Wanting to do something to help in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, I went down to Gotham Hall in midtown Manhattan on Friday and, along with a motley crowd of other New Yorkers, donated blood. (I had never done this before, due to a phobia I apparently shared with lots of people, including, it turns out, several of my friends. Did you know only 2 percent of the population has ever donated blood? If you belong to the other 98 percent, I can testify that it’s not painful or scary, everyone there will be very nice to you, and afterwards you will feel brave and useful. You may even get a reward. This particular drive happened to be cosponsored by the Yankees, and I was given a voucher for two tickets to a Yankees game. In my case this was like giving a cat a box of chocolates, but still).
Guess who else was there giving blood? Mayor Bloomberg! Afterwards, he joined the table where I was sitting having juice and cookies with an actor, a police auxiliary, a student and a young woman who works for Common Ground, a group which houses homeless people. The mayor had only one cookie, I noticed, which he broke into pieces first. (This is how high-profile politicians maintain their iconic appearance. Have you noticed that, unlike regular people, they actually look just like their photographs? Not taking that second cookie is part of how they do that.) Despite everything the city is currently going through, the mayor was in an affable mood. I ended up chatting with him, and he said some interesting things.
On the cancellation of the marathon: No, it cannot be rescheduled, and calling it off was really too bad because “it would have brought in a lot of money—a lot of money.” Why the cancelation? “A few people were going to go after the sponsors.” I asked him who the “few people” were, but he just repeated what he’d said.
On Sandy: Electricity coming back in lower Manhattan by tonight or tomorrow! Subways getting back to normal. (Both predictions were accurate. Still, I thought it was notable that he put such a calm and low-key spin on what so many New Yorkers see as a huge ongoing humanitarian crisis, with tens of thousands without food or safe housing).
On NYC politics: “New York is a one-party state. The same thing is true in New York City.” Only a Democrat can win the mayoralty. True, Bloomberg himself won as a Republican but “I spent my own money, which no one else has. And even then it was tough!”
On his Obama endorsement: He endorsed Obama “not because I’m thrilled with him, but to me, choice, gay rights, the environment are the real issues, more important than economics. I spoke to him last night, and I told him, ‘Don’t make any mistake, my criticism of your economic policies still stands.’”
On the election: It’s very close. “I would bet twenty-five cents that Obama would win. I wouldn’t bet fifty.” (The mayor is clearly not getting his gambling tips from Nate Silver, who has had Obama as the favorite since June, and currently gives him four chances in five of victory.) He thinks Hurricane Sandy benefited the president, because he was on TV all the time—and for free! He said he thinks Obama will win the Electoral College, but not the popular vote. He pooh-poohed the possibility that such a split would lead to a 2000-like crisis. Anyway, that’s the Constitution, and you certainly wouldn’t want to call a constitutional convention to change it, because “all your freedoms could be blown.”
On the NYC Board of Elections: Those people are completely incompetent! They “disenfranchise thousands of people.”
What’s next for the mayor: He’ll spend his time “working on influencing the things I care about—guns, choice, gay rights.” Not NYC politics. Ex-mayors don’t get involved in the next administration, he noted, which is something he appreciates about Rudy Giuliani, who he thought was a very good mayor (and a Republican, see above, but never mind).
Looking on the bright side: Staten Island and the Rockaways are in ruins, but the city is on track to have the lowest murder rate ever. This year it should be only around 400. Basically, you’re safe “except for drug dealers and domestic violence.” I dunno, something a little off there.
On The Nation: He asked how subscriptions were holding up, and although I actually have no idea, I told him we were doing fine, especially with our fine expanded website that has brought us so many new readers. If Romney won, I said, our subscriptions would go through the roof, but even so, we didn’t support him, which was very self-sacrificing of us. He laughed. I think sincerely.
You can watch part of my chat with Mayor Bloomberg in this video shot by CUNY Graduate School of Journalism student and multimedia journalist Matt Surrusco.
And here is old-school British comedian Tony Hancock in his hilarious 1961 sketch “the Blood Donor”:
For more on Bloomberg's Obama endorsement, check out John Nichols on the New York City mayor's climate concerns.