
There’s no chance that Obama will take him as a VP — but having someone with the executive skills of a Bloomberg is one of the other game-changing and game-winning choices Obama could have made. I know he won’t — and I expect a flood of catcalls in response to this, but I do think that America needs problem solvers in federal office today like Bloomberg.
Tom Daschle is a problem solver, pragmatic. So is Chuck Hagel. I also like Biden. Tim Kaine ‘seems’ like the kind of solutions oriented doer I prefer; I just wish we had more time on the clock with him to see other problems he had solved. I know Birch Bayh is a doer — but that’s the dad.
The son — the incumbent Senator Evan — just doesn’t have the sizzle or the record of execution that others on this list have. Birch Bayh got two amendments to the Constitution passed — and nearly passed the Equal Rights Amendment. He’s now living out on the Eastern Shore of Maryland working hard on getting states to reform voting rights — ultimately designed to do away with the electoral college. But I don’t think Evan Bayh is involved in any of the interesting, public-minded efforts that the mythical Birch Bayh is undertaking.
More later on this — but wanted to report on Mozart’s night at Lincoln Center and Bloomberg’s call for more journalists and bloggers to think through the Congressional dimensions of the next presidential game plan.
— Steve Clemons