If you’ve buried yourself under a rock or eschewed any public media, it’s the only way you’ve missed the latest salvo of ads from Mike Bloomberg, in which he uses former President Barack Obama like a flag and drapes himself in the man.
Here’s one video on YouTube contrasting Obama and Trump. You’d think Bloomberg was running as Obama 2.0, or that Obama has endorsed Mike like Mike endorsed Obama seven years ago. But Obama is doing no such thing.
The fact is that Obama has not endorsed anyone. In fact, he’s been pretty quiet: “For the last six weeks or so, we’ve been watching Joe Biden metaphorically drown, while former president Barack Obama files his nails and leans against a life preserver on the dock,” wrote Jim Geraghty in National Review.
Obama’s silence has left a vacuum that Bloomberg
‘s money intends to fill. This could be a mistake for Mike, because Obama has a long memory, and their relationship is “complicated.”
But Bloomberg did not endorse Obama during his first run for the White House in 2008. Obama, in turn, did not back Bloomberg during his final mayoral run in 2009. And Bloomberg waited until the last week of the 2012 presidential race to back Obama’s re-election over Republican Mitt Romney, and his op-ed doing so included as much criticism as it did praise.Bloomberg and Obama: A more ‘complicated’ relationship than the ads suggest, NBC News, Feb 19, 2020
Bloomberg’s advertising is compelling and frames a relationship that really isn’t what it seems. Obama’s former campaign manager David Plouffe tweeted on the effect.
On the whole, Bloomberg has served up more criticism, some of it biting, against Obama over the years than he has offered praise. Why would Obama, who positively owned the Democratic Party for eight years, want to push this man forward–Bloomberg, who compares more favorably to Trump in many of his policies than he does with Obama?
It’s because Barack is biding his time. He wants to take the party somewhere, behind someone, but is waiting until things gel this summer. Gehraghty referred to a recent New York Magazine piece by Gabriel Debenedetti:
…[H]e’s being careful to ensure he can be seen as an honest broker in June and July — a potentially necessary designation given both his status as the party’s most popular figure and the real possibility that Sanders, or another candidate, could enter the summer with a plurality of the delegates needed for the nomination but not an outright victory. “Obama is going to look at the [delegate math to determine] the outcome. If the math brings someone [to the nomination], he’ll back it in full,” one person who still speaks with the former president told me recently. “His biggest dilemma is if Bernie is at 35-40 [percent of the delegates], and no one else is [at] 20. Does he say, ‘You have to go with who won [a plurality of] the delegates, and who looks to be the true front-runner?’”
Obama intends to take the Democratic Party somewhere–God knows Hillary Clinton didn’t take it anywhere–but Bloomberg may not be the front guy. Especially if he keeps stumbling around hare-brained ideas like picking Hillary as his running mate.
But during the silent period, Bloomberg is taking full advantage of his arms-length, off-again, on-again relationship with Obama to blanket the airwaves and the Internet with bro-love. It’s disingenuous as hell.
If Bloomberg has learned anything from his fellow New Yorker Donald Trump, it’s that disingenuous sells. It sells especially well when paired with honeyed brie, an open bar with flashy free t-shirts, and a “waterfall of cash” that manifest at Bloomberg rallies.
While Trump rallies are Monster Truck spectaculars, complete with red MAGA (KAG2020) hats and tchotchkes on sale, Bloomberg goes for a more upscale experience. Both Trump and Bloomberg have dialed in on their marks. Mike wants Obama’s legacy, his imprimatur, and most importantly, his voters. He won’t let a simple thing like the truth stop him.