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Rudy Giuliani: America's Mayor

In the wake of the attack on the World Trade Center, Mayor Rudy Giuliani showed New Yorkers and the world what great leadership is about.
Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
Rudy Giuliani, Nov/Dec 01

(continued from page 3)

His legal standing rose quickly at the Justice Department, as did his political connections in New York. By 1983, when an opening came for the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, New York Sen. Al D'Amato pushed his nomination for the job. On June 3, 1983, he was sworn in. Giuliani had arrived in the legal big leagues, and he wasn't about to squander the opportunity.

Giuliani's convictions read like a lawyer's dream come true. He successfully prosecuted and won 100-year sentences against the heads of the major Mafia crime families in New York, including "Fat Tony" Salerno, of the Genovese family, "Tony Ducks" Corallo, of the Luchese family, and Carmine "The Snake" Persico, of the Colombo organization; the Bonnano family boss, Rusty Rastelli, was indicted but actually sentenced for another crime and Paul Castellano, of the Gambino family, was assassinated before the sentencing hearing. Giuliani also helped break up the Pizza Connection, a $1 billion heroin drug smuggling ring. The investigation led to the arrests of more than a dozen people around the country. He prosecuted very-high profile corruption charges against top politicians in New York. He sent Stanley Friedman, a former deputy mayor and head of the Bronx Democratic Party, to prison for 12 years for acting as a middleman in a bribery scheme. And, he convicted Mario Biaggi, a U.S. congressman from the Bronx, on bribery charges.

Some of his notorious cases involved white collar crime on Wall Street. He spearheaded the effort against Ivan Boesky, one of the most well-known financiers on Wall Street in the mid-1980s. Boesky paid a $100 million fine and served federal prison time. He also started the investigations of other Wall Street financiers, including Michael Milken, of Drexel Burnham Lambert. Although Milken's guilty plea and the $650 million fine paid by the firm took place after Giuliani left office, he was credited with launching the probe that brought Milken to justice for insider trading. In a rare instance of enemies commiserating, Milken and Giuliani reached out to each other in the wake of the Mayor's prostate cancer diagnosis. Milken, a prostate cancer survivor, offered up the resources of his research foundation, CaPCURE, which is dedicated to finding a cure for the cancer. They have now become friends.

Throughout his years in the U.S. prosecutor's job, speculation swirled around Giuliani that he wanted an elected job, either senator or perhaps mayor of New York. In 1988, he publicly ruled out a run for the Senate, and within five months of his resignation as U.S. attorney in January 1989, he announced his candidacy for mayor. He ended up losing by three percentage points to David Dinkins in one of the most tightly contested elections in New York City history.

Giuliani wasn't done. He bided his time, watching as New York declined in the recession of the early 1990s. In 1993, he announced his candidacy for a second run at the mayor's office. His campaign was driven by a widespread feeling that the city was hurting and needed someone to restore its luster. But Giuliani won by a fairly narrow margin of 45,000 votes.

From the outset, Giuliani's mayoral reign generated opposing views. On one side, the city's black leadership deeply mistrusted the mayor, and felt as if he simply refused to reach out to them. The rest of the city saw his "quality of life" campaign, which targeted panhandlers and car window washers at stoplights, as returning a degree of civility to the city. He launched an aggressive, and frequently controversial, police campaign to get guns off the streets. It undoubtedly helped reduce crime, but warrantless frisks and searches of young males, often black or Hispanic, on city streets were greeted with outrage. By the end of his first term, New York had become a safer, more pleasant place to live and work.

He won a second term in 1997, easily defeating Ruth Messinger even though the police department had been sullied just weeks before the election by the brutal beating in a station house of Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant. Another wave of protests occurred in 1999 when undercover officers gunned down an unarmed man, Amadou Diallo. Giuliani's unwavering defense of the police was viewed as insensitive. A second shooting of a black man in March 2000, Patrick Dorismond, provoked more protests, but again, Giuliani refused to back down from his defense of the police department. He also triggered more outrage when he tried to end public funding for an art exhibition at the Brooklyn Art Museum, objecting to what he called its profane images of the Virgin Mary. To him, it was a matter of principle and belief. In the end, the city was forced to retreat, but not until Giuliani had been portrayed as an advocate of censorship. Even against the backdrop of those controversies, many New Yorkers supported the mayor, believing his anticrime drives and quality-of-life projects had saved the city.

Faced with a two-term limit on his job, Giuliani decided in 2000 to run for senator, to replace Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. His opponent would be First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. His campaign never really got off the ground. Throughout the early months of 2000, he campaigned reluctantly. Then, in April, he announced he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. About a week later, New York's tabloid newspapers ran pictures of him out and about with a female companion, Judith Nathan. By early May, the mayor announced he was separating from his wife of 17 years, Donna Hanover Giuliani, a television newscaster and the mother of his two teenage children. Nine days later, on May 19, he dropped out of the Senate race, saying he needed to focus on his prostate cancer treatment.

In the 16 months between his withdrawal from the race and the World Trade Center attacks, the Giuliani Administration enjoyed relative tranquility. During his eight years in office he had presided over a turnaround in New York's fortune, including an unprecedented boom that began in the late 1990s. As he neared the end of his second term in 2001, he was basking in the glory of some of his accomplishments, such as a 57 percent decline in felony crimes since 1993 and a 68 percent decline in the murder rate in that period. While some critics dispute whether he should be given credit for the reduced crime rates, the reality seemed rather simple -- it happened on his watch.

But given the ambivalence many New Yorkers had felt toward Giuliani, the widespread praise for him in the wake of the September 11 attacks, and building sentiment that he should stay on for another term, came as a surprise. Liz, a resident of Battery Park City who ran for her life the day the adjacent World Trade Center towers fell, admitted recently that she hadn't voted for him. Although not wanting to give her last name, she said, "He has to stay. He's done such a great job. The city needs him now." A firefighter, who was injured in the collapse of one building adjacent to the towers, said, "I saw him at a funeral, and I walked up and just hugged him and said ëthank you' to him. We need some continuity right now. He should stay on."


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