Mike Bloomberg may mean well. He certainly thinks he can save the Democratic party and the nation.
But at the moment, he is actually harming both.
He is hurting Democrats by blunting the message of all the candidates other than Bernie Sanders.
And he is hurting the country by making it less likely that the Democrats will nominate a person who will be able to defeat Donald Trump.
Yet he could have been — and still can be — a political savior. All it would take is one great speech:
Draft Speech for Democratic Primary Debate on February 25, 2020
In Response to the first question posed to Mayor Bloomberg:
Thank you sponsors of this debate (named), and moderators (named) for this opportunity to speak to my fellow candidates, to my fellow Democrats on stage and to all Americans watching.
I ask for your indulgence, right now, to exceed my time for response to my first question.
Over the course of the entire debate, each candidate will speak for approximately fifteen minutes in short answers. I am only going to speak once, right now, and then leave the stage. So forgive me for going beyond my allotted time.
I have decided to withdraw from the race for the Democratic nomination as of this moment.
I would like to explain why I got in, why I am getting out, and how I can help the rest of you on stage make sure we succeed at this moment of existential crisis for the rule of law that the continued vitality of our Constitution.
During the last debate, we took a lot of shots at each other, but none of us attended to our most important task: to show the American people why Donald Trump is not just a political partisan with whom we might have policy differences — but rather that he is an abomination — the most destructive President in the history of this nation.
We spent a lot of time promising detailed policies that no President can deliver for sure, and said nothing about what we can deliver with certainty — the restoration of the rule of law and the end of corruption.
Donald Trump is the legally elected President of the United States. But he is also a political gangster who has abused his power and coopted his entire political party to enrich himself personally, and to satisfy deeply destructive needs to get revenge on all with whom he disagrees or dislikes, including career civil servants, military leaders, trained experts and leaders in our intelligence community, federal judges, and ordinary citizens, often innocent and honorable who come from minority communities, are immigrants to this country, or in some manner disabled or different.
The result is an existential crisis. Americans are becoming numb to what had only recently been obviously outrageous behavior, conduct that puts at risk fundamental political ideals.
The fatal disease of republics in the history of the world is corruption. It is the main reason past republics eventually died. Like nearly all Americans I want ours to live and thrive. But most Americans don’t realize just how bad the crisis is.
In his first great speech, in 1838, a young Abraham Lincoln warned that in antebellum America the rule of law itself was under siege. He worried that the civic culture was ripe for some demagogue to come along who instead of admiring the Constitution and its founders would seek to tear it down for his own perverse ambition.
Lincoln stepped up to that moment and over the next several decades saved this Republic. He wanted to make sure that good ambition triumphed over bad. He succeeded and is often thought our greatest president because of it.
I am definitely no Lincoln.
But I am a man of ambition, and I have had great success as a businessman and politician. Of course, I’ve made mistakes in my career — even Lincoln made mistakes. But overall, I think it fair to say that my business has been not just profitable, but good for its employees and for the nation. I also believe that I made New York City better than the city I inherited as Mayor; and that I have done my best through philanthropy to make the world a better place.
I got into this race because I thought that I could step up and soundly defeat Donald Trump. I thought my comparative advantage in this common effort of all of us on this stage is that I am everything Trump wished to be but is not. I don’t lie. I don’t go bankrupt. I don’t cheat my customers. I don’t make up facts.
Like most people, and most men, over the years I have said some stupid and hurtful things about women — things I genuinely regret. But I know that my stupidity, embarrassing and lamentable, is just not in the league of Donald Trump’s mendacity and long record of truly awful behavior that he does not admit or apologize for — behavior that includes assaulting women. I submit that the culture of the workplace when I was mayor and the workplace culture of my business, are among the most exemplary in the world with respect to the treatment of women.
There is nothing fake about my businesses. They are genuinely and enormously successful. I was not given a leg up by my parents’ wealth and I was never bailed out by my dad. My businesses are not nepotism farms. I never filled important jobs with incompetent friends and family. I am genuinely philanthropic. I never stole money from anyone. I certainly never stole from my own philanthropy. To quote my colleague on stage, Senator Klobochar: who does that?
When I decided to spend my own money on this campaign, I did what I said I would do — I did not promise to fund my own campaign, lie about that, and then rip off donors and American citizens to make money for myself from campaigning and governing like Trump does.
My ambition has never been to acquire wealth for its own sake, but rather to maximize and show my talent and to use it and my wealth to do good for this nation and this planet.
Trump is a fake, a con man. New Yorkers have known that for a long time. I thought the rest of America would see Donald Trump more clearly if they got to know someone who was the real deal — someone who actually is everything Trump can only pretend to be.
I worried that my fellow candidates, talented and public spirited as they surely are, were not well positioned to win this election. I still think it is going to be a very tough fight. I think it will be a long shot for Bernie Sanders to win the general election. I hope the party wisely chooses someone else.
Still, if Bernie is our nominee, I will support him even though I strongly disagree with many of his ideas and plans.
I will support him because I have no doubt that were he to be elected he would strive to live up to his oath of office and that he would care about the law and the Constitution. I fear the consequences of his policies, but I do not doubt his moral integrity.
The last debate convinced me that my talents would be better spent supporting our candidate rather than being our candidate. Although I still think I would be a very good President, I think a couple of my colleagues on this stage would be better national campaigners than me.
So tonight I want to announce that not only am I withdrawing from the race for the nomination, I will make good on my early promise to support our nominee and Democratic candidates down ballot throughout the nation with massive donations — all, of course, transparent and legal.
I have built a terrific organization for my campaign across the nation and, working with the DNC leadership, I will redeploy those resources to help ensure that we retain the House and secure the Senate for Democratic majority.
I am also happy to shift some of my advertising budget to ads designed to inform the American people about the unprecedented danger Donald Trump poses to the rule of law and the maintenance of the constitutional order.
I also announce here that I will work with a bi-partisan team of Congressmen and Senators — who are committed to electoral security for this and for future elections. No matter what party or person the Russians seek to support or undermine at any given moment, their efforts are threats to all American voters.
I will commit millions of dollars to intelligent ballot security efforts that the Intelligence community recommends that this President has failed to lead. I will work with Speaker Pelosi and Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr on how best to do this in a bi-partisan way. We can’t let the President’s corruption and incompetence destroy this nation. This unprecedented crisis requires unprecedented responses.
Finally, I announce here that I will devote another 100 million dollars to fight voter suppression by the Donald Trump campaign and the Republican party. My investments will include support for ongoing voter registration efforts and litigation strategies to oppose the Republican project to disenfranchise Americans.
Thank you for giving me this platform. Although I wish all my fellow candidates well, and will support our nominee, I think that some of the remaining candidates are more likely to succeed than others. In the coming days, I will share my thoughts on the electoral strengths of my colleagues and I will make an endorsement.
But, for now, let me end by imploring fellow Americans, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents to support whomever becomes the Democratic nominee. Anyone on this stage, as well as the Democratic candidates who have already withdrawn from this primary race, would be better than the selfish gangster who holds the office now.
Jeffrey K. Tulis is a Professor of Government at The University of Texas at Austin