Editor’s Note: In a recent issue of National Review, Jay Nordlinger had a piece called “Freedom from Fear, for Now: A personal reflection on living in New York.” This week, he has expanded the piece on this site. For the first three parts of the series, go here, here, and here. The series concludes today.
If you’re a reader of the conservative press — I thank you for it, by the way — you tend to know the bad things about Michael Bloomberg. Bad from a conservative point of view.
He banned smoking in bars and restaurants, which you may not like. He banned or curbed trans fats. (I’m still not clear on what they are.) He has tried to limit the size of “sugary drinks.” And he is a notorious advocate of gun control.
“Nurse Bloomberg,” we call him, or “Nanny Bloomberg.” But as a New York resident, I don’t especially care: I don’t especially care about his nanny side, annoying as it may be. I care that he is a bold, smart, unflinching crime-fighter.
Bloomy is not a Goldwaterian. He has also been a godsend to New York.
In a July editorial, we at National Review called him a “prissy little autocrat.” Fair enough (sort of). But I must tell you, I like Bloomberg’s personality — like it for New York. For the mayor’s office. The mayor of New York ought to be a tough, vinegary SOB. Bloomy is, or can be. I have never met another politician like him.
I met him just once, at the Buckleys’, for an editorial dinner. Tell you a funny story. As we were leaving, I said to the mayor, “I appreciate the way you’re standing up to the teachers’ union.” And he started to argue with me: “They’re just looking out for their interests, as is their right,” etc.
Honest to goodness, we stood there, in the vestibule, arguing about whether Bloomy deserved credit for his stance toward the teachers’ union. I had never before met a politician who would not accept a compliment, and I have not met one since. I suspect I never will.
Every politician is ingratiating — it’s a tool of the trade. Bloomy is not. He is whatever the opposite of ingratiating is. I liked him for it.
There is a legend about that editorial dinner, a legend I’m afraid I have to rain on. The legend goes that Pat Buckley lit up a cigarette and blew smoke in the mayor’s face. Not true. Not true at all. The legend began the very next day. I heard it. But it isn’t true.
Toward the end of dinner, Pat lit up. There were titters around the table (given Bloomberg’s reputation as an anti-smoker). Pat, looking startled, turned to Bloomberg and said, “Is it all right if I smoke in my own home?” Bloomy, annoyed — annoyed at the titterers, who had created this scene — made a helpless gesture and said, “Of course.”
Like it or not, Pat did not blow smoke in the mayor’s face.
At the end of yesterday’s installment, I said that, in New York, I’m pretty much a one-issue voter — and that issue is crime. Next to it, nothing else matters, really. Everything good flows from an orderly, safe, livable city. Everything bad flows from disorder, unsafety, and unlivability.
If you have to look over your shoulder, if you can’t use the parks, if you can’t go out at night, if you have to move out of the city — who cares about the size of sugary drinks?
I once heard Rick Brookhiser say something amusing about Rudy Giuliani: Rudy would go door-to-door performing abortions. He would go door-to-door presiding over gay weddings. But, you know what? Hardly anyone has been better at stopping bad guys.
(Not at stopping abortionists, true.)