Michael Bloomberg obviously knows a lot about making money, even about the politics of Manhattan, where his money speaks in the loud and unctuous voice liberals love. But he doesn’t know diddly about life where the rest of us live it.
He threw a tantrum after Barack Obama’s gun-control bill crashed and burned in Congress, stamping his polished wingtips on his Persian carpets, nursing a pout and behaving like a 3-year-old with a broken toy. This was excusable in a 3-year-old, but it’s not the behavior you expect of the nanny.
When the wah-wah and the bitter tears subsided, the mayor of New York set out to fix everything with his billions. His money fixed the election laws in New York, so why couldn’t his billions similarly manipulate a few elections in flyover country?
His honor, the fourth (or fifth) richest man in the world (not that there’s anything wrong with that), is nevertheless a man of the people who rides the subway to work, although according to The New York Times two police department SUVs take him to a station some distance from his manse on East 79th Street so he can take the express train downtown. Doesn’t everyone commute that way? He has other houses, in London, Bermuda and Vail, one or two closer to the streetcar line. Doesn’t everyone?
His Honor just doesn’t like guns. Guns, like a 16-ounce bottle of soda pop, frighten him. That’s why he has a police detail to shadow him everywhere he goes, lest a wild Slurpee lunge at him from the shadows. Doesn’t everyone?
The nanny, like the shadow, knows the evil that lurks in the hearts of men, so he set out to punish several congressmen who he thinks particularly deserve a good spanking. One of them is Mark Pryor, the Democratic senator from Arkansas who is threatened by the Republican wave that has transformed the politics of the last state of what was once the Solid South, and only yesterday the most reliable redoubt of the Democratic Party.
The mayor put out $350,000 — a mere tip for the men’s room attendant at the Hotel Carlisle for the fourth-richest man in the world — to produce a television commercial telling Arkansas voters what they already knew: Mark Pryor voted against the Obama gun legislation. Pryor likes guns! Pour it on! With an enemy like Mike Bloomberg, who needs a friend?
The lugubrious Bloomberg commercial shamelessly exploits the death of Bill Gwatney, the popular chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party, who was shot and killed in 2008 by a deranged man who walked into his office in downtown Little Rock, shook his hand, pulled out a revolver and shot him three times in the chest. He died several hours later. This, the Bloomberg commercial suggests, is just the grim future Mark Pryor’s vote for guns assures everybody.
This was the unexpected break the senator was praying for. Only the terminally timid are frightened by guns in Arkansas, where a boy typically anticipates getting a .22-caliber rifle for his 12th birthday (and the stern lecture from his father that goes with it). The senator, who voted for separate legislation to strengthen funding for mental health programs, gave it back harder to the mayor: “Mike Bloomberg didn’t know Bill Gwatney,” he said. “I knew Bill Gwatney. He was my friend and he was killed by someone with severe mental-health issues. The mayor’s bill would have done nothing to prevent his death because it fails to adequately address the real issue and common thread in all these shootings — mental health.”
The man most likely to run against Mark Pryor is a freshman congressman, Tom Cotton, who really, really does like guns. He’s rarely photographed without one. He looks too good to be true. He grew up in small-town Arkansas, went to Harvard, gave up the law after 9/11 to join the Army, disdaining a posting as an Army lawyer to lead an infantry company in Iraq and then Afghanistan, where he received a Bronze Star for heroism in combat. He has run in 11 marathons and earlier this year was named “the fastest man in Congress” after he won a three-mile congressional minimarathon in under 18 minutes. At 36 and 6 foot 5 inches tall, he looks like a candidate consultants dream of.
He’s a nightmare for Mark Pryor, the son of a senator and trying to survive as a Democrat in a newly Republican state. He has a long slog to re-election, but a genius from New York City just made it a little easier.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.