If George W. Bush and Barack Obama ushered in the return of the imperial presidency, Trump represents a further devolution toward the imperious presidency. There was an audacity in Obama’s pen and phone, and there was an expansive theory of executive branch autonomy spearheaded by former vice president Dick Cheney. Trump’s contribution has been more vulgar, more direct, more New York: I dare you to stop me mixed with I can say anything I want.
Bloomberg’s manners are more refined, but only just. There’s the locker-room talk about women, already apologized for in advance of his presidential run. (To imagine how much teeth-clenching he must be doing through his mea culpa rounds, watch this video from March of Bloomberg mocking Joe Biden’s “apology tour” and saying he wouldn’t be able to run for president “unless I was willing to change all my views.”) Trump may troll people about seeking a legally proscribed third term, but Bloomberg actually went there, changing the law near the end of his second term and then switching it back soon thereafter. As The New York Times noted dryly upon the latter occasion, “Bloomberg thinks that being able to serve three terms in office is a good idea—just not for anyone else.”
Mayor Mike’s above-the-law demeanor, compared to Trump’s, seems far less pegged to the kinds of corruptions in office that have landed the president on the precipice of impeachment. But their approaches to how the law applies to the lowly are distressingly similar.