NEW YORK (AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio, under fire from some fellow Democrats for not immediately endorsing Hillary Rodham Clinton for president, didn't back off his stance Tuesday, saying he needed to "hear what the vision is" before giving her his blessing.
De Blasio, who has close ties to Clinton and her husband, defended his remarks two days after he made an appearance on "Meet the Press" and raised eyebrows by saying he wouldn't back the favorite for the Democratic nomination until he heard her stance on a number of progressive issues, including the fight to close the income inequality gap.
"This is the first time we're going to hear her talk about a host of issues," de Blasio said at an unrelated news conference. "And, by the way, the last time she was a candidate for president eight long years ago, the Great Recession had just begun, we had no idea how bad it was going to get. The income inequality crisis was bad, but nowhere near as bad it is."
He said Clinton didn't have a platform from which to speak on the domestic issues while U.S. secretary of state or as a private citizen.
"We need a vision that relates to this time, not eight years ago," he said. "I think it's perfectly fair to wait to hear that."
De Blasio was quick to praise Clinton, suggesting he was "optimistic" she'd have a lot to say on the topic, and her husband and took pains to tout her qualifications. But he still declined to offer his backing and said that, before appearing on "Meet the Press," he informed Clinton he was withholding an endorsement until after she spoke on issues including progressive tax rates and raising wages.
The first-term mayor had received criticism since his TV appearance, which took place hours before Clinton announced her campaign. Much of the criticism suggested de Blasio, who had been widely expected to be an active campaigner for her, was being ungrateful to the Clintons after they tapped him to work in President Bill Clinton's administration and on Hillary Clinton's U.S. Senate campaign. Both Clintons also appeared at de Blasio's inauguration and have supported his agenda.
A Hillary Clinton ally, Hilary Rosen, wrote on Twitter: "@BilldeBlasio's self aggrandizing on #MeetthePress at @hillaryclintons expense won't go unnoticed. #Ridiculous."
Former congressman Anthony Weiner, whose wife is a top adviser to Clinton, told The Wall Street Journal that de Blasio should treat the Clintons like family and "you don't ask a family member to lay out her resume before you decide to support her."
"She (was) working on a progressive vision of health care when Bill de Blasio was still smoking pot at NYU or wherever he went," said Weiner, who ran against de Blasio for mayor in 2013.
And as other New York politicians including Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state's U.S. senators quickly endorsed Clinton, both city tabloids ripped the mayor on their front pages, going with the headlines "Hil's Fury" and "Traitor" (New York Post) and "Stabbed in de Back" (Daily News).
Some critics said de Blasio used the "Meet the Press" appearance to bolster his national profile at the expense of his former boss. Others noted he quickly backed Cuomo last year instead of the governor's far more liberal opponent, Zephyr Teachout, in an apparent attempt to keep the peace with the state's most powerful Democrat.
De Blasio has made no secret of his efforts to become, along with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, a leading voice for the ultraliberal wing of the Democratic Party. He has taken steps to raise his profile, including making a bid for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, hosting a meeting of liberals at Gracie Mansion this month and planning to travel to Nebraska and Iowa, site of the first nominating caucus, later this week to champion the fight against income inequality.
He suggested Tuesday he will do far more traveling in the coming months and he and other progressives would host a forum for presidential candidates this fall. Clinton also will be in Iowa this week as she begins her campaign, but the two are not expected to meet.
Some political observers, though, believe de Blasio's reluctance to immediately offer his endorsement was calculated and clever, increasing the value of it in the months ahead and potentially getting Clinton to move to the left on some issues. It also, according to veteran political strategist Hank Sheinkopf, might increase the potency of his support down the road.
"De Blasio is setting himself up as the progressive seal of approval, and that means that any candidate he blesses checks all the right liberal boxes," Sheinkopf said. "So, when he's eventually out there campaigning for her — which of course he will be — he acts as a barrier to any attacks from the left."