Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Bloomberg’s Dictatorship Double Standard

The Bloomberg campaign is the last one that should be attacking other candidates over supposed coziness and sympathy with dictators.

Mike Bloomberg’s campaign thinks that it is smart to go after Sanders for his fairly unremarkable Cuba comments despite the former mayor’s admiration for authoritarian systems in other countries. Bloomberg’s campaign Twitter account started making up fake quotes as a way to “guess” what Sanders thought about other authoritarian rulers around the world:

The Bloomberg campaign is the last one that should be attacking other candidates over supposed coziness and sympathy with dictators. Bloomberg is on record just last year claiming that Xi Jinping is not a dictator. The year before that, he was very chummy with Mohammed bin Salman during the crown prince’s American tour, and it is safe to assume that it would be business as usual with the Saudi royals if Bloomberg were president. One doesn’t have to go very far back in time to find proof that Bloomberg has a huge blind spot when it comes to currying favor with certain authoritarian governments. Making up quotes and putting words in Sanders’ mouth that he has never said and never would say is a despicable tactic. It is something that we would expect from an Internet troll, which makes the same campaign’s whining about the importance of civility even more irritating. Bloomberg has a hard enough time defending his own authoritarian record as mayor that you would think that his campaign would be careful not to throw stones from inside their own glass mansion.

It is striking that Bloomberg has mostly been able to get away with acting as an apologist for the Chinese government so far. Michael Dougherty did a good job calling him out for this last week:

Like the NBA’s, his bottom line is given such a massive boost by Chinese dollars that he is willing to lie about the nature of the regime, or at least to delude himself about it. A significant number of Americans has awoken to the reality of China’s regime in the last year, and many fear that Beijing’s iron-handed incompetence may be a risk to their own health. They will conclude that a man like Bloomberg is unfit to be president, as well they should.

Emma Ashford noticed that Bloomberg’s foreign policy is generally very hawkish, but he suddenly becomes much more accommodating when it concerns a government where his company does a lot of business. That leads her to conclude that Bloomberg’s foreign policy is really the worst of both worlds:

But in focusing so heavily on Bloomberg’s record, moderators and candidates alike missed the opportunity to question his foreign policy views, a disturbing amalgam of Clinton-style hawkishness and Trumpian conflicts of interest.

Bloomberg is an authoritarian, and he clearly sympathizes with how some authoritarian regimes “get things done.” He is desperate to deflect attention from his own positions, and so he launches misleading and absurd attacks on the candidate whose foreign policy agenda is firmly opposed to authoritarianism and corruption abroad. Bloomberg thinks he is exposing Sanders’ vulnerabilities on foreign policy when he is really just calling attention to some of the reasons why he should never be president.