The selection of Mayor Michael Bloomberg to lead the U.S. delegation to the Yad Vashem dedication Tuesday in Jerusalem was a helpful election-year gift from President George W. Bush, and apparently a thrill for Bloomberg, too.
“I never thought when I was a young kid growing up that a president of the United States would invite me to represent him,” the Republican mayor told reporters before leaving on an Air Force jet Monday.Bush has a history of looking to New York for envoys on matters important to Jews. He sent ex-mayors Rudy Giuliani and Ed Koch to international conferences on anti-Semitism in 2003 and 2004, respectively.
But sending Bloomberg, who is behind in the polls in his re-election bid, to an event with world leaders and diplomats from 53 countries has strong political overtones.
“It shows that Bloomberg has some cachet,” mused Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf, who said Bloomberg needs to do better with outer-borough Jews.Other members of the U.S. delegation included Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, Holocaust Memorial Council chairman Fred Zeidman and Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer.
Haaretz reported that Israeli leaders were hoping Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice or Vice President Dick Cheney would attend the ribbon cutting at the refurbished Holocaust museum. Both, however, had other commitments.In statements distributed by the City Hall press office, several prominent Jewish New Yorkers said Bloomberg was an appropriate choice to lead the delegation because he runs the city with the largest population of Holocaust survivors outside Israel. The White House Jewish liaison, Noam Neusner, said the mayor was chosen because he is “devoted to the cause of Holocaust remembrance, Jewish history and the importance of fighting anti-Semitism.”
The trip comes a week after Democratic frontrunner Fernando Ferrer, in an apparent bid to lure funds and volunteers from across the country, gave a speech describing the mayoral race here as a battle of national consequence that would “send a message coast to coast.”
Bush’s nod to Bloomberg may be a sign that Republicans agree.