In considering the Rudy Giuliani of today, it’s worth remembering that he once referred to a Republican presidential candidate as “an incompetent, confused and sometimes idiotic man.”
Unlike some leading GOP figures (hello, Lindsey Graham), he was not speaking of Donald Trump, but rather Barry Goldwater during the 1964 presidential campaign, when the Rude Boy was a columnist for the Manhattan College student newspaper and a Democrat who was a Bobby Kennedy fan.
He’s hardly the only leading Republican figure who turned away from the Democratic Party as he got older—the most-notable one is Ronald Reagan—but there’s an extra dollop of irony, given Mr. Giuliani’s emergence as the media hatchetman for President Trump, that he went after Mr. Goldwater with such savagery. The Arizona Senator was arguably the most-polarizing GOP nominee prior to Mr. Trump; his speech accepting the presidential nod was best known for the line, “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”
A Real Conservative, and With a Conscience
Although one of his speechwriters actually wrote the 1960 book that helped launch his run for the White House, it was Mr. Goldwater’s name on the jacket of “The Conscience of a Conservative,” one of whose nouns serves as a lifelong reproach for Mr. Trump and, increasingly since he forsook New York to focus on national office more than a decade ago, Mr. Giuliani.
But those who lament how much they say the man once dubbed “America’s Mayor” has changed either don’t remember or are unaware of the degree to which Rudy has always been a puffed-up opportunist, a man of seemingly strong beliefs ready to ditch them if they posed an obstacle to getting ahead.
He spent much of his political career, including his time running for and then serving as Mayor, castigating Democrats for what he described as their intellectual dishonesty. But his own career took off after, as the third-ranking official in President Reagan’s Justice Department in 1982, he argued in Federal court that 2,200 Haitians being held in detention facilities in the U.S. and Puerto Rico were lying when they claimed they came to America to flee the murderous Duvalier regime.
Claiming their true motive was “economic betterment,” Associate Attorney General Giuliani stated that “the situation of political repression does not exist, at least in general, in Haiti.”
A lawyer for those seeking asylum, Stephen Cohen, was quoted by the New York Times as calling that argument “laughable,” adding, “It would be like someone in our government getting up to say that the Soviet Union is a democracy.”
Aside from this having been ideal training to serve as Mr. Trump’s private lawyer, Mr. Giuliani’s willingness to get his hands dirty on behalf of the Reagan Administration became his ticket to the job he really wanted: U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He maximized his profile running what was already considered the most high-powered Federal prosecutor’s office in the nation, gaining convictions in Mafia cases and convicting a bunch of corrupt city politicos, led by Bronx Democratic Party leader Stanley Friedman in 1986.
But amid his crusading, there were some unsettling questions raised by his tactics. To try to win a conviction in a tabloid dream of a divorce case involving the boyfriend of former Miss America and city Cultural Affairs Commissioner Bess Myerson, Mr. Giuliani persuaded the gullible daughter of the judge hearing the case to wear a wire to incriminate her mother. State Supreme Court Justice Hortense Gabel was indicted by the U.S. Attorney for allegedly taking a bribe in the form of a job for her daughter, Sukhreet at the Department of Cultural Affairs, in return for cutting by two-thirds the alimony payments Carl Andy Capasso was making to his ex-wife. She was forced to relinquish her position on the bench, but she, Ms. Myerson and Mr. Capasso were all acquitted in 1988.
A second embarrassment for Mr. Giuliani came when, in an effort to show how tough he was on white-collar crime, he had three Wall Street executives taken out of their offices in handcuffs, only to have the case against them later fall apart.
After losing his first run for Mayor in 1989 to David Dinkins,, Mr. Giuliani took advantage of the new Mayor’s stumbles during the Korean grocery boycott and the Crown Heights riots to turns the tables four years later. It was not without a few unfortunate moments along the way.
