I was talking with somebody Sunday who knows both Bloomberg and Black, and the guy said this about the third-term mayor of New York: "It's easy to forget that before [Bloomberg] spent a fortune buying his job in City Hall, people thought of him as a kind of a jerk. Rich and successful, but a wise guy with a big ego who thought he was the smartest guy he ever met."
So now Bloomberg, the only person in the whole city - besides Cathie Black - who thought Black should be schools chancellor despite her spectacular lack of qualifications, fires her because she isn't qualified for the job. It really is kind of wonderful. Bloomberg replaces Black with a different kind of crony, a City Hall insider named Dennis Walcott, apparently having just remembered that Walcott went to public school.
The mayor of New York is suddenly supposed to have turned into a very big guy because he said, "I take full responsibility for the fact that this has not worked out." It was a huge relief, of course, to people all over town who started to worry that they were to blame for Black's appointment.
This is apparently how low we currently set the bar for our elected officials: We're expected to carry them around the room when they admit they made a mistake. It's somewhat like the praise Jason Giambi got several years ago because he didn't lie to the grand jury in the BALCO case.
The dogs bark now, and the caravan that is Bloomberg's third term moves on. He picked Black to be his schools chancellor and it was like another commercial for himself, a great big advertisement that he has big ideas about New York that nobody else has, from West Side stadiums to where we can walk on Broadway.
He had figured out a long time ago that the party system in the city is dead and that the mayor's office was there for the taking if you had the money and, boy, oh boy, he sure did. Eight years later, he steamrolled the City Council on term limits because he wasn't ready to leave the stage and still thought he might be President someday.
Bloomberg was going to be a top mayor because he was a top manager, which happens to be the same reason he gave for giving Black the job in the first place. But it was never enough for him to make the city a more civil place, or fight a long, honorable battle against guns. This mayor seemed to become more and more obsessed with his place in history, and somehow escaping the shadow of Rudy Giuliani, who was turned into a hero mayor for doing his job in the days after Sept. 11.
Somewhere along the line, the legacy became the job for Bloomberg as much as the city.
He becomes more distant from his own constituency by the day, wanders aimlessly through a third term the way other third-term mayors of New York have before him, from Fiorello LaGuardia to Edward I. Koch. He admits he made a mistake with Cathie Black, and we're supposed to believe he reboots his own third term in that moment, as if the lousy snow removal didn't happen, or CityTime, or bad jokes about the Irish.
No. The mistake was a third term for Bloomberg, the sense of entitlement he brought to the whole process. He is still running television commercials even though he is no longer running for anything. Commercials about Bloomberg, paid for by him. Perfect.
Indeed - Bloomberg still is a jerk, a wise guy with a big ego who thinks he is the smartest guy he ever met."
And from snow removal to CityTime to plummeting test scores to phonied up graduation rates to Cathe Black, we have lots of evidence that just isn't the case.
Canning Black and putting Walcott in at Tweed does NOT erase the last three months of Black's reign, nor does it erase the last nine years of Herr Blackberry's reign.
The Klein/Black legacy is THE Bloomberg legacy - and Walcott has already told us he plans to continue down that same road.