This is not going to be a conventional endorsement. I'm a New Yorker who's lived in New York when Giuliani was Mayor. I've seen the good and the bad in his administration. There's times I cheered him and times I cursed him and I'm hard pressed to say which I did more often.
Instead of beginning with hosannas of praise for Rudy as is usually done for a candidate, I'm going to begin with his faults. Rudy Giuliani is authoritarian, he's a bully and he's intolerant of dissent and criticism. He makes up his mind on what the right course is and pursues it regardless of opposition. His administration was nowhere near as corrupt as his Democratic predecessors but nor was it free of patronage and kickbacks. Giuliani doesn't listen to people, so much as tell them what to think. He is not a figure of Democratic virtues, instead he's the man you bring in to rescue you when Democracy fails.
That's what Giuliani did when he came to a city that had been troubled for decades and on the verge of declaring bankruptcy. Crime was out of control and entire neighborhoods were impassable dead zones. The conventional wisdom was that crime could not be fought, the city could not be reformed and New York was doomed to be a dark grimy hellhole full of criminals, riots and racial tensions instead of the great metropolis it once was.
Giuliani held office for eight years and like Fiorrela La Guardia before him proved the conventional wisdom wrong. He turned around a city and made it downright unrecognizable. He turned around its economy, its crime rates and its entire outlook. Ed Koch spent a lot of time asking people how he was doing, Guliani just went out there and did it. Driven, seemingly unable to sleep, he appeared at the scene of every crisis. He micromanaged things from the top pursuing a tough course, sometimes right, sometimes wrong, and through sheer determination righted a toppling city.
The same flocks of yuppies who moved uptown into Harlem and downtown below 14th Street and then below Houston Street might sniff disgustedly as Giuliani but voted for him because they knew the reason they could jog in Central Park and hold down jobs in a revived New York economy was because he had made it possible. They hated him but they knew they needed him to make the renewed New York City that was their playground possible.
To understand the difference is to look at New York post 9/11 and New Orleans after Katrina. The difference was not in race or racism, after all a sizable part of New York City is black and hardly well thought of by the Bush Administration. The difference was leadership. New Orleans and Louisiana had the same bankrupt Democratic administrations that did nothing except generate rhetoric and racial preferences, Guliani by contrast was a man who took charge, always on the scene even when 9/11 happened. He never lay down, he never stopped, even when he had cancer.
To the people who mistook paper cowboys like Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush for tough, Rudy actually is tough without needing to strut around in flight jackets or cowboy gear. His toughness doesn't come from costumes or positioning himself as an icon but from a drive to tackle the job and get it done no matter how hard it gets and no matter how much flak he takes; he will never back down.
Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were excellent masters of the tough punchline, the easy cowboy grin and the confident posture, so much so that people mistook them for what they weren't. Reagan and Bush began things without finishing them. While Reagan talked tough on Iran during the election, he was negotiating behind the scenes with the Iranians. Reagan chased the Achille Lauro hijackers only to let the Italians take them at gunpoint. Reagan endorsed Israel's invasion of Lebanon to drive out the PLO only to begin shrieking at Prime Minister Begin over the telephone that Israel was responsible for another Holocaust.
George W. went into Afghanistan and Iraq but his goals quickly changed from hunting terrorists to spending thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild two Muslim states, the majority of whose populations want to kill us. When it comes to Islam, Bush kowtows before CAIR and is passionately invested in a delusional belief in the power of the voting booth to transform Arab dictatorships into friendly Democratic nations, when in actuality the voting booth he has pushed so hard only brings the same Islamic terrorists we are fighting closer to power in country after country from Gaza to Egypt to Lebanon.
It's time to put away the paper cowboys and grow up. When Arafat came to the UN, Giuliani had him thrown out of an official dinner. The world stormed and protested and he stood his ground. He had nothing to gain from it electorally, it only infuriated the liberal Jews of New York who were then busy kissing that greasy murderous thug's ring. He did it because it was the right to do and because he did not tolerate criminals and killers being treated as saints, any more than Koch did when he refused to meet with Nelson Mandella.
