Conventional wisdom has it that Republican Joseph Lhota should be singing the blues in New York City — and not just because he trailed Democrat Bill de Blasio by 50 points in a Quinnipiac University poll last week.
Lhota’s running in a city that gave President Barack Obama 80 percent of its vote last year, a town where Democrats outnumber Republicans six to one. In short, it’s one of the bluest cities in the U.S.
So why has Lhota cast his lot with the Republican hard core in Washington who want to delay Obamacare by at least a year? He did so by going on the radio this morning to attack the law’s “individual mandate” (originally a brainchild of the Republican Heritage Foundation until Obama compromised and adopted it) saying there’s just “so much confusion” about it.
Lhota, who’s celebrating his 59th birthday today, started the interview on National Public Radio’s WNYC by smartly telling interviewer Brian Lehrer the Tea Party-led federal government shutdown is “a disgrace.”
Lhota could have focused on a resume that includes having been a city budget director and first deputy to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and the man appointed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to head the Metropolitan Transportation Authority who got the subways running days after Hurricane Sandy flooded the system.
Instead, he veered off course and wound up saying he agreed with the Republicans’ expressed goal of delaying Obamacare’s requirement that all Americans have some form of health insurance.
“There’s so much confusion about the individual mandate right now both within the administration and outside of the administration” that “you should not be implementing policy unless you know exactly how it’s going to be implemented,” Lhota said.
Without universal enrollment, national health insurance can’t work. That’s what the Heritage Foundation opined in 1989, when it proposed the individual mandate as an alternative to a single-payer system modeled after Medicare. It was for it before it was against it.
It’s not the first time Lhota has sounded a dissonant note trying to attract votes in the city that helped elected HillaryClinton to the U.S. Senate — a job she won with de Blasio’s aid as her campaign manager in 2000. Two weeks ago, Lhota tried to attract votes by describing de Blasio, a former city councilman elected to the citywide watchdog post of public advocate, as a socialist.
De Blasio countered that attack last week by describing himself as a progressive “fiscal conservative” to 800 business leaders at a breakfast sponsored by the Association for a Better New York. That’s why, he said, he wanted the wealthiest in the crowd to help balance the $70 billion city budget and provide universal all-day pre-school with a 0.5 percent surcharge on incomes over $500,000.
The de Blasio campaign answered quickly saying of Lhota, “When push comes to shove he sides with the GOP fringe.” De Blasio spokesman Dan Levitan described Lhota as a loyal soldier in lockstep with “extremists who would rather shut down the government and furlough thousands of New York City workers than see hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers get access to health care.”
Time will tell whether today’s a happy birthday for Lhota or whether he should be singing the blues. On Nov. 5, New York voters will cast the deciding vote on which point of view they prefer.