Congressman Anthony Weiner has dropped out of the race for New York City mayor. His explanation was plaintive. The headline over his withdrawal statement on the op-ed page of The New York Times read: “Why I'm Not Running for Mayor.”
To sum it up, he explained that our multi-billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, the richest man in New York, was ready to spend too much money.
“I can better serve New York by staying in Congress,” Weiner said.
His decision and explanation are unlikely to go down in history as a profile in courage. Assuming Weiner is right and Bloomberg has too much money to be defeated, leaving the field with your tail between your legs is not a brave act. It hardly serves the cause of democracy in New York.
Weiner's withdrawal leaves City Comptroller Bill Thompson standing virtually alone as the leading contender for the Democratic nomination. The mayor has already spent $19 million on his re-election campaign and, before Election Day in November, he's expected to spend up to $100 million. Thompson may be outspent 10 to 1. Asked whether he think his spending is out of line, Mayor Mike said, in an impatient, imperious tone, “Everybody has a right to run.”
What does all this mean for New York's future? There may have been an indication of the way it’s going to go recently. Mayor Bloomberg had just received a political endorsement when a reporter from Channel 7, Jim Hoffer, approached him to ask a question on Tuesday. The mayor's security guards blocked the way, effectively sealing off Mayor Mike from any approaching question.
Bloomberg has every right to refuse to answer a question. But, for the people assigned to protect him to block a reporter is way out of line. Reporters are guaranteed the right to ask questions just as much as the mayor may refuse to answer them. Bloomberg's security detail is not there to protect a politician against the ravages of the First Amendment.
If he wins reelection, some journalists shudder to think what conditions could be like. Once Bloomberg is guaranteed four more years in the building he is virtually purchasing, he may turn on the press with gusto. Some of us feel he resents the prying that is part of a reporter's duty and he'll seal off City Hall and keep us all at bay.
Transparency in government may be in jeopardy. An imperial mayoralty could be the fate of all New Yorkers.