Mike Bloomberg is finally going to leave the mayor's office at the end of this year. New York, supposedly the bluest of cities, hasn't elected a Democratic mayor since 1989 -- but a lot of people have been expecting that to change this year, with Democratic City Council Speaker Christine Quinn seen as the mayoral favorite.
But a large number of white men in expensive suits don't want a Democrat to win. (Omigod, a Democrat will give away the city to the unions!) And, in addition, one particular ego has landed in the mayor's race.
So, on New Year's Eve, The New York Times gave us a story titled "Giuliani Ready to Use Muscle to Put His Man in Mayor’s Seat." Giuliani's "man" is the recently departed head of the much-relied-upon, much-reviled Metropolitan Transporation Authority, Joe Lhota, previously a Giuliani advisor and Wall Streeter.
It's possible that you'll read the following and think "man" should be replaced with "puppet":
Over the last few weeks, Mr. Giuliani and a coterie of former aides have coalesced around the deputy, Joseph J. Lhota, a Bronx-born Republican, with a single-mindedness that borders on fervor, encouraging him to leap into the campaign and talking up his prospects to business and political leaders, at times well beyond the borders of New York. In Ohio, a few days before the presidential election, Mr. Giuliani was overheard extolling Mr. Lhota's mayoral qualifications backstage at a rally for Mitt Romney.But Lhota isn't just Giuliani's "man." More and more, he seems to be The New York Times's "man." A week prior to the Giuliani article, there was "A Republican Mayoral Possibility Unsettles Democrats." When Lhota resigned from the MTA, there was "It May Not Be the End of the World, but It's Bad News for Transit Riders." And today there's a revolting bit of hagiography that attempts to portray Lhota as a potentially larger-than-life mega-mayor in the Giuliani/Ed Koch mold; the story is titled, variously, "Outsize Personality Joins, and Jostles, Mayor's Race," "Lhota Joins Mayoral Race, and Stands Out," and in the app version, most fawningly, "Candid and Uninhibited, Lhota Stands Out in Mayor's Race."
For Mr. Giuliani, 68, a Lhota candidacy represents a coveted chance to reassert his stamp on a city that he transformed in the 1990s, and a way to fend off what he sees at the ultimate threat to his legacy: the election this year of a liberal Democrat who rejects his conservative approach to policing and budgeting.
Hey, Lhota and the Times, get a room.
Here's the way the story starts:
To pump himself up for tense negotiations with the City Council, Joseph J. Lhota listened to the soaring theme song to the film "Top Gun," and, afterward, relaxed to the soothing tones of Gregorian chants.Translation: Hey, New York, forget about whether Lhota as mayor would be good for you -- the real question is whether you're tough enough to handle him. Well? Think you got what it takes?
Dispensing with diplomacy, he loudly challenged a 77-year-old Holocaust survivor to "be a man" at a public meeting of the region's transit authority, and he once gave the middle finger to a reporter in the rotunda of City Hall.
And, acting on instinct, he raced into the streets of Lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001, to direct traffic and then, at day's end, delivered a copy of a Winston Churchill biography to his boss, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, for inspiration.
In a city whose once raucous and colorful politics have become remarkably button-down and tranquil over the past decade, Mr. Lhota, who filed documents on Thursday to become a Republican candidate for mayor, is something of a throwback: an unapologetically outsize personality, known throughout his career for big emotions and an uninhibited style.
(And yes, I suppose that Holocaust-survivor thing is a bit problematic -- though it's easy to imagine Rudy or Ed doing the same thing and getting away with only a few minor scratches, because they were so colorful.)
Here's the thing: voters don't want Lhota. (According to Quinnipiac, he trails each of the three leading Democratic mayoral contenders by at least 40 points. Maybe it's the MTA fare hikes, Joe?) But certain right-leaning power brokers want him. So expect more gush like this from the Times, which is clearly happy to be sweet talked this way, between now and November.
(Oh, and it won't just be the Times. By astonishing coincidence, The New York Observer just hired a new editor named Ken Kurson who just so happens to have coauthored Giuliani's book Leadership. The Observer, incidentally, is owned by Donald Trump's son-in-law.)