With its Oct. 5 front-page story on Rudy Giuliani’s experience hosting an often boisterous weekly call-in show on WABC radio for the better part of his mayoralty, The New York Times found yet one more way to portray the Republican presidential frontrunner as a reckless hothead, reflexively rude and not at all willing to suffer fools (or even just annoying callers) gladly.
But for every exquisitely sensitive Manhattan liberal (few if any of whom will be voting for Rudy in 2008 anyway) offended by the former mayor’s politically incorrect temerity, there doubtless are hundreds of hardier souls who found themselves rejoicing in Giuliani’s refreshing take-no-prisoners demeanor and who hope to see more of that side of him in the coming months on the national campaign trail.
Giuliani’s outspokenness, his utter refusal to play by the rules of public etiquette as dictated by the New York Times editorial page, was preserved for posterity in 2000 by CUNY political science professor (and occasional Jewish Press op-ed contributor) Ron Rubin in his book “Rudy, Rudy, Rudy: The Real and the Rational,” a bracing compendium of hundreds of Giuliani quotes from his days as a federal prosecutor through most of his two terms as mayor.
Rubin made no secret of his view of Giuliani: “While critics have derided him as out of control and mean spirited,” he wrote in the book’s introduction, “his warrior’s persona has produced stunning results…. So remarkable is the city’s turnaround that historians debate whether it’s Rudy or Fiorello La Guardia who ranks as the twentieth century’s greatest mayor.”
The cumulative portrait is that of a man by turn reflective and reactive, sympathetic and sarcastic, principled and prickly.
Parrying one of former mayor Ed Koch’s numerous hostile remarks: “I think the less attention he gets the better it will be for his character development.”
Cutting David Dinkins, another former mayor and constant critic, down to suitable size: “If I had his record, I’d be kind of embarrassed to show my face.”
Responding to those, like the faux-plebe columnist Jimmy Breslin, who claimed to miss the old sleazy, crime-infested Times Square: “People who insist on romanticizing the disorder of the past should realize that the reason they have the luxury of nostalgia is that today things have improved.”
Refusing to pander to a caller to his radio show whose son, a robbery suspect, was killed by police: “I think I also have an obligation to deal with the hurt and the harm done to these police officers who were put in a position where they had to kill your son because he was a criminal that wanted to kill other people.”
Psychoanalyzing a caller who complained about the city’s ban on keeping ferrets as pets: “You need somebody to help you. I know you feel insulted by that, but I am being honest with you. This excessive concern with little weasels is a sickness. I’m sorry, that’s my opinion. You should go consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist with this excessive concern – how you are devoting your life to weasels.”
On the Black Ministers Conference of Greater New York not inviting him to its 1998 tribute to Martin Luther King: “The last time I was there it looked like some gathering of the local Democratic convention. It was filled with every elected Democratic official fighting with each other about who would sit in front, who would sit next to each other, who would sit in each other’s lap.”
Scorning the liberal intelligentsia: “The thinking establishment goes into convulsions over the idea that we could ask people on welfare to work, or that we should fingerprint them to prevent fraud. It’s almost as if a secular religion had developed in which these are the things that you must believe to be considered an educated, intelligent and moral person.”
Remembering Crown Heights: “I believe if I [had been] mayor of New York City, they would have made arrests at the first moment that a rock was thrown through a store window, a car was burned or a person was beaten up because they were Jewish or for any other reason.”
Rejecting moral equivalence in the Middle East: “I see a difference, I always have, between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority…. I see the necessity of negotiations and compromise, but I believe right now the pressure is being put on one side and not on the other.”
Deconstructing Hillary Clinton: “[W]hen I look at the people around her, they tend to be the most left-wing of the left-wing Democrats.”
Reliving a moment from early in his first term: “Would I throw Arafat out of Lincoln Center again? Yes. And Castro too.”