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New York Mayor Bloomberg answers presidential questions 2 ways

Monday, June 18, 2007

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(06-18) 20:29 PDT Mountain View, Calif. (AP) --

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg refused Monday to rule out a campaign for president while telling questioners he planned to serve out his term at City Hall through 2009.

Bloomberg declined to debunk a published report by conservative columnist Robert Novak that he had discussed a possible independent presidential campaign with former Sen. David Boren, D-Okla. He acknowledged the conversation, but deadpanned that a Boren run for the White House had not come up. Then Bloomberg hastily cut off a reporter's follow-up inquiry by going to his next questioner during an appearance at Google Inc.'s campus.

Asked directly by another journalist to rule out the possibility of a presidential run, the Republican mayor pointed to another reporter.

Bloomberg's very presence at Google raised more questions than he answered. His pilgrimage followed in the footsteps of four announced presidential candidates who have addressed employees. But the explanations of his official purpose shifted several times.

His aides said Bloomberg came as part of a series of speakers on technology. Google officials said the appearance was part of a book author series. But Bloomberg's book, "Bloomberg by Bloomberg," was published in 2001 — a fact easily Googled by the staff members tapping at their laptops during his remarks.

A copy of the book propped up between Bloomberg and his questioner underscored its age. It showed him with a full head of dark hair, while the actual man was more salt than pepper.

Bloomberg deflected questions about his trip's agenda and his "book promotion" with a wry smile.

"I think if you call Amazon, they'll still be able to deliver it within 24 hours," he said. "I think it is one of the seminal pieces of literature. I take great pride, it is the only book I have ever written and probably ever will write."

Bloomberg addressed more than 1,000 Google employees on the same campus that has recently hosted official candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton, John McCain, John Edwards and Bill Richardson. His on-stage questioner, Sheryl Sandberg, vice president of online sales and operations, said she would not bother asking him about the presidency, since Bloomberg had repeated his intention to enter philanthropy after leaving office.

But when she asked him about a hypothetical independent candidate deciding to enter the race, Bloomberg launched into a broad critique of the Bush administration and Congress — without naming names — and a lament on the empty theatrics of the presidential debates to date.

"I think the country is in trouble," Bloomberg said, listing the war in Iraq and America's declining standing globally as two principal examples.

"Our reputation has been hurt very badly in the last few years," he said. "We've had a go-it-alone mentality in a world where because of communications and transportation, you should be going exactly in the other direction."

He also faulted the U.S. government's failure to halt genocide "and protect freedom elsewhere in the world."

In a speech later in Los Angeles, Bloomberg revisted the theme, saying partisan gridock in Washington had paralyzed government and left "our future in jeopardy." He said the nation's "wrong-headed course" could be changed if there is a commitment to shared values and solving problems without regard to party label.

"It all begins with independence," he said, opening a University of Southern California conference examining ways to build consensus in a divided government. Progress, he added, "means embracing pragmatism over partisanship, ideas over ideology."

In Mountain View, Bloomberg seemed to side with President Bush when he decried "an anti-immigration policy that is a disgrace" and called for a more open migration policy. And he dismissed the notion of deporting illegal immigrants as part of immigration reform.

"We need to recognize we're not going to deport 12 million people already here," he said. "Let's get serious, we don't have an army big enough to do that, it would be devastating to our economy, it would be the biggest mass deportation of people in the world."

The mayor said there had been too little discussion of health care and education on the campaign trail, and later blamed journalists for not asking hard enough questions of the candidates.

In one of his harshest comments, Bloomberg dismissed creationism — the theory that the universe was created by intelligent design — mistakenly calling it "creationalism." The remark made plain that Bloomberg has no interest in running in the Republican presidential primary, where outreach to Christian conservatives is critical.

"It's scary in this country, it's probably because of our bad educational system, but the percentage of people that believe in Creationalism is really scary for a country that's going to have to compete in the world where science and medicine require a better understanding," he said.

___

AP Political Writer Michael R. Blood in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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