Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Rudy’s Risky Strategy May Lead to an Early Exit

Aside from a dubious ("Big State") campaign strategy, Rudy Giuliani (once dubbed “America’s Mayor”) faces a new and largely (at least from his camp) unexpected foe – firefighters from across the country.

The first stop for a series of rallies organized by the International Association of Firefighters and family members of the victims of September 11th terror attacks, was a firefighters' union on North Orange Blossom Trail, Florida. Members urged voters not to support Giuliani for president.

Rudy Giuliani, much like Senator Hillary Clinton, is an abrasive, unlikable person and that’s a tough burden for any politician to overcome.

As Mayor of New York City, Giuliani was a veritable miracle worker. He took over from one of the worst mayors in that City’s history (David Dinkins), a man often referred to as “The Jimmy Carter of New York City.”

Under Dinkins New York’s population and its tax base both shrunk, but crime sky rocketed. The last year David Dinkins was Mayor, there were over 2,000 murders in new York City.

One of Giuliani’s initial master strokes was making Bill Bratton NYPD Commissioner. Bratton was beloved by New York cops and loathed by both criminals and ACLU-types alike.

In his first salvo in the Giuliani era war on crime, Bratton began unceremoniously locking up the so-called “Squeegee-men,” aggressive panhandlers who targeted drivers (especially women) on the entrances and exits of New York City’s many highways.

When some ACLU-types demanded, “How will these squeegee-men make any money,” Bratton famously answered, “I say, they should get off the booze, get off the drugs and get a job!”

That set the tone of one of the most successful crime policies ever developed and it made both Giuliani and Bratton national figures, and rightly so.

Bratton’s Compstat program was rightly hailed as “a stroke of genius,” by others in law enforcement. Repeat offenders were targeted both by police (for extra scrutiny) and by the courts (for longer sentences). Bratton popularized the mantra that violent street crime was “motivated by greed not need.”

Under Giuliani, New York began a massive gentrification, as “ghetto areas” shrunk and yuppies began reclaiming large swaths of the once blighted City. Rudy even made a deal with Disney to renovate and make-over New York’s Times Square!

The fact of the matter is that Giuliani was certainly one of the greatest Mayors New York City ever had, policy-wise, but his personal life was a mess, he became increasingly autocratic and when he dumped Bratton in 1996, he followed Bratton up with increasingly pedestrian choices (first, Howard Safir, and then, the infamous Bernie Kerik).

But after two terms and two consecutive Police and Fire contracts front-ended with ZERO percent raises, Guiliani had worn out his welcome with most in New York’s Emergency Response community, and it wasn’t all about money, although that was a sore point, as neighboring jurisdiction’s salaries soared, along with those of NYC’s Deputy mayors and Commissioners, no, Giuliani also alienated a lot of the top brass in both the NYPD and the FDNY.

It was indeed Giuliani who insisted that the City’s Emergency Command Post be placed in Building-7 of the World Trade Center, over the objections of both Police and Fire officials.

Ironically enough, Giuliani’s post-11 reputation has taken even more of a beating. Some of that is due to the sensitivity, especially of family members of the 9/11 victims that “No one should profit off of 9/11.” When long-time author, Dennis Smith (Report From Engine Company 82) wrote a book based on interviews with many of those Police and Firefighters who “worked the pile” after that day, family members of the victims went to the publisher (Simon-Schuster) to block its release.

For his part, Giuliani shamelessly intertwined his political reputation with 9/11 and built a lucrative anti-terror enterprise (Giuliani Partners) and lapped up the post-9/11 attention as “America’s Mayor,” alienating many 9/11 family members in the process.

Many saw that as just another example of Giuliani’s abrasiveness, a quality that is now threatening to put an early end to his White House hopes.

At this point, it’s hard to believe, let alone remember when Giuliani was seen as the Republican favorite, just six months ago.


WomanHonorThyself said...

sigh..very slim pickins indeed!

JMK said...

Yes, it appears so Angel, but I guess that's a part of the process on both sides. A lot of people who are ideological purists (I tend to be pretty Conservative) are generally disappointed by the "milqtoast moderates" who are usually put forth after a Primary process, but it's important to note that "half a loaf is better than none."

Sometimes actually, quite often, we are forced to choose between the lesser of two poor choices, in the general election.

WomanHonorThyself said...

youre so right JMK..wish it werent so ..We could use leadership my friend!

JMK said...

This is a very tepid field on both sides Angel.

I guess that shouldn't be all that surprising, considering that we're talking about career politicians (hacks) here.

In my experience, most elections come down to choosing the lesser of two poor choices.

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