New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg believes “this country is in trouble,” but, he told TODAY’s Ann Curry, he does not have his eyes set on the White House.
“Here’s the bottom line,” he said in a pre-recorded interview. “I’m going to be mayor for the next 913 days. I’m not a candidate for president; I don’t plan to be a candidate for president.”
Still, the second-term mayor left the Republican party in June and declared himself an Independent. A life-long Democrat, Bloomberg had become a Republican prior to his successful campaign for mayor in 2001. He was reelected in 2005.
“If you didn’t leave the Republican party to run for president, why did you leave the Republican party?” Curry asked.
“Because I think that I’ve got to work on both sides of the aisle on immigration and guns,” he said. Even as a Republican, Bloomberg had been pro-choice and had favored stricter gun-control laws, same-sex unions and amnesty for illegal aliens.
Asked if being an Independent makes him more effective, he replied, “I think neither side can say that I’m in the pocket of the other side. And yes, I think that does make it more effective. I’m not looking for national office; I’m just looking to leave this world a little better for my kids.”
On his Web site, mikebloomberg.com, he has posted a copy of the statement he issued on June 19 when he changed party affiliations: “A nonpartisan approach has worked wonders in New York: we’ve balanced budgets, grown our economy, improved public health, reformed the school system and made the nation’s safest city even safer … Any successful elected executive knows that real results are more important than partisan battles, and that good ideas should take precedence over rigid adherence to any particular political ideology.”
Bloomberg, 65, has two daughters, Georgina and Emma Bloomberg, both with his former wife, Susan Brown, from whom he was divorced in 1993 after 19 years of marriage.
Curry repeated a joke Bloomberg has told on himself about how “they are never going to vote for a 5-foot, 6-inch Jewish guy.”
“I’m 5-foot-7, I think I said,” the mayor objected good-naturedly. “Thank you.”
“Are you not running for the presidency because you don’t think there is an opportunity for you?” Curry asked.
Bloomberg replied by referring to his penchant for being outspoken, particularly on such issues as immigration, gay rights, gun control and abortion. He explained his positions by saying, “I just don’t think the government should be in certain businesses. I don’t think it’s the government’s business to tell you things about your personal life.”
A former general partner at the Salomon Brothers investment firm, Bloomberg became one of the wealthiest persons in America when he founded Bloomberg L.P., a company that sells software to Wall Street firms and, according to his Web site, “has 250,000 subscribers to its financial news and information services.”
He has said that he wants to embark on a career in philanthropy after stepping down as mayor. Various sources report that he donates more than $100 million annually to various causes. His personal fortune was put at $5.5 billion by Forbes.
As mayor of New York, Bloomberg focused during his first term on education reform. He pushed through legislation banning smoking in bars, restaurants, places of employment and public buildings and recently launched PLANYC, a program to improve the quality of life in New York. Among the project’s goals are making all public school playgrounds accessible to the public and charging people to drive downtown during peak traffic hours. In May, he ordered that all city taxicabs be hybrids by 2030.
Curry asked whether his real goal is to be a “king maker” in national politics.
“I don’t think I have a lock on good policies. People have to have the courage to stand up, and I think you can see time and time again, when a political pressure group pushes people, they are afraid to speak out.
“And I’m not going to be afraid to speak out. It probably doesn’t make you the favorite of everybody. [But] I’m not trying to be the favorite. I want people to respect me.”