George Will

PROVINCIAL, adj. Limited in perspective; narrow and self-centered. -- American Heritage Dictionary

NEW YORK -- It is a New York frame of mind. As the presidential campaign began, this city, which fancies itself the final word in worldliness, actually thought its mayor, Michael Bloomberg, could and should be a contender, an opinion he seemed to share and certainly did not discourage. West of the Hudson, this quaint nonsense mystified: If the nation wanted to be governed by a New York mayor, Bloomberg's predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, was available. Giuliani spent $65.4 million winning one delegate.

John Catsimatidis, a grocer, might run next year against Bloomberg, the 25th richest American (net worth $11.5 billion, according to Forbes, before the current unpleasantness), and the richest American ever to hold public office -- 10 times richer, in constant dollars, than was Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. Catsimatidis says New York needs someone who knows the "streets" and "neighborhoods" and can appeal to the immigrant grocers, bodega owners and others in this city that is almost 40 percent foreign-born.

Forbes says Catsimatidis' $2.1 billion net worth makes him the 220th richest American. Such is life in the simmering melting pot: Any child can grow up to be a billionaire, thereby meeting what seems to have become the threshold qualification for mayor.

Born in Greece in 1948, Catsimatidis was 6 months old when his parents moved to America and into a $48-a-month apartment in Harlem. His father, who had been a lighthouse keeper on a Greek island, became a busboy whose insufficient English prevented him from becoming a waiter. Still, son John got to New York University. To, but not through. While working part time in a family friend's grocery -- buying produce at 4 a.m., then on to classes -- he opened his own store at Broadway and 99th Street, made some money, enjoyed that experience, left NYU, began opening and buying other stores, then the buildings they were in, and after branching out into oil, airlines and other stuff, the next thing he knew he was rich enough to be restless, a condition that, in the very rich, sometimes is a precursor of a political itch.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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