In September 1992, more than a year before the next mayoral election, he agreed to speak at a police-union rally against legislation to create a new Civilian Complaint Review Board. The rally became a fiasco when hundreds of off-duty officers, some of whom showed up at City Hall that morning drinking from beer cans, tried to storm the building, and when turned away by colleagues who were detailed there to provide security for both the Mayor and the City Council, peeled off to block traffic coming off the Brooklyn Bridge and harass motorists who objected.
It wasn’t clear whether Mr. Giuliani was aware of the extent of the bad behavior when he climbed aboard a flatbed truck the union had brought to the intersection of Murray and Church Sts. and derided the incumbent Mayor as anti-cop while making liberal use of a barnyard epithet. But video of his performance, his face contorted with anger, made Mr. Giuliani look more like a loudmouthed heckler than a future Mayor. (The CCRB bill, which hadn’t been expected to go anywhere, was easily approved because of outrage over the boorishness of the overserved cops, who had the particularly bad judgment to have stomped in the roof of a car in the City Hall parking lot that belonged to then-City Council Speaker Peter Vallone.)
A year later, in the closing weeks of the campaign, Rudy showed his readiness to demagogue in more-restrained fashion by calling for the end of parole for state prisoners. When asked what he would do about the prison overcrowding this would cause, given that at the time there were 47,000 parolees, Mr. Giuliani brushed off the question as unimportant.
He did the same once in office when complaints began to accumulate about the aggressive tactics being used to bring down crime in minority neighborhoods. The public, which had grown weary of a murder rate that climbed above 2,000 at the end of Mr. Koch’s tenure and peaked at 2,245 during Mayor Dinkins’s first year in office, was too pleased by the perception of a significantly safer city to wonder whether the ends justified the means.
Wanted Solo Spotlight
He had enough public-relations sense to make a practice of summoning to City Hall first-responders who had distinguished themselves shortly after their good work occurred, rather than waiting until agency medal-day ceremonies. He quickly showed, though, that he wasn’t inclined to share credit with individuals who might stay in the public eye beyond their day of recognition. His first Police Commissioner, Bill Bratton, was forced out halfway into Rudy’s first term for, as Jimmy Breslin later put it, taking “too many bows.”
As his re-election run neared, Mr. Giuliani, determined to win big and generate support for him pursuing higher office further down the line, sought to gain more union endorsements than he had in his two previous mayoral campaigns. Some eyebrows were raised when labor leaders were summoned to the office of one of his Deputy Mayors, Randy Mastro—a former prosecutor under Mr. Giuliani—to talk about what they could do for him and what he might do for them.
Some of them were squeamish about the appearance of blatant favor-trading, but most were more concerned about adverse consequences if they declined to endorse. Among his biggest catches was District Council 37, which he had forced to accept a two-year wage freeze at the start of a five-year contract a couple of years earlier by agreeing not to lay off its members.
That provision did not apply, however, to Hospital Workers Local 420, whose president, James Butler, made no secret of his dislike for the Mayor. DC 37’s then-executive director, Stanley Hill, accepted this exclusion and Mr. Giuliani’s rationale that giving Mr. Butler’s members job security might undercut his plans to sell off several city hospitals. But that members of the Organization of Staff Analysts, whose president, Bob Croghan, also did not endorse the Mayor, also were on the chopping block. And while hospital clerical workers represented by DC 37’s Local 1549, which backed Mr. Giuliani, were spared layoffs, hospital supervisors represented by Local 1180 of the Communications Workers of America were targeted. It wasn’t hard to figure out why: their president, Arthur Cheliotes, was a frequent critic of Mr. Giuliani’s.
One union whose endorsement the Mayor did not get was the-then Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. It gained thousands of members during his first term—under build-ups from the Dinkins-era “Safe Streets, Safe City” legislation and the 1994 Federal Crime Bill. But the union was furious over what it considered a broken contract promise from the Mayor.
‘I’ll Make It Up to You’
He had taken office when the city budget was hurting, and inherited a bargaining pattern from his predecessor that began with an 18-month wage freeze before providing 7-percent wage hikes spread over 21 months. The union hadn’t endorsed him in 1993, perhaps because of concern by his campaign about triggering an attack ad from Mayor Dinkins featuring his obscenities following the drunken September 1992 rally, but there was little question who most union members voted for.
