Michael Bloomberg fuels presidential talk with attack on Barack Obama
Michael Bloomberg has launched an attack on Barack Obama for an absence of leadership as Washington failed to hammer out a deficit deal, renewing suggestions he could mount an independent bid for the White House.
In a stinging rebuke of Mr Obama, who remained on the sidelines as the deal collapsed, and a rare intervention into Washington politics, Mr Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, said: "It's the chief executive's job to bring people together and to provide leadership. I don't see that happening."
He accused members of Congress of "political cowardice" for helping bring about a "disaster for the country" but the former Democrat and Republican who is now an Independent reserved his strongest words for Mr Obama.
"The executive branch must do more than submit a plan to a committee –and then step aside and hope the committee members take action. That's not how any CEO would run a business.
He added: "It's not how landmark pieces of legislation have gotten through Congress. Tough problems require determined, forceful and bold leadership – and real action."
Mr Bloomberg's words could fuel speculation about whether he could mount a third-party bid for the White House. The New York mayor has made no preliminary moves indicating he might take such a step and has repeatedly said that a "short, divorced, Jewish billionaire" would have no chance.
But some centrists disillusioned with Mr Obama and dismayed by what they see as a paucity of talent in the Republican field still hold out hope.
A recent poll from NBC and The Wall Street Journal found that Mr Bloomberg would attract 13 per cent support in next November's election and that Representative Ron Paul, a Republican who is competing for his party's nomination but ran as an Libertarian in 1988, would capture 18 per cent as an Independent.
A three-way contest, however, would almost certainly benefit Mr Obama and could well ensure his re-election. If Mr Paul ran against Mr Obama and Mr Romney, the poll found, the president would be re-elected by a comfortable 12-point margin.
Mr Bloomberg's scathing indictment of Mr Obama over the super-committee failure was echoed by Republican candidates.
Campaigning in Nashua, New Hampshire, Mr Romney said: "I would have anticipated the president of the United States would have spent every day and many nights working with the members of the super-committee to find a way to bridge the gap.
"Instead, he's been out doing other things, campaigning, blaming and travelling. This in my view is inexcusable."
The White House rejected this critique.
"A president's job is to lay out a plan and then rally the country to that plan," said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director.
"This president has done exactly that. He put forward a detailed, balanced, $3 trillion deficit reduction plan, and overwhelming majorities of Americans support his approach. But if at the end of the day, the other party decides that adhering to rigid ideological dogmas is more important than what the American people want, that's their choice to make."
The so-called super committee of 12 senior congressmen from both parties was set up in August to save $1.2 trillion (£767 billion) over 10 years, as part of the deal to raise the US debt limit. But the chairmen of the committee, which had not met in full for almost a month, on Monday night confirmed they failed to reach an agreement.
Foreshadowing the battle lines on which the 2012 election is likely to be fought, Mr Obama brushed aside the charge that he had been missing in action during the debt debate and put the blame squarely on the shoulders of Republicans.
While "many Democrats were willing to put politics aside", he said, there were "still too many Republicans in Congress who have refused to listen to the voices of reason and compromise that are coming from outside of Washington".