Nearly 40 years ago, a third-rate burglary known as Watergate took down Richard Nixon, a popular sitting President who considered the White House above the law and didn’t think he had to explain what happened to the American people.

Watergate pervades the cynicism and snark now imbedded in American media and politics, yet too many people in public life still think the rules don’t apply to them. Take New York City Mayor and finance technology billionaire Michael Bloomberg. For a smart guy, Bloomberg continually seems to let rich-guy arrogance blind him to the overriding lesson of Watergate: the coverup is worse than the crime. Or in this case, a perhaps/alleged crime.

On August 4, New York City Deputy Mayor of Operations Stephen Goldsmith resigned immediately to pursue “private-sector opportunities in infrastructure finance.” There were no further explanations, and Goldsmith had only been on the job for 14 turbulent months. It had been that Goldsmith’s poor job performance – mainly due to foul-ups related to last winter’s blizzard cleanup – led to his dismissal. The Bloomberg administration did nothing to dispel that notion. A new Deputy Mayor with widely-respected bonafides was appointed, NYC handled Hurricane Irene well, and Goldsmith’s short tenure was becoming forgotten.

Yesterday though, The New York Post broke the story that for 48 hours prior to his resignation, Goldsmith had been sitting in a Washington DC jail following his arrest on what has been called, “a late-night domestic disturbance involving his wife.” Goldsmith didn’t want the humiliating incident to bring attention to his job, so he resigned immediately and Bloomberg accepted. NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly was informed of the incident, as were other key City officials. Mrs. Goldsmith declined to press charges and called the incident a misunderstanding that has blown out of proportion.

Perhaps on this basis, no one in the Bloomberg Administration released the information over the next month. Since the Post story broke, though, all of the New York City media is in an uproar. Domestic violence counselors, many of whom have excellent relationships with NYC and the Mayor, are puzzled and hurt.

For all of yesterday and so far today the Bloomberg Administration had no official comment and Bloomberg made no public appearances. Bloomberg quite literally put himself into radio silence. He usually calls in to John Gambling’s WOR-AM radio show on Friday mornings to discuss NYC issues, answer questions from listeners, and those of his media and political critics. This morning, September 2, he canceled.

Now, John Gambling is an old-school, third-generation morning radio host who has a professional and friendly on-air relationship with Mayor Bloomberg. He recognizes that antagonism endangers access and never crosses that line. But this morning, he took Bloomberg to task and said, essentially, you can run but you can’t hide from this: http://www.wor710.com/John-Gambling-Discusses-Mayor-s-Bloomberg-s-Absenc/10803474

The press can be salacious and invasive, particularly when it comes to the private lives of public officials. None of us are qualified to comment what is happening between Stephen and Margaret Goldsmith. But by not disclosing the incident, Mayor Bloomberg has not taken his responsibilities as a holder of an important public office seriously. It is not the first time he has created the perception that the rules — which he often sets — don’t apply when he decides they don’t.

As a result, what could have been a private family matter is blowing up into a major issue about the Bloomberg Administration’s lack of transparency, and perhaps outright lying.

How many days can the famously stubborn Michael Bloomberg avoid the media he both needs and often hates? I don’t know. But he should remember two things: the Watergate lesson as it applies here – the cover-up is always worse than the (perhaps/alleged) crime; and John Gambling’s friendly warning that you can run, but you can’t hide forever.

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