Michael Bloomberg

If Bloomberg's Arrogance Worries You, His Weaselly Positions on Presidential Power Won't Reassure You

The presidential candidate reserves the right to wage unauthorized wars, kill Americans in foreign countries, prosecute journalists, and selectively flout the law.


The ban on big beverages that Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg tried to impose when he was mayor of New York City reflects not only his strong paternalistic instincts but also his impatience with legal restraints on executive power. Instead of seeking new legislation restricting sales of sugary drinks, Bloomberg unilaterally decreed, via the New York Board of Health, that customers of food service establishments would not be allowed to buy more than a pint at a time. A judge, an appeals court panel, and the state's highest court all agreed that the soda serving ceiling exceeded the board's legal authority.

Given Bloomberg's history of pursuing his goals without regard for the separation of powers, voters might reasonably wonder whether he would respect legal limits on his authority as president. A New York Times questionnaire about presidential power gave him an opportunity to reassure them. But for the most part, his weaselly responses can only reinforce fears that a President Bloomberg would do what he thinks is right, whether or not it is authorized by the Constitution.

Bloomberg thinks the president has the authority to wage war at his own discretion, whenever he believes it is "necessary to protect the country":

I would be extremely reluctant as President to commit the armed forces to hostilities in another country, without congressional authorization, beyond circumstances that involve an imminent threat to the United States, its people or property. It would be unwise for me as a candidate for president to categorically rule out committing the armed forces in such circumstances. I know that unforeseen circumstances can arise in matters of national security. But bypassing Congress should only be contemplated when action is necessary to protect the country and is limited in scope and duration.

Bloomberg also believes the president has the authority to assassinate U.S. citizens in foreign countries based on allegations that they are involved in terrorism. "I would have no hesitation to authorize lethal force against such an individual overseas in a location where arrest or capture is infeasible," he said, "so long as our national security lawyers determine such action is lawful."

As for terrorism suspects in the United States, Bloomberg said he "would be extremely concerned if a U.S. citizen were arrested on U.S. soil, by U.S. law enforcement, and turned over to the U.S. military for wartime detention and criminal prosecution in a military commission." He added that "our federal civilian courts have an impressive track record of bringing suspected terrorists to justice, both in terms of efficiency and security."

The Times asked Bloomberg about three cases in which the president violated the law in the name of national security: "After 9/11, the NSA wiretapped on domestic soil without court orders seemingly required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the CIA used coercive interrogation techniques on prisoners despite antitorture laws and treaties. In the 2014 Bergdahl deal, the military transferred five Guantanamo detainees to Qatar without giving Congress the 30 days notice seemingly required by a detainee transfer law."

Bloomberg acknowledged the illegality of those actions and said he rejects Attorney General William Barr's broad view of presidential authority. But then he added this: "As president I would govern by the principle that presidential authority is at its zenith when authorized by both the Constitution and acts of Congress, and is at its weakest and riskiest when contrary to an act of Congress but somehow authorized by a broad reading of the Constitution."

That allusion to Youngston Sheet and Tube Co. v. Sawyer, the 1952 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that President Harry Truman's seizure of steel mills violated the separation of powers, is meant to be reassuring. But the formulation still leaves Bloomberg wiggle room to act "contrary to an act of Congress" if he believes Congress has impinged on the president's authority.

Bloomberg likewise hedged on the practice of replacing vetoes with signing statements that reserve the right to ignore specific provisions of a bill that the president finds objectionable. "If a bill is unconstitutional," he said, "the right response is almost always to veto it, not to sign it and to say that it is unconstitutional. But in very rare circumstances—which I hope would never arise—I would reserve the right to follow longstanding practice and sign a bill of which I generally approve, but also to point to Constitutional weaknesses in specific provisions."

The Times asked Bloomberg about the federal indictment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, which includes Espionage Act charges that effectively criminalize the work of investigative journalists whose reporting is based on classified material. "Are these charges constitutional?" the paper asked. "Would your administration continue the Espionage Act part of the case against Assange?"

Instead of answering those questions, Bloomberg offered an anodyne statement about freedom of the press, followed by a promise that he "would adopt a very strong presumption" against trying to imprison reporters who share information the government would prefer to keep secret. You might expect a firmer commitment from a man who made his fortune in the news business.

On the positive side, Bloomberg said Congress has the power to criminalize corrupt uses of presidential power, and he agreed that the president can be guilty of obstructing justice when he uses his otherwise lawful authority to "impede an investigation for corrupt reasons," although he hedged on the question of whether a sitting president can be indicted. He also said executive privilege "should never shield criminal or improper communications" and "in general" should be limited to "deliberations or policy advice directed to the president from within the executive branch."

