In the minutes after Obama’s announcement Wednesday, Feinblatt, who sat directly across from Vice President Biden during his meeting with gun control advocates last week, gave a preview of the mayor’s spin: “The White House is listening.” But in keeping with the Bloomberg strategy of beating up on Democrats and essentially giving a pass to the House Republicans who’ve shown little interest in passing the mayor’s priorities, Feinblatt turned to demanding “action from Congress.”
Another of the mayor’s key allies, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, did the same. Seated a couple of rows behind Feinblatt, Kelly expressed approval with the president, then added: “We are going to see in terms of congressional action who’s there, and I think it’s going to start in the Senate. And, obviously, the Senate is Democratic, so we’ll be able to judge their resolve pretty quickly. Hopefully, they are on board.”
In the interviews with Bloomberg and his top aides last week, this was the consistent theme. Feinblatt said that “Washington had washed its hands” of guns after incorrectly ascribing their losses in 1994 to their support for the assault weapons ban. (Washington is their polite way of saying Democrats.)
Since then, Feinblatt said, former leaders on the issue had “run for the hills” and “clearly the Democratic leadership had made a decision.” Read: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D), the former House member and Obama chief of staff.
New York Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, a former top Democratic operative for the the Schumer and Hillary Clinton election campaigns, has fully embraced Bloomberg’s damn-the-parties philosophy. During the 2012 election, Wolfson was entrusted to spend $10 million of the mayor’s money through Bloomberg’s SuperPAC, Independence USA, on races against NRA-backed candidates. Bloomberg-backed candidates won four out of five of them, including the unseating of Joe Baca, a Democrat from California.
Last week, Wolfson, dapperly dressed with a herringbone coat folded over a chair next to him in a City Hall conference room labeled “Bronx,” said that “the mayor has come to the conclusion that electoral advocacy is a prerequisite for legislative change.” As Bloomberg has waded into these contests, Wolfson said, “legislators need to know there is accountability on their votes.”
But he reiterated the central tenant of the Bloomberg method, “The way you change legislation is by changing legislators. As far as he is concerned, it has nothing to do with party.”
Bloomberg explicitly stated as much in the interview. “You have to change the people who are in the House” he said. But either because of his political strategy, or his actual belief that all lawmakers are spineless and indistinguishable regardless of their party affiliation, he refused to identify the House Republicans as the problem. Democrats at one time, he reminded, “had the House, the Senate and the White House. Zero. I’ve said that. When people say, ‘Oh, It’s those Republicans,’ I said, ‘Time out. It’s not just Republicans.’”
On Thursday afternoon Biden told the United States Conference of Mayors -- the people Bloomberg says are on the front lines of the war against gun violence -- that gun control was the “more urgent and immediate” issue facing the country. Perhaps Obama has acted under political pressure from Bloomberg, as the mayor’s aides suggest, or perhaps the new attention to the issue comes from the president’s conviction and a rising public sensibility since the murder of the children and teachers at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School -- as the White House sees it.
Whatever the Obama’s motive for fully engaging in the issue, the president, a Democrat, has come through for Bloomberg.
A week after the mayor argued that both parties have been equally absent on the issue, will he now see Democrats as his stronger allies in the fight for gun control and relax his bipartisan orthodoxy and put his resources behind them?
Days before Obama made a vigorous case for stricter gun laws, Bloomberg said, “The real question you should be asking is what happens next.” The same can now be asked of Bloomberg.