Monday, April 11, 2011

Mayor Bloomberg wandering aimlessly through third term as Cathie Black hiring backfires

Mike Lupica

Monday, April 11th 2011, 4:00 AM

Mayor Bloomberg announces Thursday that Cathie Black is out as schools chancellor.
Hermann for News
Mayor Bloomberg announces Thursday that Cathie Black is out as schools chancellor.

Maybe you have to start covering Michael Bloomberg the way you used to cover George Steinbrenner in the old days. That doesn't mean the Steinbrenner who became practically a saint once the Yankees started winning again, it means the one who couldn't get out of his own way when the Yankees stopped winning the World Series in the 1980s.

At one point, Steinbrenner even hired the football coach Lou Saban to be the team's president.

I couldn't remember the reason Steinbrenner gave at the time for hiring Saban, so I called up Bill Madden of the Daily News, who wrote a best-selling biography about Steinbrenner last year.

"Lou was his friend," Madden said Sunday, "and George had a vacancy."

This is worth mentioning because it is exactly how Cathie Black ended up as Bloomberg's schools chancellor.

Lou Saban lasted a couple of years with the Yankees. Bloomberg gave Black three months on a job she never should have accepted in the first place before throwing her under a crosstown bus last week. Why? Because Black was making Bloomberg look bad, and making the third term that he absolutely had to have look much worse.

I was talking with somebody Sunday who knows both Bloomberg and Black, and the guy said this about the third-term mayor of New York: "It's easy to forget that before [Bloomberg] spent a fortune buying his job in City Hall, people thought of him as a kind of a jerk. Rich and successful, but a wise guy with a big ego who thought he was the smartest guy he ever met."

So now Bloomberg, the only person in the whole city - besides Cathie Black - who thought Black should be schools chancellor despite her spectacular lack of qualifications, fires her because she isn't qualified for the job. It really is kind of wonderful. Bloomberg replaces Black with a different kind of crony, a City Hall insider named Dennis Walcott, apparently having just remembered that Walcott went to public school.

The mayor of New York is suddenly supposed to have turned into a very big guy because he said, "I take full responsibility for the fact that this has not worked out." It was a huge relief, of course, to people all over town who started to worry that they were to blame for Black's appointment.

This is apparently how low we currently set the bar for our elected officials: We're expected to carry them around the room when they admit they made a mistake. It's somewhat like the praise Jason Giambi got several years ago because he didn't lie to the grand jury in the BALCO case.

The dogs bark now, and the caravan that is Bloomberg's third term moves on. He picked Black to be his schools chancellor and it was like another commercial for himself, a great big advertisement that he has big ideas about New York that nobody else has, from West Side stadiums to where we can walk on Broadway.

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