After 9/11 Giuliani threw the Saudi Prince's 10 million dollar check back in his face while liberal members of Congress were busy apologizing on our behalf. When a wave of Muslim attacks targeting Jews began in New York, Giuliani gathered the Muslim leaders and sent them a clear message behind the scenes that it would not be tolerated and the attacks stopped.
The difference is leadership. From a conservative standpoint Giuliani has many defects, he's pro-choice and has gay friends. He's authoritarian and no believer in small government. He can't be expected to engage in phony piety but what he does believe will be sincere. Most don't think he can win primaries in Virginia or South Carolina. I believe he can because I believe that people desperately want a leader and unlike a lot of the TV polished politicians, he is the real thing.
He is not a McCain or John Kerry pimping his military career decades back for a shot at the White House. He's not another bland governor looking for a career upswing before public dissatisfaction sets in. He's a civic leader who has shown he can do the impossible and will get the job done. He doesn't just talk tough, he doesn't tell war stories; he tackles the tough jobs no one else will do.
This country doesn't just need another President. It needs a man who will take a stand no matter what and never back down. It needs a man who will do things that will make the pundits and the Washington crowd shriek in horror. It needs a man who will defy conventional wisdom, break through the Gordian Knots of political correctness and fight for America. There is no other politician out there with a real shot at the White House who can do this. There's only one.
How do I know? Because he's done it before and succeeded against all odds. Forget the rhetoric, forget the posturing, forget the ideology and think about New York 20 years ago and New York today and then decide whether you want the man who did that in the White House or yet another politician who will promise you the moon, dress up as a cowboy or a soldier and then sell out everything the moment he gets into office and bend with the polls.
I remember standing in the darkness at a protest rally near Lincoln Center during the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. We had been crowded together with Sudanese refugees towering over us, protesting the collection of murderers, liars and thieves and their official representatives that were being honored tonight. We were there to protest against Arafat. President Clinton was behind Arafat. The Jewish leadership was behind Arafat. The world was behind Arafat. And there while we waited in the darkness looking to where murderers were being feted in the light, Rudy was having Arafat tossed out of the official celebratory dinner.
I'll stop talking now and begin quoting Giuliani himself.
"Before Giuliani ran for mayor, he was a New York lawyer (he was born to Italian immigrant parents who had a bar and grill). One day, he was assigned to investigate the 1985 PLO hijacking of the Italian cruise ship, the Achille Lauro. He remembered how a disabled American man was dragged out of his wheelchair and thrown into the sea. Ever since, Giuliani has had a "special contempt" for Arafat and so, when the UN celebrated its 50th birthday in New York during Giuliani's reign, he refused to invite him to the mayoral party. But Arafat turned up anyway. When Giuliani saw him there, he told his beefiest security guard to throw him out.
"That was profoundly satisfying," Giuliani says, relishing the memory of Arafat trying to argue with the guard before storming out.
"Some of my aides said: 'You can't do it, because it will cause an international incident'. But I believe there is a certain level of civilization that a person has to reach in order to be treated the same way other people are treated. You may have to deal with these people, but you don't have to put them on the same level as decent people."This in the end is the answer. It's remembering what is right and what is wrong. That is what the Bush Administration forgot when it continually praised Islam and put Muslims on a pedestal and imagined that the only problem was the poor darlings didn't have access to voting booths. We may have to deal with Islam and Muslims but we can never afford to forget what they are and what we are. You don't put terrorists on the same level as decent people. You don't give in to them and you don't back down.
At that dinner Arafat tried what had worked for him along and he found a man who had called his bluff, who would not treat murderous thugs like the leaders of actual nations. The terrorists around the world need someone to call their bluff. And he's just the man to do it.