The Morning Jolt


Bernie and Bloomberg Battle It Out

Michael Bloomberg speaks during a campaign event in Chattanooga, Tenn., February 12, 2020. (Doug Strickland/Reuters)

On the menu today: The growing battle between Mike Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders reveals two difficult truths to Democrats; a portion of Pete Buttigieg’s career seems to get erased from history; and a sense of just how predictable the impeachment outcome was.

Bernie vs. Bloomberg Is the Democratic Primary Fight We’ve Always Wanted

Good heavens. The Democratic presidential primary just took a giant leap beyond pass-the-popcorn stage. (We were doing that from the moment Beto O’Rourke learned the media wasn’t willing to treat him like he had magical powers anymore because he wasn’t running against Ted Cruz.) We were at hit-record on-your-DVRs when it became clear on Iowa caucus night that no one was going to win. No, the Democratic presidential primary has reached a point few of us outside it ever thought it would reach: They’re having a conversation they actually need to have.

Mike Bloomberg’s campaign just unveiled a web ad making the obvious point that almost everyone else in the Democratic Party would prefer to ignore: There’s a thuggish mentality to Bernie Sanders’s online supporters. After Sanders charged that Bloomberg didn’t have the kind of energy that would be needed to defeat Trump, Bloomberg came back with an ad pointing out that Sanders supporters regularly tweet and offer memes with comments such as “vote Bernie or bad things will happen.” Supporters of Bloomberg are “going on lists.” The 53-second Bloomberg ad calls out Sanders for a seemingly disingenuous or powerless and pointless call for “civil discourse” while his grassroots supporters speak as if they can’t wait to get started on the liquidation of the Kulaks after Election Day.

Throughout his career, Sanders talked about the value of bread lines in Socialist countries, cheered on the Marxist Sandinistas, honeymooned in the Soviet Union, praised Communist China’s progress in “addressing extreme poverty,” talked about his admiration for Fidel Castro, warmly welcomed the Irish Republican Army, saluted Hugo Chavez’s Venezuelan regime, and almost never criticized Nicholas Maduro.

And now he’s got a lot a slew of people who want to volunteer to serve as his personal KGB and NVKD.

For a guy who keeps insisting he only wants non-authoritarian socialism, Bernie Sanders has gone out of his way to praise authoritarian socialists. As Jeff Blehar pointed out: “Why honeymoon in Moscow when you can just as easily visit Stockholm instead? C’mon now.” It’s not like Westerners didn’t know about the secret police and show trials and forced labor and the Holomodor and gulags and being sent to Siberia. Praising the Soviet system meant, at minimum, excusing all of that, if not de facto justifying it.

(Hey, remember which institution has been standing athwart socialism and all of its adherents and advocates since 1955? Sanders was only 14 then.)

Meanwhile, the New York Times — that allegedly always failing New York Timespulls back the curtain on the Bloomberg campaign and reveals that some of the biggest and most influential activist groups on the Left just averted their eyes when it came to Bloomberg, because either they wanted or had grown dependent upon his generous contributions.

In the fall of 2018, Emily’s List had a dilemma. With congressional elections approaching and the Supreme Court confirmation battle over Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh underway, the Democratic women’s group was hosting a major fund-raising luncheon in New York. Among the scheduled headline speakers was Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor, who had donated nearly $6 million to Emily’s List over the years.

Days before the event, Mr. Bloomberg made blunt comments in an interview with The New York Times, expressing skepticism about the #MeToo movement and questioning sexual misconduct allegations against Charlie Rose, the disgraced news anchor. Senior Emily’s List officials seriously debated withdrawing Mr. Bloomberg’s invitation, according to three people familiar with the deliberations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

In the end, the group concluded it could not risk alienating Mr. Bloomberg.

Remember, kids, bias in law enforcement is bad, unless it’s happening in the jurisdiction of a wealthy donor, and then it — presto-change-o! — turns into something not important enough to mention:

That chilling effect was apparent in 2015 to researchers at the Center for American Progress, a liberal policy group, when they turned in a report on anti-Muslim bias in the United States. Their draft included a chapter of more than 4,000 words about New York City police surveillance of Muslim communities; Mr. Bloomberg was mentioned by name eight times in the chapter, which was reviewed by The Times.

When the report was published a few weeks later, the chapter was gone. So was any mention of Mr. Bloomberg’s name.

At least one senior official wrote at the time that there would be a “strong reaction from Bloomberg world if we release the report as written,” according to an email reviewed by The Times. And three people with direct knowledge of the situation said Mr. Bloomberg was a factor.

Alienating him might not have been a cost-free proposition. When the report came out, he had already given the organization three grants worth nearly $1.5 million, and in 2017 he contributed $400,000 more, according to Ms. Léger and the center’s limited public disclosure of its donors.

