Skip to comments.Why Rudy Giuliani Really Shouldn’t be President
Posted on 03/10/2007 9:24:06 PM PST by Angel
The deluge of commentary on Rudolph Giulianis presidential prospects has forced me finally to break my long silence about the man. Somebodys gotta say it: He shouldnt be president, not because hes too liberal or conservative, or because his positions on social issues have been heterodox, or because he seems tone-deaf on race, or because his family life has been messy, or because hes sometimes been as crass an opportunist as almost every other politician of note. Rudy Giuliani shouldnt be president for reasons more profoundly troubling. Maybe you had to be with him at the start of his electoral career to see them clearly.
Throughout the fall, 1993 New York mayoral campaigns, I tried harder than any other columnist I know of to convince left-liberal friends and everyone else that Giuliani would win and probably should.
In the Daily News, the New Republic, and on cable and network TV, I insisted it had come to this because racial Rainbow and welfare-state politics were imploding nationwide, not just in New York and not only thanks to racists, Ronald Reagan, or robber barons. One didnt have to share all of Giulianis colorblind, law-and-order, and free-market presumptions to want big shifts in liberal Democratic paradigms and to see that some of those shifts would require a political battering ram, not a scalpel.
I spent a lot of time with Giuliani during the 1993 campaign and his first year in City Hall, and while a dozen of my columns criticized him sharply for presuming far too much, I defended most of his record to the end of his tenure. He forced New York, that great capital of root cause explanations for every social problem, to get real about remedies that work, at least for now, in the world as we know it. I saw Al Sharpton blink as I told him in a debate that twice as many New Yorkers had been felled by police bullets during David Dinkins four-year mayoralty as during Giulianis then-seven years and that the drop in all murders meant that at least two thousand black and Hispanic New Yorkers whod have been dead were up and walking around.
Giulianis successes ranged well beyond crime reduction. As late as July, 2001, when his personal and political blunders had eclipsed those gains and he had only a lame ducks six months to go, I insisted in a New York Observer column that hed facilitated housing, entrepreneurial, and employment gains for people whose loudest-mouthed advocates called him a racist reactionary. James Chapin, the late democratic socialist savant, considered Giuliani a progressive conservative like Teddy Roosevelt, who was a New York police commissioner before becoming Vice President and President.
Yet Giulianis methods and motives suggest he couldnt carry his skills and experience to the White House without damaging this country. Two problems run deeper than the current likely horse race liabilities, such as his social views and family history.
The first serious problem is structural and political: A man who fought the inherent limits of his mayoral office as fanatically as Giuliani would construe presidential prerogatives so broadly hed make George Bushs notions of unitary executive power seem soft.
Even in the 1980s, as an assistant attorney general in the Reagan Justice Department and U.S. Attorney in New York, Giuliani was imperious and overreaching. He "perp-walked" Wall Streeters right out of their offices in dramatic prosecutions that failed. He made the troubled daughter of a state judge, Hortense Gabel, testify against her mother and former Miss America Bess Meyerson in a failed prosecution charging, among other things, that Meyerson had hired the judges daughter to bribe her into helping expedite a messy divorce case. The jury was so put off by Giulianis tactics that it acquitted all concerned, as the Washington Post recalled ten years later in assessing Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starrs subpoena of Monica Lewinskys mother to testify against her daughter.
At least, as U.S. Attorney, Giuliani served at the pleasure of the President and had to defer to federal judges. Were he the President, U.S. Attorneys would serve at his pleasure -- a dangerous arrangement in the wrong hands, weve learned -- and hed pick the judges to whom prosecutors defer.
As mayor, Giuliani fielded his closest aides like a fast and sometimes brutal hockey team, micro-managing and bludgeoning city agencies and even agencies that werent his, like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Board of Education. They deserved it richly enough to make his bravado thrilling to many of us, but it wasnt very productive. And while this Savonarola disdained even would-be allies in other branches of government, he wasnt above cutting indefensible deals with crony contractors and pandering shamelessly to some Hispanics, orthodox Jews, and other favored constituencies.
Even the credit he claimed for transportation, housing and safety improvements belongs partly and sometimes wholly to predecessors decisions and to economic good luck: As he left office the New York Times noted that on his first day as mayor in 1994, the Dow Jones had stood at 3754.09, while on his last day, Dec. 31, 2001, it opened at 10,136.99: For most of his tenure, the citys treasury gushed with revenues generated by Wall Street. Dinkins had had to struggle through the after-effects the huge crash of 1987.
