Well, yes, we knew that it took a fair amount of ego to succeed in New York. And that our media culture could foment a grandiosity that sometimes manifested in ambitions of shocking magnitude. And that certain citizens, rich and poor alike, liked to see their names plastered on every conceivable surface. And, yes, we’re all familiar with that song and, secretly, kind of believe it ourselves. But. Leader of the free world?
Just a few years ago, New York was so far from the political mainstream that secession seemed a sensible idea. Now, apparently, the road to the White House is an extension of Park Avenue. Four of our politicians are exploring the idea of a presidential run in 2008. One of them (Hillary Clinton) is the Democratic front-runner. Another (Rudy Giuliani) usually has the best poll numbers of any candidate. A third possible contender (Michael Bloomberg) has an approval rating of over 70 percent, and billions of dollars with which to finance a campaign, should he choose to. And one of them (George Pataki) seems to be deluded about his prospects in a national race—but New York has always had its share of nutcases.
Part of what’s happened is that pragmatic, effective centrism has become a New York trademark at precisely the moment when, nationally, it’s become the coin of the realm. New York City mayors have a lot to brag about in that area, and brag they will. And Hillary has been a preternaturally mistake-free politician, as careful as her husband was loose.
Described that way, the campaign might sound a little dull. But this is New York, and this dream race would be a righteous three-way tabloid smackdown. Bloomberg will be complaining about the fiscal condition Rudy left the city in and touting his own accomplishments, his braggadocio delivered with the slightest of lisps and amplified by half a billion dollars’ worth of campaign ads. Think of Rudy Giuliani, a walking, talking attack ad, with his gay roommates and ex-wives and volcanic temper and strongly held belief that Hillary is a phony, versus Hillary, implacable and enigmatic behind that smile, even her hair mistake-free these days, with a hardass army of advisers lashing back at Rudy, taking no prisoners, and Bill—and a vast amount of baggage—trailing behind. It’s on, if we’re lucky. Who doesn’t love a subway series?