In his first major public appearance since leaving office, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke Friday, March 28, to a packed crowd at the Sarasota Opera House. Ringling College Library Association organized the event, “An Evening with Michael Bloomberg,” which Gulf Coast Community Foundation sponsored.
The former mayor, who is known for his independent political bent and for being a political outsider, laid criticism on both the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as the press corps in a lecture that spanned the gamut of contemporary political controversies and hot topics.
The event’s moderator, Sarasota native and former CBS news anchor Sharyl Attkisson, was also making her debut public appearance after leaving the post for which she was best known.
The Riverview High School graduate announced two weeks ago she was leaving the network due to what she characterized as liberal bias and perceived corporate influence.
Attkisson interviewed Bloomberg for more than an hour, touching on a series of controversial topics, including the Benghazi terrorist attack, the debate over Common Core education standards, raising the minimum wage, the 2012 presidential election, congressional gridlock and the troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act.
Bloomberg even addressed the controversial “soda ban” he implemented in New York City, prohibiting the sale of large soft drinks.
Bloomberg’s responses to those politically charged subjects reflected his independent political leanings, which break from the political orthodoxy of politicians subscribing to a party platform.
“I’m not a big-government guy or a little-government guy — I’m a practical-government guy,” Bloomberg said.
Asked if he was going to run for president in 2016, Bloomberg promptly replied, “No.”
Bloomberg, whose political affiliations have spanned the full spectrum from Democratic to Republican and Independent, said his reluctance to toe the traditional political party lines rules out his presidential prospects due to the appetites of the press to “give the people what they want” by appealing to the far right and far left political extremes.
“The press is just merciless … George W. Bush got elected and re-elected because people thought he was genuine,” Bloomberg said. “Genuine, honest people — that’s what most people want. But that’s not what the press wants.”
Asked if, despite all the perceived dysfunction and gridlock in Washington, he still had faith in the American system of government, Bloomberg replied: “It’s hardly perfect, but when people vote with their feet around the world, they still come to America.”
Contact Nolan Peterson at [email protected]