Answers to press questions about executive power obviously do not constitute a binding contract. Barack Obama, responding to a similar questionnaire in 2007, went considerably further than Bloomberg on the issue of the president's war powers, categorically stating that "the President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." That did not stop Obama, once elected, from attacking LibyaSyria, and ISIS without congressional approval or an imminent threat to the nation.

Still, a candidate's understanding of presidential authority is unlikely to become more restrained after he moves into the White House. Bloomberg has put us on notice that, when it comes to waging war, killing Americans in foreign countries, selectively flouting the law, and prosecuting journalists, he will do whatever he thinks is appropriate. Voters have to decide whether they are comfortable with that prospect.

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  1. “Instead of seeking new legislation restricting sales of sugary drinks, Bloomberg unilaterally decreed, via the New York Board of Health, that customers of food service establishments would not be allowed to buy more than a pint at a time.”

    Its worse than that, he DID seek new legislation, and when the city council declined to pass said legislation Bloomberg went ahead and did it anyway

  2. I am very uncomfortable with his answers. Although in all cases, he makes a case for a far weaker executive than Trump currently enjoys.

    1. Nobody cares, liar.

      1. He says, as he replies to my comment.

    2. If you’re saying that Bloomberg’s example and authoritarian rhetoric makes a compelling case that the rest of us should prefer a weak executive, I agree with you. If you’re saying that Bloomberg’s comments imply that he supports a weaker executive than is currently the case, I’d suggest that the evidence directly contradicts you.

      1. I’m saying Trump and Bloomberg’s examples should inspire fear of an all powerful executive. I’m also saying that, as alarming as Bloomberg’s answers are, they are all less authoritarian than Trump’s real world example, for which I hear very concern about from commenters here.

        1. Trump doesn’t think the Federal Government or the states can ignore the Constitution and take my guns, that doesn’t sound to authoritarian to me.

          1. Unless it’s a bumpstock, then he can just make them all disappear with a letter.

            Trump is a lot of things, a defender of 2A he is not.

          2. “Grab the guns first, then do due process later.” -Donald J. Trump

            1. Yeah, whatever came out of that? Oh, right! Nothing.

        2. Which real world examples did you have in mind. Specificity would help.

    3. The problem with him is that he only “believes” this right up until it results in an answer he doesn’t like, at which point he ignores all of it and just does whatever the fuck he wants.

      As Kevin Smith noted above, we already know how he’ll deal with it. He’ll seek Congressional approval (or city council approval) and when he doesn’t get it he just does it anyways. He’s only interested in seeking approval, not actually obtaining it.

      The man is learning to say what people want to hear, but actions speak far louder than words and fortunately Mini Mike as acted enough for us to know what he’s all about.

      1. For sure.

      2. Oh, you mean like trumpski does

    4. Yes. The guy who banned large sodas, formula on hospitals, changed laws for a third term is pinky promise going to be a weaker executive than Trump.

      Would love your rationalization for the case of trump expanding the executive more than obama

      1. Can you try, just once, to respond to me without first incorrectly summarizing my comment? It’s almost like you are a dishonest partisan who isn’t interested in a good faith exchange of ideas.

        I didn’t say he’s going to be a weaker executive than Trump. I’m saying if you are alarmed by his answers, you should be alarmed at Trump’s real world expansion of executive power.

        1. And you have yet to actually give some examples. So you’re expecting us to read I to your shit mind in order to understand your point.

          Specifically what has trump done that does not at a minimum equal the responses given.

          I also do enjoy the implication that we are supposed to ignore Bloombergs actual past actions on your shitty equivalence attempts.

          You’re fucking terrible at argumentation.

          1. Well you’re a terrible person. So there.

            I don’t know why I bother, but perhaps the guy who has had his lawyers argue that the president is completely unconstrained by any other branch of government, and that he is the law, and that he may pardon himself, is not the constrained executive you seem to think he is. Perhaps the guy who keeps a business empire of international hotels open as an avenue for corruption (breaking decades of good tradition) isn’t the best example of a public servant. Perhaps the guy who is very obviously politicizing the various civil service agencies under him is not a champion of the citizenry. Perhaps the guy who will fake a national emergency to put troops on our border over thanksgiving isn’t the master statesman you think he is.

            I can’t wait for a Dem to get in office and put his kids on payroll, waive their security clearance requirements, and let’s foreign governments rent up whole floors of his hotels gets in office. I’m sure you will be on here everyday defending him too, right?