The Times concludes, “his political and philanthropic spending has also secured the allegiance or cooperation of powerful institutions and leaders within the Democratic Party who might take issue with parts of his record were they not so reliant on his largess.” Like most political institutions, big progressive groups run on money from donors; their ability to stand up for the little guy is almost entirely dependent upon the generosity of the big guys. This means a sufficiently big guy can purchase the redirection of their outrage and public condemnations. An institution such as the Center for American Progress doesn’t expose the worst abuses in American government; it exposes the worst abuses among those who weren’t willing to donate to their group.

Meanwhile the Washington Post lays out just what Bloomberg was like as a boss:

In the lawsuits against Bloomberg and his company, the former employees allege that Bloomberg’s views about work and women permeated corporate life.

In the most high-profile example, a top saleswoman, Sekiko Sakai Garrison, alleged that Bloomberg told female salespeople about a male colleague getting married: “All of you girls line up to give him [oral sex] as a wedding present.” And, the lawsuit said, when Bloomberg saw certain women, he said, “I’d f— that in a second.”

Garrison said in her suit that shortly after her arrival, she began to observe Bloomberg making inappropriate comments to her and other women at the company.

“The Company, through its male managers and employees from Chief Executive Officer Bloomberg on down, engaged in a pattern and practice of sexual harassment, sexual degradation of women, and discrimination” against Garrison because of her nationality, the lawsuit alleged. She is of Japanese descent.

In any other situation, the eighth-richest man in America, who made his billions on Wall Street, with a history of crude comments about women, who owns a fleet of private jets and helicopters, whose preferred way to address crime is to target minority youth and “throw them up against the wall and frisk them,” is the irredeemable villain in the Democratic Party’s narrative. Mike Bloomberg is effectively purchasing an indulgence for his entire life, and all of us can see it. If the Democratic Party were a person, we would have already established what profession it is in; now they’re just haggling over the price.

Luke Thompson observes: “Strategically, Bloomberg and Sanders would be well-served going after one another, elevating each other as binary options, and starving every other campaign of oxygen.” But the burgeoning battle between these campaigns are exposing two difficult truths that most Democrats would prefer to pretend they don’t see. The first is that a vocal portion of their grassroots has let their anger over President Trump (and Mitch McConnell, and judges, and capitalism, and anything else that irks them) to turn into fantasies of violent retribution against anyone who opposes them, including fellow Democrats. Secondly, the activist organizations that provide a lot of the wonky policy research and talking points are more or less for sale. A core component of the “woke” worldview is that America’s semi-capitalist economy is inherently unjust and that all wealthy people obtained their fortunes through some role in an exploitative system. But the Democratic Party apparatus cannot function without rich people funding it.

The Buttigieg Campaign That Was Collectively Forgotten

It’s as if Pete Buttigieg’s unsuccessful bid for state treasurer in 2010 was just erased from history.

Martin Frost, The Hill, February 12: “Mayor Pete, who has never run for office beyond his city of 102,000 people . . .

Chris Cillizza, CNN,February 13: “Buttigieg has never even run for statewide office before.

Richard Ostling, GetReligion, April 11, 2019: “Buttigieg has never run statewide . . .

In fact, some idiot wrote last year, “Buttigieg has never run for anything bigger than mayor” — wait, wait, that idiot was me.

As you may recall, 2010 was a good year for Republicans and Indiana’s a pretty GOP-leaning state, and incumbent Richard Mourdock stomped all over Buttigieg, 62.5 percent to 37.5 percent. None of us are the same people we were ten years ago, and so the down-ticket race doesn’t tell us everything we need to know about how Buttigieg would perform in the Midwest in a general election. But it probably shouldn’t be completely memory-holed, either.

Time Is a Flat Circle

Ahem. Written back on November 23:

If you want to skip to the end of the impeachment of Donald Trump, he’s almost certainly going to get impeached by the House on a near-party-line vote, followed by an almost certain near-party-line vote in the Senate to remove him from office that falls short of the Constitutionally-required two-thirds of the chamber.

Some time in late winter or early spring 2020, Democratic senators will insist this proves Trump deserved to be thrown out of office but was only saved by partisan loyalty, Republicans will insist Trump’s errors didn’t warrant the political equivalent of the death penalty, and everyone will refocus their attention on the real contest to determine if Trump continues as president – the 2020 election.

Trump is likely to interpret the vote falling short as another total exoneration and respond with some sort of ebullient strutting just short of twerking on the White House lawn.

Yesterday the ebullient strutting came in the form of a victory lap at Daytona.

ADDENDUM: Over in The Article, trying to find the thread that ties together the Iowa caucus meltdown, House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s tear-it-up response to the State of the Union, the end of the impeachment process, and the seeming collapse of Joe Biden’s campaign: The Democratic Party’s inability to greet those who don’t already agree with them with empathy, and to at least try to look at the world through their eyes and understand why they believe what they believe.


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