NYC Mayoral Debate: Clash of the Dullards

NYC Mayoral Debate: Clash of the Dullards

NYC Mayoral Debate: Clash of the Dullards

Michael Bloomberg and Bill Thompson debate pedicures and Polanski instead of the real issues affecting the voters they wish to woo. Only in New York!


By Nathaniel Herz

New York City mayoral candidates Michael Bloomberg and Bill Thompson each had about twenty minutes during last night’s debate to use as many words as they wanted to. But the most revealing portion of the evening was actually the five-minute “lightning round,” in which the candidates were limited to responding with a simple “yes” or “no.”

In responding to questions ranging from the personal (Have you ever had a manicure or a pedicure?), to the political (Do you think more troops should be sent to Afghanistan?), the candidates conveyed far more about their own views and beliefs than they did in the rest of the one hour session.

For the record, Bloomberg has definitely never had his nails done. Thompson thinks that President Barack Obama has done enough for gay rights. (“He’s been there nine months,” he said, breaking the rules in a technically-illegal aside. The question put Thompson between a rock and a hard place, though–his opponent has been courting the gay vote, and Thompson just received a lukewarm endorsement from Obama last week.) And in just about the only areas that the candidates could agree, both said that more troops should be sent to Afghanistan, that Roman Polanski should be in prison, and that a Big Mac does not have more than 600 calories. (It’s 540–without ketchup.)

The rest of the debate generated little in the way of substantive argument or discussion. The combative mood was present from the very beginning, when Bloomberg was interrupted by a screaming protester in the middle of his opening statement. (The man was later identified as Reverend Billy Talen, a third party candidate for mayor who is also a political performance artist.) “Mike, what are you doing here? We voted for term limits!” Talen shouted before being escorted out of the venue.

With Talen’s outburst, the tone was set for the rest of the evening, as Thompson, in his opening statement, chose to immediately go after Bloomberg. Throughout the rest of the debate, the politicians spent most of their time either defending their own records or leveling criticisms at their opponent, rather than outline their own visions for the city’s future. The debate’s panelists didn’t help things, either–most of them chose to ask pointed questions that put the candidates on the defensive, rather than giving them opportunities to lay out their agendas if they were elected. NY1’s Juan Manuel Benitez, for example, asked Thompson why he didn’t have more Latinos on his staff, rather than asking how he might work as mayor to bring more Latinos into New York City government.

But then again, expecting the city’s political establishment to focus on the future rather than the here-and-now might be asking a lot. As Bloomberg said after the moderator apologized for Talen’s outburst, “it is New York.”

Thank you for reading The Nation!

We hope you enjoyed the story you just read. It’s just one of many examples of incisive, deeply-reported journalism we publish—journalism that shifts the needle on important issues, uncovers malfeasance and corruption, and uplifts voices and perspectives that often go unheard in mainstream media. For nearly 160 years, The Nation has spoken truth to power and shone a light on issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug.

In a critical election year as well as a time of media austerity, independent journalism needs your continued support. The best way to do this is with a recurring donation. This month, we are asking readers like you who value truth and democracy to step up and support The Nation with a monthly contribution. We call these monthly donors Sustainers, a small but mighty group of supporters who ensure our team of writers, editors, and fact-checkers have the resources they need to report on breaking news, investigative feature stories that often take weeks or months to report, and much more.

There’s a lot to talk about in the coming months, from the presidential election and Supreme Court battles to the fight for bodily autonomy. We’ll cover all these issues and more, but this is only made possible with support from sustaining donors. Donate today—any amount you can spare each month is appreciated, even just the price of a cup of coffee.

The Nation does not bow to the interests of a corporate owner or advertisers—we answer only to readers like you who make our work possible. Set up a recurring donation today and ensure we can continue to hold the powerful accountable.

Thank you for your generosity.

Ad Policy