Remarkable though Giulianis mayoral record remains, its complicated further by more than socio-economic circumstances and structural constraints. Ironically, it was his most heroic moments as mayor that spotlighted his deepest presidential liability. Fred Siegel, author of the Giuliani-touting Prince of the City, posed the problem recently when he wondered why, after Giulianis 1997 mayoral reelection, with the city buoyed by its new safety and economic success, he wasnt able to turn his Churchillian political personality down a few notches."
Ill tell you why: Giulianis 9/11 performance was sublime for the unnerving reason that hed been rehearsing for it all his adult life and remained trapped in that stage role. When his oldest friend and deputy mayor Peter Powers told me in 1994 that 16-year-old Rudy had started an opera club at Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn, I didnt have to connect too many of the dots Id been seeing to begin noticing that Giuliani at times acted like an opera fanatic whos living in a libretto as much as in the real world.
In private, Rudy can contemplate the human comedy with a Machiavellian princes supple wit. But when he walks on stage, he tenses up so much that even his efforts to lighten up seem labored. What drove him as mayor was a zealots graceless division of everyone into friend or foe and his snarling, sometimes histrionic, vilifications of the foes. Those are operatic emotions, beneath the civic dignity of a great city and its chief magistrate.
Of course, I know more than a few New Yorkers who deserve the Rudy treatment, but only on 9/11 did the city really become as operatic as the inside of Rudys mind. For once, New York re-arranged itself into a stage fit for, say, Rossinis Le Siege de Corinth or some dark, nationalist epic by Verdi or Puccini that ends with bodies strewn all over and the tragic but noble hero grieving for his devastated people and, perhaps, foretelling a new dawn.
Giuliani called the Metropolitan Opera only a few days after 9/11 and insisted its performances resume. At the first of these, the orchestra, striking up a few well-known chords, brought the entire cast, Met administrative, secretarial, and custodial staff (who'd come up onstage), and the capacity audience to their feet to sing The Star Spangled Banner with unprecedented passion. A few days later Giuliani proposed that his term be extended on an emergency basis beyond its lawful end on January 1, 2002. (It wasnt, and the city did as well as it could have, anyway.)
Should this country suffer another devastating attack before the 2008 primaries are over, Giulianis presidential prospects may soar beyond recalling. But the very Constitutional notion of recall could soar away with them. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and Giuliani was right for his time and on a stage with built-in limits. But we shouldnt have to make him the next President to learn why even a grateful Britain dumped Churchill in its first major election after V-E day.
so he shouldn't be President, because he would actually dare to use Executive power? is that it? is this the best this author's got?
This piece smacks of reverse psychology.
Sorry, I couldn't get past the writer's ego.
Jim Sleeper was a political columnist for The New York Daily News in the mid-1990s and an editorial writer for Newsday from 1988 to 1993.
That's what I think.
I think he was a good mayor for New York but the rest of the nation is not New York, not by a long shot.
and what has he done lately???
I think the media has a self imposed quota on Rudy articles.
A minimum of 10 a day, even if they're drivel, like this one.
"Sorry, I couldn't get past the writer's ego."
He lost me at the opera references...
We need a candidate who can WIN. A candidate who can win votes from people who aren't registered Republicans. I have no problem voting for the "lesser evil". It's a hell of a lot better than kissing my vote away. Hopefully in the future, I won't feel that way and can make an ideological stand with my vote but now isn't that time. looking at the field of potentials, my only hope is anyone but McCain.
What do I think? Giulianni reminds me of Elliot Spitzer.
That's NOT what the author is saying.
He's stating the man is so single-minded wedded to the goal of achieving his personal objective - whatever tht might be, that he ignores reason and logic and abuses power.
He is arrogant, egocentric and self-absorbed.
The BEss Myerson case was ANOTHER example I had forgotten.
The Ferret incident is another. The author provides yet more.
But no logic, no reason, no data or facts will deter the JulianAnnistas from their obsession with this individual as the only person who can beat Hillery.
If ONE MAN is the only person who can beat her, and a flawed man as this one is ... we had better hang it all up and cash it in as a nation.
He writes for Salon, the American Prospect and teaches at Yale.
Actually, what came across from the article was that the author was that way about his own career.
He seems strongly anti-Iraq
Oh? What about de facto Democrats like Rudy?
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