Mr. Giuliani forced the PBA to accept those basic terms. He sweetened the pot by giving union members a $4,000 signing bonus, but that money wouldn’t be added to base salary or pension allowances, and the union’s then-president, Phil Caruso, didn’t attend the press conference at Gracie Mansion. The Mayor said he had told union officials that his hands were tied by the city’s fiscal problems, “but I’ll make it up to you.”
But after pressuring DC 37 into accepting the two-year wage freeze in late 1995, he insisted that the PBA take similar terms. Mr. Caruso’s successor, Lou Matarazzo, balked, and a three-man arbitration panel imposed that freeze, followed by two 3-percent raises and a fifth-year hike of 6 percent, which was 1.25 percent higher than the final raise of the DC 37 deal.
That amounted to just a quarter-point more per year for cops than civilian workers had gotten. During Ed Koch’s tenure as Mayor, PBA deals generally were about a half-point more generous on annual wage hikes than those for civilian unions, and the last one gave them .67 more in annual raises than DC 37 had gotten. If Mr. Giuliani had given the PBA token hikes of 1 percent in each of the first two years of his five-year pact, it would have produced a similar differential, averaging .65 percent more annually than the civilian pattern. His unwillingness to “make it up” to the cops that way led to the arbitration award being dubbed the “zeroes for heroes” contract. In the union’s next officers’ election, the winning candidate for president was the one who hadn’t been part of the PBA board when the arbitration award was imposed—Pat Lynch.
Excesses Bit Him
By that time, the excesses of policing on Mr. Giuliani’s watch had begun to wear on the troops as well. The February 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo in a bungled operation by members of the Street Crime Unit, whose size the Mayor had foolishly ordered tripled against the advice of its commander, led then-PBA President James Savage to protest a month later what he decried as a “blueprint for tyranny” in the form of over-enforcement, with his members taking the brunt of the public backlash.
There had been another element to the fatal shooting, in which four cops fired 41 bullets at the unarmed immigrant whom they mistook for a rape suspect, that had Mr. Giuliani’s fingerprints all over it: the ransacking of Mr. Diallo’s apartment afterward, in what was a clear attempt to find some dirt on him that might make the shooting less awful than it actually was.
That sort of tactic reappeared in a different form, as if Mr. Giuliani had watched a few too many showings of “The Godfather,” in March 2000 when Patrick Dorismond, after angrily objecting to an undercover cop’s soliciting him to sell marijuana, was shot in the ensuing struggle. The Mayor tried to paper over what had happened by having the NYPD release Mr. Dorismond’s sealed juvenile record, then argued that the deceased “was no altar boy.” He’d stepped in it again: Mr. Dorismond actually had been an altar boy.
Shortly after that, a second police-union leader lit into Mr. Giuliani: Detectives’ Endowment Association President Tom Scotto said his members faced a “toxic” atmosphere in some neighborhoods because of excessive enforcement.
The fact that two police-union leaders, who more typically lash out at lawless elements in the community in tense moments following controversial killings, instead criticized Mr. Giuliani was telling. So was the revelation by one of the few African-American officials to hold top positions for him, Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington, that he had come to his boss in tears after being stopped one time too often by cops for the crime of being a black man driving an expensive car, and the Mayor’s only response was to give him a card to present at future stops instructing cops to let him go without further ado.
Break-Up Wasn’t Classy
There was also the residue of the break-up of Mr. Giuliani’s marriage in the spring of 2000, after it was revealed that his wandering idea had brought him to Judi Nathan in a cigar bar. When then-State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno told the New York Post that the Mayor was going to have to resolve that situation, Rudy responded to a reporter’s question by announcing that he would be divorcing Donna Hanover, who learned of this plan by watching video of the press conference.
