Bloomberg has harsh words for presidential candidates

January 10, 2008 7:20:11 AM PST
As the presidential speculation about Mayor Michael Bloomberg grew hotter Wednesday, he ticked off a list of complaints about how he thinks the declared candidates are failing.

Bloomberg spoke at City Hall in response to questions about a gathering of like-minded nonpartisans next week that has been described by organizers as a warning shot to the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.

The group of mostly former elected officials meeting in Oklahoma on the day before the New Hampshire primary has said its agenda is to push an independent approach to governing; some have warned that they would back a Bloomberg third-party candidacy if partisan squabbling continues.

Asked Wednesday what in particular the declared candidates are lacking along these lines, Bloomberg gave a meandering answer that veered from failures to address world hunger and genocide to his belief that some proposed immigration plans are "xenophobic."

Settling into the role of presidential gadfly, Bloomberg appeared to single out Republican Mitt Romney for distancing himself from a law he pushed as Massachusetts governor, requiring residents to acquire health insurance or possibly face penalties.

As a presidential candidate, Romney has said he would leave it up to states to devise their own plans, and he has criticized Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton for including a mandate in her health care proposal.

Bloomberg told reporters Romney "walks away from his own plan."

Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said the assessment is "unfortunate and inaccurate."

"Governor Romney's health care accomplishment is something he speaks about regularly, and he uses its success as evidence that health care can be achieved by using a solution-oriented approach with free-market principles," Madden said.

Bloomberg, despite a few more feeble attacks that seemed to be targeted at specific presidential contenders, said "there's no one candidate" who deserves more blame than another.

"Don't say, 'OK, Bloomberg's criticizing A, B or C on either side' - it's all of them," he said. "And I think that's the frustration you see among a lot of independently minded people from both sides, and the middle of the aisle."

Bloomberg, a former Democrat who was elected mayor as a Republican and became an independent last year, said twice Wednesday that he is "not a candidate." But he ducked when asked if he feels as though he owes New Yorkers the full four years that he was elected to serve in his second term, which extends through 2009.

"I've always said my intention is to do that," he said.