POOR ANDREW. The Younger Cuomo attempted to penetrate the mesmerizing force
field that surrounds any election involving Gov. George
"you-are-getting-very-very-sleepy" Pataki and succeeded only in shortening the
odds for an insomniac's dream of a November showdown between Pataki and the
electrifying H. Carl McCall.
That Andrew self-inflicted is unsurprising. More remarkable was his choice
Cuomo, revealed the mayor as a great leader ("Cream rises to the top") and the
governor as his valet ("He held the leader's coat"). The strength of this
movement to canonize Giuliani is probably more meaningful than an attempt by a
buzz-hungry candidate to exploit it.
Let's face it: It is hard to write about Giuliani without praising him.
First and last, he played a key role in the decline of New York street crime,
probably the most important local story over the past 20 years. It's true that
other large cities cut their crime rates over the same period. Some, like
Boston, were even more successful than New York. And it's true that Mayor David
Dinkins was the one who hired more cops, and that Ray Bratton was the chief
architect of a more effective NYPD. But Giuliani was indispensable, for part of
the overall strategy was to communicate a tough message from the top.
Everybody heard that message.
Whatever the statistics, New York seemed safer. And that perception made
the city a more attractive place to work in, live in and visit. Tax revenues
Which brings us to Big Rudy Failing No. 1: During a period of fiscal
well-being, Rudy Giuliani made few significant additions to the capital stock
of the city. Two bush-league ballfields don't count. Transit, parks, schools,
housing, waterfront - nothing new to speak of. He did little with assets over
which he had sole authority, and his control-freakness meant that any time he
had to share authority - with the governor or the Board of Ed or the Port
Authority or the MTA - nothing ever happened. Did you notice how quickly Mike
Bloomberg and George Pataki were able to strike a deal over Governors Island?
(And did you remember that Giuliani wanted to build a casino there?) Watch as
other Giuliani-blocked projects, like an expanded Javits Center, now fall
easily into place. Thank the planning gods for keeping Giuliani out of Lower
Big Rudy Failing No. 2: Rudy Giuliani ran a secretive, paranoid,
patronage-heavy administration. Take L'Affaire Harding. Thanks to the Village
Voice and Bloomberg appointees, we recently learned that Russell Harding -
whose appointment by Giuliani as head of the New York City Housing Development
Corp. had nothing (absolutely nothing, nothing whatsoever, and, frankly, you
should be very, very ashamed to insinuate otherwise) to do with his father, Ray
Harding, Liberal Party mogul, or his brother, Robert Harding, director of the
City Office of Management and the Budget - admitted that he "may have" spent
about $250,000 of taxpayer money on resorts, meals and sundry indulgences.
Human Resources Commissioner Jason Turner's sweetheart contracts, or the
ousting of bothersome whistle-blowers in the Department of Buildings, or the
scores of other insider arrangements less notorious but well documented by the
Conflict of Interest Board, the Independent Budget Office and various watchdog
In general, Giuliani was flexible in his approach to constitutional
government. You probably remember his suggestion that the state Legislature
keep him in office a few months after his term expired. You may have forgotten
those hasty summertime "charter-reform" hearings in which the mayor tried to
push through City Charter amendments to: (a) keep the City Council out of
baseball stadium decisions; (b) to revoke the right of the public advocate
(Mark Green) to succeed the mayor in case of death or resignation; and (c) to
gut the Campaign Finance Board.
Big Rudy Failing No. 3: Rudy Giuliani was just too darn rude, and he
thereby lowered the tone of civil society. He was rude to reporters, of course,
but at least they weren't public figures. Why did he have to badmouth David
Dinkins, for example, or belittle City Comptroller Alan Hevesi? Why did he so
frequently question other officeholders' intelligence and morals? By last
summer, you may remember, all that mean-spiritedness had gotten pretty old.
But if not everything, timing sure is something. Catastrophe struck in
September, and Rudy Giuliani rose from the oft-ridiculous to the frequently
sublime. He surely did, and blessings upon him and all the best for him and
Judith Nathan. But if he ever runs for office again. . .