      2. There was all those executive orders undoing Obama’s executive orders!

        1. Notice how he didnt even give a concrete example of a trump action he is complaining about, instead expecting everyone to agree with his bald assertions.

          Jeff is back to pure sophistry yet again.

          1. He can’t stop being dishonest. It’s part of his core character.

            1. Think it is more a product of his headline reading education levels. He literally posts links he doesnt read which is hilarious.

          2. He has written more executive orders in his first term while simultaneously playing wayyyyyy more golf than Obama so…winning?

            1. True. However, some of those (I don’t know how many) simply revert executive orders from the prior Obama administration. I think an executive order which cancel a prior president’s (any of them, regardless of part) order is effectively a -1 instead of a +1. So, if we count it that way, is Trumps still a net positive on executive orders? Is there a summary somewhere which objectively assesses each executive order to see if it’s unrelated to prior orders, extends one or more of them, partially rolls back one or more of them, or simply rescinds one or more prior orders. A quick internet search didn’t turn up anything which was that straightforward.

              1. He has written more executive orders in his first term while simultaneously playing wayyyyyy more golf than Obama so…winning?

                Dissembling really doesn’t help your case:
                ““The history is that I have issued fewer executive actions than most of my predecessors, by a long shot. The difference is the response of Congress — and specifically the response of some of the Republicans….If you ask historians, take a look at the track records of the modern presidency, I’ve actually been very restrained.”
                –Obama, interview on ABC News’ “This Week,” Nov. 23, 2014
                “Skip to main content
                White House
                Election 2020
                The Trailer
                Fact Checker
                The Fix
                Fact Checker
                Claims regarding Obama’s use of executive orders and presidential memoranda
                (Susan Walsh/AP)
                (Susan Walsh/AP)
                Image without a caption
                Glenn Kessler
                Dec. 31, 2014 at 12:00 a.m. PST

                “The truth is, even with all the actions I’ve taken this year, I’m issuing executive orders at the lowest rate in more than 100 years. So it’s not clear how it is that Republicans didn’t seem to mind when President Bush took more executive actions than I did.”

                –President Obama, speech in Austin, July 10, 2014

                “The history is that I have issued fewer executive actions than most of my predecessors, by a long shot. The difference is the response of Congress — and specifically the response of some of the Republicans….If you ask historians, take a look at the track records of the modern presidency, I’ve actually been very restrained.”

                –Obama, interview on ABC News’ “This Week,” Nov. 23, 2014

                A number of readers have asked about these statements by the president, especially in the wake of a recent USA Today article that highlighted President Obama’s use of another form of executive action, known as a presidential memorandum. The article asserted that Obama has “issued a form of executive action known as the presidential memorandum more often than any other president in history” and that when executive orders and memorandums are combined, Obama has taken more “high-level executive action” than any president since Harry S. Truman.
                The White House has often cited the data on executive orders to rebut claims, made by Republicans, that he is circumventing the Constitution through his use of executive action. In one of the quotes above, the president even said his predecessor had taken “more executive actions than I did.”

                This is a complex issue, and certainly worth exploring. A big problem is that data is very fuzzy, which makes it susceptible to manipulation.
                The Facts
                As a practical matter, there is little legal difference between executive orders and presidential memoranda, as both are used by presidents to direct the actions of government officials and agencies.

                Suffice to say, Obo was (once again) a lying POS.

          3. Oh man, you gave me 20 whole minutes before declaring victory. Show’s not over, bitch. Get back in there and make it good!

            1. Ok Little Jeffy.

  3. Bloomberg’s arrogance doesn’t worry me, because he will never be President of the United States.

    1. I hope your right. Bloomberg is a piece of shit.

      order of operations for worst case scenario of the plausible candidates for me-


      1. Bloomberg won’t be President. Bernie has a plurality of support, and if he does well on Super Tuesday, voters and donors are going to start migrating his way. The question is whether he’ll have the majority of delegates when the primaries end, and that’s dependent on how long most of these other chowderheads stay in the race.

        If Bernie doesn’t get a majority of delegates and Bloomberg ratfucks him out of the nomination at the convention (all it takes is one less than the majority on the first ballot to put the super-delegates in play), the BernieBros will be even more pissed than in 2016. The vast majority will still job out and vote for Bloomberg, but it’ll be worse than the 10 percent or so that voted for Trump or Stein out of spite. That will fuck with the number of African-American voters as well, because they’re more supportive of Biden, Bernie, or Warren. Anything above 10 percent of the African-American vote for Trump is game over for the Dems.

