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Bloomberg’s Awful Foreign Policy

Why would Democrats want to nominate someone whose foreign policy record has more in common with Tom Cotton than with their own party?
michael bloomberg

Now that Mike Bloomberg has made his vanity presidential campaign official, it is worth reviewing his foreign policy record to understand why he is such a terrible candidate. Mehdi Hasan reminds us that Bloomberg was a conventional hawkish Republican until not that long ago, and his foreign policy views haven’t noticeably improved since he left the GOP:

Bloomberg, though, has been an abject failure on each of these issues. Take the war in Iraq. The then-Republican mayor of New York not only backed the illegal invasion and occupation in March 2003, but he also supported perhaps the most egregiously dishonest and bizarre justification for the war: that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks. This, of course, was a brazen lie told by the likes of Dick Cheney and Fox News. But it was also publicly endorsed by Bloomberg.

I mentioned Bloomberg’s disgraceful propagandizing on behalf of Bush and the Iraq war in an earlier post, and this was just the most memorable part of his poor record. It isn’t surprising that someone who presents himself as a “centrist” should hold such hawkish views, since that hawkishness is usually an integral part of “centrist” posturing. Just as Bloomberg has no interest in challenging concentrated wealth and power in domestic affairs, he has no desire to challenge the status quo in foreign affairs, either. His foreign policy is to Washington’s militarism what his domestic views are to plutocracy. Bloomberg manages to have a lot of the same foreign policy baggage that Hillary Clinton had while still having no foreign policy experience. There are many reasons why Bloomberg is an awful fit with the Democratic Party, but on foreign policy he is particularly out of step and out of touch with where Democratic voters want to go. As we can see from recent surveys of public opinion, he is also out of step with a majority of all Americans.

Democratic voters are increasingly sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians and there is much more pressure for candidates to be willing to criticize and penalize Israel when it commits crimes against them. Bloomberg has nothing to offer such voters. Hasan comments:

You might argue that Bloomberg was only parroting the standard liberal defense of Israel but, no, he went much further than that. During the 2014 bombardment of Gaza, in which more more than 500 Palestinian kids were killed, Bloomberg told CBS News that Israel “cannot have a proportional response” when fighting Hamas.

The absurdly anti-Iranian line from Bloomberg’s editorial page also reflects the former mayor’s own views. Back in 2015 when the JCPOA was still being debated, Bloomberg wrote an opinion piece in his own name decrying the Obama administration’s alleged “demonization” of critics of the deal. His complaints about the deal might have come from any other Iran hawk:

Overstating the case for the agreement belies the gravity of the issue and does more to breed distrust than win support. Smearing critics is even less effective. In his speech, the president suggested that critics of the deal are the same people who argued for the war in Iraq. The message wasn’t very subtle: Those who oppose the agreement are warmongers.

Of course, almost all of the people who vocally opposed the JCPOA were the same people who cheered on the invasion of Iraq, and more than a few of them had called for attacking Iran in the years before and since the conclusion of the agreement. It was not a smear to point out the truth about the poor judgment and terrible record of many of the deal’s detractors. Obviously, Bloomberg himself was one of these Iraq war supporters who also criticized the nuclear deal. In that piece, Bloomberg combined his annoying above-the-fray complaints about “politics” with a boilerplate hawkish attack on an important nonproliferation agreement. His pretense that a major foreign policy issue should somehow be separate from “politics” at the same time that he was echoing the talking points of Obama’s domestic opponents was equal parts laughable and infuriating.

Almost all of the declared 2020 Democratic candidates have endorsed returning to the JCPOA, but it seems very unlikely that Bloomberg will join them. The Bloomberg editorial page has been relentless in ridiculing Democratic candidates for this position and has insisted on chasing after a mythical “better deal” that will never happen. Their editorials have also called for ever-increasing pressure on Iran and they have attacked European governments for seeking to keep the current agreement alive. Given Bloomberg’s ownership role and his acknowledged influence over the content of the editorial page, we have to assume that this is what Bloomberg the candidate believes. Thomas Meaney called attention to this in a 2016 article that addressed some of Bloomberg’s views then:

The same is true of the third source for considering Bloomberg’s foreign policy — his direction over the unsigned editorials written by the editorial board for Bloomberg View, the opinion section of Bloomberg Media. (The company has not been shy about noting that these articles correspond to Bloomberg’s own personal opinions.)

Following the former mayor’s entry into the race, Bloomberg has now suspended these editorials, and I suppose they would end up being redundant since we will be hearing directly from the candidate in the future. All of this raises the obvious question: why would Democrats want to nominate someone whose foreign policy record has more in common with Tom Cotton than with their own party? Bloomberg doesn’t have an answer for that, and that is one more reason why his candidacy is going nowhere at great expense.