It’s a “potentially defining moment in the infancy” of Bill de Blasio’s New York mayoralty, says The New York Times. It’s the kind of thing that can cause a massive swing in approval ratings. It’s taken down mayors. It’s already complicating a political transition in Boston. And it’s created a social-media whiteout that’s made Twitter all but useless.
What is it, you ask? It’s snow, and if for some reason you haven’t already heard, it’s currently blanketing much of the Northeast. For some mayors’ political futures, this actually matters.
The current half-foot of snow in Central Park may sound like no big deal for anyone from the Midwest. But New York City has a habit of turning on its mayors when snow sticks around for too long. Take the Christmas blizzard in 2010, which brought more than 20 inches of snow. When plows were slow to clean up the mess, city politicians were among the first to revolt. “New York today looks like a Third World country,” City Council member David Greenfield said two days after the storm hit. Mayor Michael Bloomberg should have declared a snow emergency before the storm, said the then-public advocate, Bill de Blasio. “This is not business as usual,” de Blasio said in the days following the storm, “and frustration is mounting.”
Politicians weren’t alone in turning on Bloomberg; the people did, too. It didn’t help that Bloomberg was conspicuously absent from New York during the early hours of the storm, instead likely relaxing in the warmth of Bermuda. A Marist/NY1 poll in the January following the storm found that Bloomberg’s approval rating had dropped to a near-record low, with just 37 percent of the city’s registered voters saying they thought the mayor was doing a “good” or “excellent” job. That was down from 50 percent as recently as two months before the storm. The whole experience scarred Bloomberg’s third term.
Friday morning, the new mayor is taking at least one cue from his predecessor: He’s out shoveling snow himself.
In Boston, a political transition is riding on snow. Longtime Mayor Tom Menino hasn’t yet handed his city’s reins over to Mayor-elect Marty Walsh; that will happen officially on Monday. But one of the first things Walsh said to Menino after his victory “was ‘we gotta talk about snow.’ ” The two participated in a mock snowstorm drill in early December. And on Thursday, Walsh named an acting snow czar for the start of his administration. With more than a foot of snow currently covering Boston, that looks to have been a pretty sage move.
Snow has created many notable political casualties. William McNichols, who was then Denver’s second-longest serving mayor, lost his job following a 1982 blizzard that shut down the city for two days, leaving him with the brunt of the blame. New York City Mayor John Lindsay’s administration almost fell apart following a 15-inch snowfall in 1969. A 1979 blizzard was enough to cost Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic a primary election.
And Washington, as any resident knows, has a particularly odd relationship with snow. It doesn’t come much, but when it comes, even in small bursts, it disrupts nearly everything. The current storm may not have been enough to shutter the federal government, but it took only an expected-but-never-realized storm in December to shut the whole thing down.
The city’s mayors have also had some rough encounters with powder. Take Marion Barry. In 1987, soon after winning his third term as mayor, Barry was in sunny southern California for the Super Bowl while D.C. was facing a multistorm onslaught. Washington got 26 inches of snow, and Barry eventually turned up in the city six days after the first storm hit, to intense criticism. Of course, it took a very different kind of powder to truly disrupt Barry’s third term in office.
More recently, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty took a beating for his handling of the February 2010 “snowpocalypse,” which came during an election year. While The New York Times and others credited the storm with dooming Fenty’s reelection, the storm was never really much of an issue in the campaign against eventual winner Vincent Gray. And while polling after the 2010 storm showed that Fenty took a hit, it wasn’t anything life-altering, or even Bloombergesque. In any event, in an election year, it definitely behooves Gray to be on his best behavior with the current bit of D.C. snow. At the moment, his team seems quite prepared.
Obsessing over snow in the Northeast often seems absurd. A near-live stream of cable news correspondents out in inclement weather often seems excessive. But for big-city mayors, sweating every detail of every snowstorm certainly seems like the way to go.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."