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It Happened This Week: Striking Back

Hillary Clinton hit Barack Obama on Reverend Jeremiah Wright even as critics slammed her for fibbing about Bosnian sniper fire, Sean Combs smacked down rumors that he was involved with Tupac's shooting, and other events of the week that was.

Bloomberg Gets Wheezy Over Congestion Pricing

Mayor Bloomberg came out swinging for congestion pricing today. Facing a March 31 deadline for the city and state legislatures to collect $354 million in federal start-up funds, Hizzoner appeared at breakfast with U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters at his side. To an Anthony Weiner question about congestion pricing's threat to federal funding, Bloomberg snapped: "That's one of the stupider things I've heard!"

Crikey! Are We Getting Madonna Back?

Madonna and Guy Richie may or may not be breaking up because Madonna "lost respect" for Richie when she found out he embellished his working-class roots. The upside: She may be moving to NYC! Matt Lauer has foolishly agreed to be roasted by the Friar's Club. Donatella Versace is appearing at Barneys today to tout her menswear line. Foxy Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin and Representative Anthony Weiner totally acted like a couple during David Paterson's swearing-in ceremony in Albany yesterday. Mary-Louise Parker is bad at giving directions to people in the West Village, even though she lives there. Cindy Adams thinks both Andrew Cuomo and Michael Bloomberg will make runs for governor.

David Paterson Is Sworn In as Governor, Promises Good Times Ahead

Governor David Paterson was just sworn in and gave his first address as head of the state. And boy, was he excited. It was hard not to get giddy for him, even though he took about ten minutes to introduce everybody that came to see the event (Hillary Clinton! Chuck Schumer! The governors of New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts! (The last of whom is also black!) Mayor Bloomberg! Paterson's stepdaughter! Yaaaaay!). Every dignitary in the audience seemed to be wearing at least one piece of ridiculous green flair, which added a comical air to the proceedings. Paterson allowed himself only one swipe at Spitzer, saying: "[My wife] Michelle and I have a different kind of marriage," before pausing for laughs. His speech was centered upon the theme of moving forward "in spite of obstacles and regardless of circumstance." He also challenged party leaders to work together on issues, unlike in the past. To close his speech, he couldn't resist a moment of triumph. "Let me reintroduce myself," he shouted. "I am David Paterson, and I am the governor of New York State." We wondered whether it was too much, but then, as the standing ovation stretched toward two minutes long, we realized it wasn't. This guy is going to be fun.

Spitzer Implosion Clears Way for Governor Bloomberg

Bloomberg
Bloomberg ’08 proved to be a false start. But with the self-immolation of Eliot Spitzer, Bloomberg ’10 makes almost too much sense. Our term-limited mayor will, of course, be looking for a job come January 2009. He laid some serious groundwork for a presidential bid, enough that by the beginning of this year, his supporters were saying he could launch a campaign “at the drop of a hat.” It wasn’t just annoying ballot-access issues that ultimately turned him off, or the prospect of an Obama-McCain race leaving little room for a reform Republican. Bloomberg doesn’t like to enter a contest unless he can be pretty to sure win.

Spitzer’s Crashing and Burning May Put Congestion Pricing Back on the Road

Paterson
In one of its more curious repercussions, it looks like Eliot Spitzer’s fall might mean the resurrection of Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion-pricing agenda. The groups pushing for a fee on midtown driving to fund mass-transit improvements say that governor designate David Paterson’s reputation as a conciliator bodes well for brokering a deal on the controversial proposal. As it stands, city and state lawmakers must adopt a proposed pricing plan by March 31 to retain a $354 million federal start-up grant — but that too could now change. The city will likely play the our-state-government-is-in-crisis card, pressing the Feds — who badly want to see New York get the money — to extend the deadline. (An ally of Sheldon Silver sniffed: “The mayor's office has cooked up lots of deadlines and may be cooking up this one, too.”)

For Cecilia Sarkozy, Revenge Is a Dish Best Served During the Venetian Hour

Cecilia Sarkozy
Cecilia Sarkozy, the ex-wife of French president Nicolas Sarkozy, is set to get married to PR exec Richard Attias in New York on March 22. (Friends say it's a "revenge" wedding.) Shelley Ross was so hated in her capacity as executive producer of CBS' The Early Show that CBS News president Sean McManus didn't even wait to find a replacement before firing her. Colin Farrell tried hitting on model Meghan Lowther at the Rose Bar, but found out the hard way that she has a boyfriend. The April issue of Elle features an interview given by Michelle Williams right after she broke up with Heath Ledger. New York real-estate giant Steven Fisher, best known for turning the aircraft carrier Intrepid into a museum, is trying to get his own TV show. Gossip Girl's Conor Paolo wants, uh, Daniel Day-Lewis to join the cast.

