When Michael Bloomberg announced on Tuesday that he was going to spend $50 million to challenge the National Rifle Association, his words got almost as much attention as his money.
In a New York Times story, the billionaire and former mayor of New York City said he would be spending $50 million this year to help build a grass-roots network designed to motivate women — particularly moms — to vote on gun-control issues. The new umbrella organization, Everytown for Gun Safety, brings together two groups he funds (one of mayors, the other of moms) that had announced plans to join forces.
Yet the story also included some eyebrow-raising quotes that got him plenty of attention and made him sound quite full of himself, even if some of the comments may have been made in jest. When asked whether he'd be a divisive figure in conservative states, he defended his reputation by saying that people tell him: “You’re a rock star. People yelling out of cabs, ‘Hey, way to go!’”
Bloomberg also gave this quote: “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”
Some have already questioned whether he is a political liability for the organization. As Chris Cillizza wrote Wednesday for the Post, Bloomberg — he of Big Gulp bans, anti-smoking laws and trans fat thou-shalt-nots — is seen by many conservative voters as the epitome of nanny-state government. If he becomes the face of the new gun-control group, it could drive away Republican-leaning women who may support stricter gun control but are influenced by conservative attacks against Bloomberg’s political past.
And if he makes any more remarks like these, it could be more than just his politics that turn people off. The whole strategy of the new group is to organize women into get-out-the-vote field operations and close “the passion gap” with the NRA. But the average mom who’s willing to get involved in the gun-control movement probably isn’t interested in anyone’s ego. She’ll get involved because she’s inspired by the emotion or the passion of the person who’s leading it. She'll get involved for her kids, for her schools and for her community — not for a billionaire who thinks enough of himself that he tells the New York Times people call him a rock star.