Bloomberg, dancing around Weiner, says the next mayor should have ‘good character’

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Weiner and Bloomberg in 2009. (U.S. Department of the Interior via Flickr)
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Today, following a press conference at an East Harlem public school celebrating New York City's new professional soccer team, Mayor Michael Bloomberg repaired to the auditorium to take questions from the press. 

Several of them were about Anthony Weiner, who officially launched his campaign for mayor early this morning with a video.

A Wall Street Journal reporter asked Bloomberg if he thought a Mayor Weiner, what with all of his sext-scandal baggage, might hurt the city's image and make it less attractive to business.

The mayor's political operation planted negative stories about Weiner when he was considering running in 2009, but today, he didn't bite.

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"Look, if you believe in democracy, the public has a right to pick whoever they want and if they find Anthony Weiner to be more competent, acceptable than the others, that's who they'll vote for," he responded, before launching into a short disquisition on one of his favorite hobbyhorses, non-partisan elections.

An "Inside Edition" reporter similarly tried, and failed, to get Bloomberg to play ball.

WCBS veteran Rich Lamb's more oblique approach had more success.

"How important is it that your successor exercise good judgement and be of good character?" he asked.

"I don't know there's anything else that matters," he said, before hedging a bit.

"I mean of course you want them to have good judgment and good character, but keep in mind, what you think is right doesn't necessarily mean that everybody else in this room thinks is right," said Bloomberg. "So who are you to judge? The only chance you have is at the voting booth. And you decide based on what they have done in their lives and what they've said and what contributions they've made."

And what of executive experience? asked another reporter.

"Well, I always argued that executive experience is very important," Bloomberg responded, adding, "The mayor's job is an executive job. You can't be all things to all people."

"I don't think most of the candidates on the Democratic side have had that," he continued. "But on the other hand, legislative experience is valuable. And some of them have shown that they have done good things.

"Chris Quinn, as you know, I've said has been a great speaker of the City Council for eight years. Bill Thompson was a good comptroller and people say the jobs he's had for the last four years he's done a good job. There's two examples, and that doesn't mean the other candidates don't have theirs as well....Joe Lhota was Rudy's chief of staff, so he got some government experience on the executive side and then he worked for Madison Square Garden, as I remember, and then ran the M.T.A., so he's got experience. George McDonald's had experience. Cats has experience. He runs a bunch of companies. So there are people out there. And the public's got to decide who they want."

(Lhota, it should be noted, was actually Giuliani's finance commissioner, director of the office of management and budget, and deputy mayor for operations. "Cats" refers to billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis.)

Bloomberg frequently says he knows who he's going to vote for, and most believe that person will be Quinn. But thus far, Bloomberg has refused to show his hand.