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November 3, 2009 @ 5:59 pm

Memo to Joyce Purnick

New York Times society reporter, Joyce Purnick, author of a recent semi-authorized Bloomberg biography, wrote Bloomberg a “memo” in the form of an op-ed piece in Tuesday’s paper. She said that he had made a “bad investment” spending all that money to win an election. As the incumbent, she wrote, “you are in and destined to stay in.”

Purnick went on to deliver a history lesson on the last fifty years of mayoral elections in which only two incumbents, Beame and Dinkins, three if you count Koch’s try for a fourth term, won reelection. New Yorkers, she opined, are “pragmatic, even complacent, when their city is not in anguish.” She wondered why anyone would even bother to run against the man who is managing our “stable” city so well.

Finally, she would have much preferred the mayor not to have spent all that money so New Yorkers could feel “as though he was asking for their votes rather than buying them.”

How we wish these people would be taken away in the back of carts, not for beheading, of course; we’re opposed to capital punishment. Maybe just a year on, say, a hospital worker’s salary. We’ll skip the rant and get right to the point: Purnick’s political chops are as withered as her investment advice is silly. Bloomberg knows what he’s doing. Without having bought and bullied his way onto the ballot and into a third term, there is no way her host and benefactor would have had a chance at another term. (I write before the results, but I assume he’s won.) He had to spend every nickel.

If it weren’t so devastating to the most vulnerable among us, I would be pleased to have him rather than a successor saddled with cleaning up the mess he’s left us. But by that reasoning, I would have been rooting for another term for Bush or McCain. So I bit my lip and voted for Thompson.

That Purnick doesn’t seem to understand any of it is simply dumbfounding until I recall the opening pages of her Bloomberg book:

The first time I met Mike Bloomberg was in the late 1990s at a dinner party in his Manhattan town house. It was a typical New York gathering of the moneyed and the prominent, thrown together for an evening of polite conversation that goes in one ear and out the other.

The legendary I.F. Stone, whose self-published newsletter, I.F. Stone’s Weekly taught me how to read a newspaper, didn’t socialize with the people he wrote about. “I made no claims to inside stuff. I tried to give information which could be documented, so the reader could check it for himself.”

Purnick attends too many dinner parties with the rich, the celebrated, and the vacuous. She has internalized their world view. Of course, the polite conversation goes in one ear and out the other—there’s nothing there to impede the journey.

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