        1. The establishment democrats are truly fucked. Bernie can’t win in the general but if they deny him the nomination the bros will vote Trump or stay home. Biden continues to self destruct and nobody else is even in the game. Their only chance is that Bloomberg can overwhelm Trump with advertising cash. But in the end he’s more arrogant and irritating than HRC. If that’s even possible.

          1. The Democrats are really in a pickle here. Bernie has the momentum, but if he ends up losing (for any reason) the Bros will blame the DNC establishment for holding him back- because of their track record. It’s lose-lose for the Dems in 2020.

          2. “But in the end he’s more arrogant and irritating than HRC. If that’s even possible.”

            I don’t see that. HRC set benchmarks for arrogance. But in any case, what people feared about HRC was her ability to clearly break the laws but get away with it on technicalities. The Email server being the most egregious example.

    2. this is true.

  4. Although Bloomberg isn’t my first choice, I don’t think it’s fair to call him arrogant. After all, he’s just a man with a net worth over $50,000,000,000 who’s using his fortune to shape American politics according to his desires. Which also describes Reason.com’s benefactor Charles Koch.


    1. I’m replying to a parody account…

      All right, you don’t find a lot of modest people among the ultra-rich, but I’m willing to bet “Napoleon complex” Bloomberg stands out even in that crowd.

  5. The presidential candidate reserves the right to wage unauthorized wars, kill Americans in foreign countries, prosecute journalists, and selectively flout the law.

    Obama’s third term!

  6. “so long as our national security lawyers determine such action is lawful.”

    “And I’m pretty sure I can make that determination worthwhile, if you catch my drift.”

    1. ha, that’s rich!

  7. Bloomberg is everything they say Trump is but worse as he’s actually a fucking piece of shit facist nanny who thinks he knows better than you. Trump doesn’t actually care what you do personally, Bloomberg does and not only that thinks he can condition the populace at the margins to his vision of society. He’s exactly the type of wilsonian that could do rather large amounts of damage to this country as he feels it’s his moral duty to improve society at the individual level by shaping the individual. I can’t really remember the last time we had a president exactly like that. I guess the closest we came in recent history was fucking tipper gore.

    1. “Trump doesn’t actually care what you do personally, Bloomberg does”
      Exactly. If individual liberty is a priority Bloomberg is a much greater threat than Trump.

    2. Even Tipper Gore never reached those levels. She only wanted labels on the music, she never wanted to ban the music itself, and those labels arguably ended up resulting in more units of the salacious albums being marketed and sold due to the forbidden fruit effect (“The World of _______’s Most Dangerous Band!”).

      Bloomberg is possible even worse than Soros because his connections in the tech world make him poised to implement the very kind of emasculating, freedom-crushing society that Orwell warned about.

      1. She made me a lot of money (relatively) as a young kid since friends weren’t allowed to get the Parental Advisory albums but I could and I would copy the tapes and sell them (I know, I stole). Bootleggers and Baptist!

  8. Would Bloomberg be worse than four more years of Trump? Would Bloomberg be worse than Liz Warren? Worse than Bernie Sanders?
    I’m undecided about the first question, but believe Bloomberg would be better than Warren or Sanders.

    1. He would be worse than Sanders for sure, I don’t see Bernie as being drunk with power or a war monger. Possibly worse than Warren too if that’s possible.

      1. Sanders has kind of a reassuring incompetence vibe. Of course, he might leave the details to Chief of Staff Occasio-Cortez.

    2. I’ll help you with the first question.


  9. Fortunately for us, lil Mike is fizzling faster than a big gulp on a hot summer day. He has no chance of being the nominee unless he pulls some asshat trick with the superdelegates, which I wouldn’t put past him

    1. Are there really enough countries for all the ambassadorships he’d have to hand out?

  10. “He has no chance of being the nominee unless he pulls some asshat trick with the superdelegates,”

    I feel it’s virtually certain if he gets to the end and Bernie has less than an outright majority. Which is likely. It’s going to be a circus.

    1. Should be fun to watch the ensuing riots.

      1. Who said anything about riots?

        Oh, wait, that guy on candid camera.

  11. Is it wrong that I am quietly hoping for the dems to screw Bernie…again sparking a ’68 Chicago-like convention?

  12. Bloomberg would be a great candidate if he was running for the role of Dracula in a B movie. But as Canada learned from Michael Ignatief you don’t want to run a Prince of Darkness impersonator on a left-wing ticket.

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