The end of the affair?

By ADAM REILLY  |  August 27, 2009

In a rational world, the prognosis for ObamaCare would wait on the evidence in Massachusetts, given that the commonwealth's 2006 program closely resembles what Democrats are trying to do in Washington. If the results were widely known, it might be dead on arrival.

If you've followed Romney's career, the irony here is unmistakable. In his march to national Republican prominence, Romney built himself up by tearing Massachusetts down: recall his quip, during the last campaign, that being a Republican in the state was like being a cattle rancher at a vegetarian convention.

Now Romney needs those same nutty Bay State liberals to vouch — as loudly and insistently as possible — for the efficacy of his signature political achievement. But even if they do, how likely is it that Fox News and friends will actually listen?

0908_blloom_main
THIN SKIN: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg apparently doesn’t take criticism too well.
Meddling mayor?
This week's New Yorker features a hefty profile, written by Ben McGrath, of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In the piece, Bloomberg is depicted as a well-intentioned but somewhat arrogant figure — about what you'd expect from a self-made billionaire who built a news empire from scratch and then went on to run New York City.

Both in terms of its journalistic implications and what it says about how Bloomberg's mind works, the most intriguing part of the piece comes when the mayor discusses his influence — or lack thereof — on Bloomberg News' editorial operations. As Bloomberg sees it, he's different than Rupert Murdoch and Mort Zuckerman — the owners of the New York Post and New York Daily News, respectively — because he doesn't meddle in Bloomberg News' editorial product, and avoids doing anything that would suggest otherwise:

I would never try, and have never tried, to influence a story at Bloomberg. Certainly can't now — but never. I'm so careful that nobody would everthinkthat I tried to influence a story. I've called [Bloomberg News editor-in-chief] Matt Winkler, who was there from Day One with me, and said, 'Matt, I read that story. That's bullshit. The guy missed the whole point of it.' And Winkler, I don't know whether he talks to anybody, but he would be the only one that I would talk to.

What's far-fetched here isn't the notion that Bloomberg meddles less than Murdoch and Zuckerman. It's his seeming inability to imagine that panning a particular story to Winkler — who co-wrote(!) Bloomberg by Bloomberg, Bloomberg's 1997 autobiography — might have some bearing on what subjects Bloomberg News covers, and how certain stories are reported.

This is an especially important oversight because — where his own substantial and wide-ranging interests are concerned — Bloomberg may not be the best judge of what is and isn't bullshit. Later in the profile, for example, McGrath recounts Bloomberg's embarrassingly thin-skinned response to Azi Paybarah, the New York Observer reporter who had the temerity to suggest that New York City's improving economy might undercut Bloomberg's rationale for reversing term limits and seeking re-election. (" 'Why don't you just get serious,' [Bloomberg] said," according to McGrath. "Before leaving, he looked directly at Paybarah and muttered, 'You're a disgrace.' ")

When Bloomberg was considering running for president in 2007, I asked Judith Czelusniak, Bloomberg L.P.'s head of public relations, how Bloomberg News would handle that whopping conflict of interest. She responded that Bloomberg News "adheres to the strictest standards of attribution and objectivity" and "cover[s] every issue according to these standards." In other words: trust us, we'll be fair. That answer wasn't convincing then; it's even less so now.

To read the "Don't Quote Me" blog, go to thePhoenix.com/medialog. Adam Reilly can be reached at areilly@phx.com.

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