Jimmy Cayne and Richard Fuld Disinvited From the Billionaire Party

Rich
How humiliating is it to be dropped off Forbes' annual list of the world's billionaires? Just ask Jimmy Cayne and Lehman Brothers' Richard Fuld. Cayne, who stepped down from Bear Stearns earlier this year, and Fuld, who it was just announced raked in a paltry $40 million in 2007, were notably absent from this year's list, which was released yesterday. Does this mean they will be turned away from Steve Schwarzman's next birthday party? Will it be like, I'm sorry, sirs. Only billionaires are allowed here? If that's the case, it's going to be a pretty small crowd, unless Schwarzie plans to hold his fiesta in Moscow. This year, the Russian capital eclipsed New York in the amount of billionaires per capita: We have only 71, with an average net worth of $3.3 billion each, whereas in Russia, 74 billionaires, with an average net worth of $5.9 billion each, are whooping it up with the caviar blini. So other than deadbeats Fuld and Cayne, who else is keeping us down?

King B Continues to Tease Us Mercilessly

King B
After Mayor Bloomberg finally ended speculation about a possible presidential run last week with an op-ed in the Times, we were hoping to put the whole annoying saga behind us once and for all. After all, it was mentally exhausting trying to parse Bloomberg’s carefully worded denials and mixed messages each week. However! It turns out that POTUS was only one of many jobs Bloomberg may be looking at for when he is forced out of office by term limits at the end of next year.

Differences of Opinion

It Happened
While political watchers spent last week looking ahead to primaries in Ohio and Texas, the candidates engaged in a serious debate — over a photo of Barack Obama wearing Somali clothing. (An Obama staffer claimed Hillary Clinton had leaked the shot to make him look Islamic; Clinton’s campaign manager said no one had claimed the photo was “divisive” until Obama and his new friend at the Post played it up.) Latecomer Ralph Nader, unsafe at any speed as far as most liberals are concerned, moseyed into the presidential race. Connecticut senator Christopher Dodd backed Obama; Jersey governor Jon Corzine rushed to aid the Clintons in Cleveland.

Mario Cuomo Not So Sure This Congestion-Pricing Thing Is Happening

Cuomo
Mario Cuomo, like Mayor Bloomberg, knows presidential-bid scrutiny. But he knows Albany even better. And the former governor doesn't see congestion pricing coming out of the legislative swamp by the end of March — when lawmakers must adopt a commission-sponsored plan to keep the city from losing $354 million in pledged federal transit aid. “I'm not ruling it out, but I'm not ruling it in,” Cuomo told us (there's that hedging we remember from the presidential-run talk). After hearing Eliot Spitzer talk up an ambitious budget proposal to the developer-heavy Association for a Better New York, the former governor noted that Mayor Bloomberg's air-quality cause seemed conspicuously absent from his successor's weighty wish list. “He has a complicated and very impressive agenda,” Cuomo tells us, “and if congestion pricing were on it, we'd have heard about it.” To be fair, Spitzer's slideshow did include an endorsement of the MTA's five-year capital plan, which relies on upwards of $4 billion from bonds that congestion-pricing fees would support. But Albany can always find ways to borrow more money — that's something Cuomo knows, too. —Alec Appelbaum

Produce Carts Approved for Low-Income Areas; Calling a Clone a Clone

The City Council passed a watered-down version of Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to place produce carts in low-income neighborhoods. The new plan cuts the total number down to 1,000 from 1,500 and reduces the number of targeted precincts from 43 to 34. [NYP] The Post hit two midtown Starbucks yesterday and found that, while Tuesday night’s three-hour training session for baristas may not have instilled the ability to make perfect drinks, they will remake it as many times as you force them to. [NYP] A City Council member introduced legislation yesterday that would require meat from cloned animals to be labeled as such. [Metro NY]

Bloomberg Is Out of Race for Good, Except That He Still Plans to Be in It

Mayor Bloomberg
After months of teasing, innuendo, and downright madness, Bloomberg has put our stress over the possibility of his presidential candidacy to rest. In an editorial in the New York Times that went online last night, the mayor explained:
I listened carefully to those who encouraged me to run, but I am not — and will not be — a candidate for president. I have watched this campaign unfold, and I am hopeful that the current campaigns can rise to the challenge by offering truly independent leadership.
He railed against the candidates for not fully comprehending the challenges facing our economy, the environment, and our schools. He also encouraged an independent approach to these solutions, rather than a partisan one, and emphasized the importance of encouraging growth in America's cities. He says he'll still use his vast means to advocate for these issues during the race. The Daily News applauded the move, immediately nominating Bloomberg as a vice-presidential candidate to run on Obama's ticket. The Post, meanwhile, called his prior flirtation with a run "shameful" and "infuriating." We're frankly a little past caring — we'd already pulled out all of our eyebrows by last summer anyway. I'm Not Running For President, But… [NYT]