I was sorry to get the news that Mike Bloomberg (D.,R.,I.,D.-N.Y.) is apparently not considering tapping Hillary Clinton as his running mate, should he be successful in buying—er, winning—the Democratic nomination.
I say “apparently” because, although the headline of the news story spoke of how his campaign “shuts down” the claim, the report itself was full of rhetorical throat-clearing and equivocation—“too early to speculate,” “focus on the primary,” and so on, and so on.
The original story was a Matt Drudge “exclusive,” which may or may not mean that he heard the rumor from some guy blocking his fedora hat. He noticed that Bloomberg and Clinton (and several others) had dinner in New York in December, or he made it up out of whole cloth, which really would be “exclusive.”
In any event, though salivating briefly over the prospect of a Bloomberg–Clinton ticket, I put the story down as too good to be true. The only thing more delicious would be a ticket featuring former golden boy, now felon, Michael Avenatti.
It seems like only yesterday that pundits were falling over themselves to declare Avenatti to be Donald Trump’s “worst nightmare,” “the savior of the republic” (yes, really), “a hero,” likely presidential contender, and so on—and on and on. On Feb. 14, we learned that, having been found guilty on all counts, he faces a long stint as a guest of the government for his efforts to extort money from Nike.
Of course, he will appeal, but as Mark Steyn noted on the “Tucker Carlson Show,” Avenatti, though a flash-in-the-pan celebrity, is not a fully paid-up member of the A-team, as are (for example) Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Sally Yates, and (as we found out last week) Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director of the FBI. McCabe lied under oath, leaked (or arranged to leak) documents, but, since he lives under the protective penumbra of the establishment, he’s immune from prosecution.
Or so it seems. John Durham is still beavering away with his investigation into possible wrongdoing in the so-called “Trump-Russia” investigation, and who knows what interesting tidbits he will uncover. But the general point holds. The public has lost faith in the Department of Justice.
They think that the DOJ operates what Andrew McCarthy calls a “two-tiered” system, wherein people like Hillary Clinton—she of the 33,000 missing emails, bleach-bit servers, smashed smartphones, and at-this-point-what-difference-does-it-make arrogance—get treated one way while people like Mike Flynn, whom Barack Obama doesn’t like, gets treated in a very different way: set up by the FBI, career destroyed, bankrupted, and possibly facing jail time, and for what? For misremembering some details of a conversation (an entirely innocent conversation, by the way) he had with Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the United States.
As Napoleon said in “Animal Farm,” all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.
That, as I say, is the public perception. Is it accurate? I think there is a lot of truth to the perception, though I acknowledge that it is a complicated story and, moreover, I believe that Attorney General William Barr is determined (as he said in his confirmation hearings) to restore the ideal of impartiality at the Department of Justice. (Maybe that is a tendentious comment, since one seeks to restore only what one has lost, and the question of whether the DOJ has lived up to its obligation to be impartial is the question at issue.)
How Things Look
But politics is only incidentally about the realities of any given situation. Mostly it is about perception, about buzz, spin, who’s up and who’s down in that least impartial of courts, the court of public opinion.
Hence, the relevance of Avenatti to the metabolism of our politics. A year or two ago, he was the toast of the town. Now, he is contemplating a new wardrobe in orange.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the political contest we are approaching revolves around the question of rhetoric, the art, as Aristotle noted, of persuasion.
On the Republican side, things are largely quiescent. Donald Trump enjoys enormous Republican support. There is a potentially dangerous element embedded in government—the permanent bureaucracy which, regardless of party, defaults to big-government morass and turf protection above all else. And there are the loud but impotent Never Trumpers, who are like gnats on a summer day. But the main current of Republican politics is surging under Trump, bearing him along as standard-bearer.
Things are very different on the Democratic side, where a gigantic clash of narratives is just getting revved up. Someone will be the Democratic nominee, but who? The communist Bernie Sanders, who wants to jail oil executives and dismantle American capitalism? Joe Biden, who wants to keep his son Hunter out of jail but can’t quite remember what day of the week it is? Or Mike Bloomberg, who, with $60 billion, can buy almost anything?
Of the announced candidates, those are, in my view, the serious contenders as of Feb. 16. Elizabeth Warren is finished. Amy Klobuchar is still alive, but barely. I can’t even remember the names of the others.
Note that I said Bloomberg could buy “almost” anything. The adverb is important. Because it is already clear that the left, and not just the Bernie-inspired Gulag-loving commie left, is going to go after Bloomberg big time. That speech in which Bloomberg claimed that 95 percent of murders were committed by young blacks went viral and is the object of hand-wringing consternation wherever leftists congregate.
The distaff side is hopping up and down in anger because he had a habit of making rude comments to or about female staffers. That news isn’t going away, either. Nor is his former support for policies like stop and frisk or his analysis of the 2008 financial meltdown as a consequence of easy credit for minorities.
It’s one thing to support redlining when you are mayor of New York. It is quite another thing to do so when you are running for president.
Still, were I a betting man, I would bet on Bloomberg getting the nomination. But the tea leaves have not yet settled into an intelligible pattern. Since Bernie would take at most four or five states, I suspect that the Democrats will find some way to stop him. But it will be a nasty, nasty battle. Whoever emerges victorious will be much scarred.
“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” Nietzsche once said. But that is clearly not true. Bernie and Bloomberg (or whoever) will survive, but that will not be enough. I expect whoever becomes the nominee to be like Robert Frost’s “Oven Bird”: “The question that he frames in all but words/ Is what to make of a diminished thing.”
Roger Kimball is the editor and publisher of The New Criterion and publisher of Encounter Books. His most recent book is “The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.