A Mayor Cowboy Fail; or, Bloomberg’s Sheridan Moment

The conflict: New York State wants to collect taxes on tribal sales of cigarettes.

The background: Can’t say I know or will understand in the little time I have left to read the news today. But once sovereign nations and big-ass cocky states get into a brouhaha, you know there’s going to be mucho macho. And Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t disappoint. (Or, well, he does, actually, epically, as you’ll see.)

The character flaw that makes the story go around: In a recent radio interview, Bloomberg described what Governor Paterson should do in order to force the tribal nations in New York State to tax sales of cigarettes and pony up the money to the state.

from the Daily News, August 13:

“I’ve said this to David Paterson, I said, ‘You know, get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun,'” said Bloomberg, blasting from the hip on his weekly radio show. “If there’s ever a great video, it’s you standing in the middle of the New York State Thruway saying, you know, ‘Read my lips – the law of the land is this, and we’re going to enforce the law.'”

Say wha? Oh, he gets the “Cowboy Fail; or, Cowboy Gone Wrong” Award for that one.

Granted, not every Old West cowboy was gunning for them pesky redskins, but fictional cowboys from the Duke to Clint Eastwood have fired upon native tribes in celluloid fantasies. Good versus evil, civilization versus savagery, and just another way to show the hero is a stand-up guy–kill a few Navajo who are playing Apache warriors.

As I used to tell my students when one of them escalated a fight with fists or hurtful words, “Well, you certainly made the disagreement all about you.” Far from being agreeable to looking at whether or not to pay the tax (in in the past they have not) tribal leaders are outraged. And Bloomberg definitely stepped into an epic FAIL: To borrow from David Kimelberg, CEO of Seneca Holdings, my god in all the big-sky heavenly universe, you WOULDN’T bring up wearing white sheets and burning crosses as a diplomatic tactic, so WHY THE FREAKING FEATHERED HECK  joke about or reference reminders of government-sponsored genocide?

Bloomberg probably did speak off the cuff, referencing not General Philip Sheridan’s famous words in 1868 (“The only good Indian I ever saw was dead”–yuck) but his own childhood games, running around in a red cowboy hat and red plastic boots, bang-banging away at his cousins in the Boston suburb where he grew up. (Cowboy and Indians and guess who always wins in the end?)

But off the cuff, shoot from the hip–same thing. It’s only for the skilled  and practiced marksman willing to sacrifice accuracy for reaction time; everyone else gets a bullet in the foot.

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