It's hard to see the populist mood afoot in the country lofting to the White House a billionaire mayor who used to work for Salomon Brothers. But three recent moves by Michael Bloomberg can be seen in the context of an independent mayor who sees President Obama's sagging poll numbers and has the ability to get into the 2012 presidential race at a late stage and self-finance if no credible Republican or independent alternative emerges.
First, he opposes Mr. Obama's proposed bank tax, warning it will turn New York City into another Detroit.
Then, he hires Howard Wolfson, who has experience campaigning against Obama as an aide to the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.
Then, Mr. Bloomberg reverses course and opposes the Obama administration's plan to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in New York City.
Mr. Bloomberg hasn't run the city exactly on free-market principles. He backed eminent domain at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, banned smoking and trans-fats in restaurants, and raised taxes and spending. He's not strong on Second Amendment issues. But he's independent, he can't be bought by the special interests, he's good on charter schools, and he's got a fabulous police commissioner in Raymond Kelly. And remember, Ross Perot's wealth didn't prevent him from emerging as a voice of Americans who were fed up with both Democrat and Republican politicians in Washington.
This is not an endorsement or a prediction that Mr. Bloomberg will run. It's a long time until 2012. But the mayor is acting as if he wants to keep the option open.