After New York,the nation?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg should run for US president — to inject some brave ideas,to make the independent voter matter

Written by New York Times | Published: April 20, 2012 3:20 am

Mayor Michael Bloomberg should run for US president — to inject some brave ideas,to make the independent voter matter

I had to catch a train in Washington last week. The paved street around Union Station was in such poor condition that I felt as though I was on a roller coaster. I travelled on the Amtrak Acela,our sorry excuse for a fast train,on which I had so many dropped calls on my cellphone that you’d have thought I was on a remote island. When I got back to Union Station,the escalator in the garage was broken. Maybe you’ve gotten used to all this. I haven’t. Our country needs a renewal. And that is why I still hope Michael Bloomberg will reconsider running for president as an independent candidate,if only to participate in the presidential debates and give our two-party system the shock it needs.

President Obama has done a solid job stemming the economic crisis he inherited and managing national security and initiating important reforms. But with Europe in peril,China and America wobbling,the Arab world in turmoil,energy prices spiralling and the climate changing,we are facing some real storms ahead. We’ll have to make some big,hard decisions soon — and to do that successfully will require presidential leadership of the highest calibre.

This election has to be about those hard choices,smart investments and shared sacrifices — how we set our economy on a clear-cut path of near-term,job-growing improvements in infrastructure and education and on a long-term pathway to serious fiscal,tax and entitlement reform. The next president has to have a mandate to do all of this.

But,today,neither party is generating that mandate — talking seriously enough about the taxes that will have to be raised or the entitlement spending that will have to be cut,let alone offering an inspired vision of American renewal that might motivate such sacrifice. That’s why I still believe that the national debate would benefit from the entrance of a substantial independent candidate — like the straight-talking,socially moderate and fiscally conservative Bloomberg — who could challenge,and maybe even improve,both major-party presidential candidates.

Bloomberg doesn’t have to win to succeed — or even stay in the race to the very end. Simply by running,participating in the debates and doing respectably in the polls,he could change the dynamic of the election and,most importantly,the course of the next administration. By running on important issues and offering sensible programmes for addressing them — and showing that he had the support of the growing number of Americans who describe themselves as independents — he would compel the two candidates to gravitate toward some of his positions. And,by taking part in the debates,he could impose a dose of reality on the election that would otherwise be missing. “The right kind of independent candidate would explain that the real question on taxes,once the economy is back on track,is this: Given that taxes have to rise,how should we raise the revenue we need in ways that are best for the economy?” wrote the columnist Matt Miller in The Washington Post last week.

After his mayoral term is over in 2013,Bloomberg will apparently spend more time running his foundation. But the single greatest act of philanthropy he could do for the country is right now: run for president as an independent,at least long enough to participate in all the debates. If he doesn’t,and this turns into a presidential race to the bottom,he could donate every dollar he has to fix things in America and they’d be wasted,or,more accurately,overwhelmed by our mounting problems. The most patriotic thing Bloomberg could do is become an unpaid lobbyist for the country — and for the next generation of Americans.

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