Small wonder that by Sept. 10, 2001, most New Yorkers were counting down the final months of Mr. Giuliani’s term. That changed radically a day later, as his cool-yet-emotional response in the wake of the World Trade Center’s destruction helped calm a reeling city and nation at a point when President George W. Bush was out of public view. But even as he turned into a national celebrity, troubling questions surfaced about notable Giuliani failures prior to the terrorist attacks.
One was his decision to shift the city’s emergency command center from Police Headquarters to 7 World Trade Center against the advice of top aides. The building became one of the casualties of the bombings, disabled after the planes were driven into the Twin Towers and then caving in later in the day. He had never addressed a problem with Fire Department radios that caused them to malfunction within the WTC complex after a previous terrorist bombing in 1993. New radios were belatedly purchased, but early in 2001 a communication discovered during a Queens basement fire led to City Council hearings and criticism of the vendor’s selection by City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who was running to succeed Mr. Giuliani.
The Mayor had the radios taken out of service and accused Mr. Hevesi of playing politics, then didn’t renew the purchase process—which it turned out had been corrupted by one employee acting on her own to favor Motorola. This meant that on 9/11, firefighters were using the same radio system that had failed inside the Trade Center more than eight years earlier, which was why 340 of them died during the rescue efforts while the NYPD, whose radios worked properly and alerted most cops to evacuate before the buildings came down, lost only 23 officers.
Other skeletons would emerge: after Bernie Kerik, the 1993 campaign driver Mr. Giuliani elevated from Third Grade Detective to be his Correction Commissioner and then his Police Commissioner, was nominated at his urging to be President Bush’s Secretary of Homeland Security, Mr. Kerik was forced to withdraw because of a few problems in his background.
Knew About Mob Link
Those included having accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in apartment renovations from people doing business with the city, including two brothers with suspected mob ties who enlisted Mr. Kerik’s help in trying to gain a city license for a waste-transfer station. It would later be learned that Mr. Giuliani’s Investigation Commissioner, the late Ed Kuriansky, had informed the Mayor of that relationship, yet he went ahead and chose Mr. Kerik to head the NYPD over a better-qualified and unblemished candidate. Before that warning came to light, the Mayor told reporters that he might have made the same choice even if he knew about the illicit relationship.
After Mr. Kerik went to Federal prison for the improper dealings and having lied during the background check for Homeland Security Secretary, Mr. Giuliani lamented that his ex-aide strengths suffered from being “really challenged” ethically.
It hadn’t stopped him from pushing Mr. Kerik for a position in which he could have awarded lucrative Federal contracts to Rudy’s law practice and consulting business.
Mr. Giuliani over the course of his checkered career actually has notable accomplishments to brag about, in contrast to the man for whom he now works, who aside from success playing a successful businessman on “The Apprentice” has screwed up pretty much every enterprise he’s taken on. But the ethical hole in his soul explains his willingness to run Mr. Trump’s errands, while slandering law-enforcement agencies as compromised despite having made his own reputation in top Justice Department positions.
Sidney Schwartzbaum, a former head of the Assistant Deputy Wardens/Deputy Wardens Association who initially applauded Mr. Giuliani’s efforts to bring order to the jail system but later clashed with him over his willingness to disrupt the chain of command to favor those who supported him politically, said in an Oct. 2 phone interview that he believed the former Mayor had helped Mr. Trump pervert the rule of law in the U.S. by undermining the credibility of its intelligence agencies.
‘He Muddies the Waters’
Asked why Mr. Giuliani would be so contemptuous of the kind of law-enforcement agencies to which he’d once sworn an oath, Mr. Schwartzbaum replied, “I think with Rudy, it’s all about ego and relevance. While he sounds like an idiot, he’s effective in muddying the waters.”
That’s probably not the legacy Mr. Giuliani, who said he discovered from the late Wayne Barrett’s 2000 investigative biography that his father had a criminal record and was a leg-breaker for a loanshark, envisioned for himself. It’s as if he wound up embodying the joking phrase Jimmy Breslin—an early supporter of the prosecutor who by the time he became Mayor was a fierce critic—used to apply to himself: “I’m no good, and I can prove it.”
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