A rare bit of contrition on a day when the local papers are running stories about newborns who died after waiting 10 hours for help from EMS. I’m not posting this to bash Bloomy gratuitously (well, maybe I am a little) but rather to point out that it’s part of a pattern in how this guy deals with public outcries over service failures. Initially he’s cavalier and condescending (“Yelling about it and complaining doesn’t help”) and then when that inevitably antagonizes the public even more, he backs down and starts eating shinola like any retail politician with half a brain should. To wit, Karl from our Greenroom reminded me of Bloomberg’s reaction to the six-day blackout in Queens a few years ago:

A CEO worth his salt would long ago have called a press conference on Astoria Blvd. to spell out how Con Ed [the local power company] got Queens into this mess and how it’s going about getting Queens out of this mess. That would be a lot more useful than Con Ed’s “outreach” program and dry-ice handouts.

Instead, Mayor Bloomberg has become the face of the blackout. As late as Wednesday night, he was declaring that Con Ed “in all fairness, has a done a good job.” Not since President Bush stood with his arm around FEMA chief Michael Brown post-Katrina and proclaimed, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job” has there been such a misplaced declaration of support.

Then, a light bulb went on in the mayoral head. Like Saul on the road to Astoria, Bloomberg experienced something of an epiphany, declaring his annoyance at Con Ed’s “intolerable” performance.

And then again a year later when there was a more minor blackout in the city:

MAYOR Bloomberg called Wednesday’s short East Side and Bronx blackout a “minor inconvenience,” just after he declared that the subways aren’t crowded, despite the fact that the chief of the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority is pleading “there’s no room at the inn.”

In fact, New York City faces real problems here – ones it can’t fix without the mayor taking the lead.

Even if Wednesday’s blackout was just a lightning-strike fluke, it’s a reminder that the city’s physical infrastructure, including its power- and people-transportation systems, is severely strained.

Indeed, the city’s infrastructure is terribly strained during the summer, a problem which one might think would provide an attractive political target for a nonpartisan technocrat with national aspirations who’s eager to prove he’s a man with solutions. Instead of spearheading a major initiative to upgrade the city’s rickety power grid, though, Bloomy’s passions lie with crap like banning smoking in Central Park and hassling restaurants about how much salt they put in their food. But I digress. The point here is that, for a would-be presidential candidate — especially one saddled with the image problem of being a billionaire during an age of populism and high unemployment — he can be astoundingly tone-deaf and arrogant. Can you imagine how he would have reacted to, say, the BP oil spill earlier this year as president? Actually, you don’t have to imagine. Dude.

Fairness-minded exit question: Is Bloomberg getting a bad rap? Click the image to watch.