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Giuliani Still Being Slighted by Media Elites

Even as he left office in January 2002 on a note of unprecedented triumph and popularity, the tone of the New York Times’s editorials and most of its news coverage was startlingly jaundiced.

Rudy Giuliani.

Rudy Giuliani.

The last time we gathered here the topic of discussion was the hypocrisy of the late Ed Koch on racial matters, particularly in his constant berating of Rudy Giuliani for treating the city’s race hustlers with the skepticism they deserved – an approach actually pioneered by Koch himself during his own mayoralty.

But Giuliani never did get much love from the city’s permanent political establishment and its prestige media, as evidenced most recently by New York Times columnist Joe Nocera, who in the wake of Koch’s passing called Koch, Fiorella La Guardia and Michael Bloomberg the city’s “three greatest mayors.”

La Guardia certainly belongs in the top three, and a strong case can be made for Koch, but Bloomberg? The only reason Bloomberg was elected mayor in the first place was the endorsement he received from Giuliani shortly after 9/11, when Giuliani had seized the nation’s imagination with his courageous leadership and Bloomberg was essentially running in political drag, having donned Republican vestments after a lifetime of dressing in liberal Democratic garb.

That’s not to say Bloomberg has been a bad mayor, just that listing him at the top of the heap with La Guardia and Koch ignores the unprecedented challenges Giuliani faced on assuming office and the way he went about transforming the city.

Put it this way: imagine that Michael Bloomberg rather than Rudy Giuliani had succeeded David Dinkins in January 1994. Would political reporter Andrew Kirtzman have been able to describe Bloomberg’s tenure the way he wrote of Giuliani in Emperor of the City, his gripping account of the Giuliani years:

“This is the story of a defiant man whose strength, resolve, and vision helped bring a city back from a state of bedlam. It’s an account of how a person with no experience in municipal government outsmarted its political leaders, union chiefs, and media lords and ended up changing the face of New York…. It’s about a leader whose accomplishments rank among the most dramatic in urban history.”

Giuliani succeeded the inept David Dinkins at a time most observers had given up on New York as a governable city. Bloomberg, on the other hand, succeeded Giuliani at a time when, to quote Kirtzman, “crime had plunged so low that that the FBI was calling New York the safest large city in America. Unemployment was down, and 400,000 fewer people were on the welfare rolls.”

Getting back to The New York Times, though it endorsed Giuliani for reelection in 1997 (he faced an uninspiring Democratic challenger and even Manhattan liberals found it hard not to give him his due), over the years the mouthpiece of New York liberalism generally treated him with varying degrees of skepticism, condescension and moral outrage.

Even as he left office in January 2002 on a note of unprecedented triumph and popularity, the tone of the paper’s editorials and most of its news coverage was startlingly jaundiced (a notable exception was an analysis piece by reporter Sam Roberts who mused that Giuliani would go down in history as a greater mayor than even La Guardia).

An editorial that appeared the Sunday before Giuliani’s departure was particularly churlish, claiming that “Even his staunchest supporters know that much of his success was due in part to good timing. His greatest achievements – the drop in crime, the reduction in welfare cases, the economic boom – were mirrored in other cities that had milder-mannered chief executives.”

Nonsense, responded historian Fred Siegel. “No other city has made comparable gains…. In the closing years of the Dinkins administration, tourists stayed away in droves, while businesses and residents were racing for the exits in what seemed like an evacuation. Had Mr. Dinkins been reelected, the flight from fear would have become a flood.”

As to the assertion that crime had dropped everywhere and Giuliani merely happened to have been in the right place at the right time, it just wasn’t true.

“None of these critics,” Siegel pointed out, “supplies specifics – with good reason. Crime didn’t fall everywhere, as anyone from Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit or a host of other big cities could have explained.”

About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press.


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3 Responses to “Giuliani Still Being Slighted by Media Elites”

  1. Charlie Hall says:

    Crime actually began to fall during the last 2 years of the Dinkins administration, as he got the city council to raise taxes, sent NYPD on a hiring spree to hire new officers, and hired Ray Kelly as police commissioner. But the first two years of the Dinkins administration were so disastrous that everybody forgets the progress of the last two years.

    And the crime rate has continued to fall under Bloomberg, as he brought Ray Kelly back and didn't compete with Kelly for attention the way Giuilani did with William Bratton.

    And Guiliani did squat for education and transportation.

    Nevertheless Giuliani does deserve credit for all the success on his watch. By reasonable objective measures he was much more of a success than Koch, who talked a big game but did not accomplish much for the city's massive crime problems. During Giuliani's term as mayor, most of the city became livable again.

    Giuliani unfortunately spent a lot of political capital through his personality as he seemed to be unable to control his tendency to infuriate people. And Bloomberg at times to be completely tone deaf to the complaints of New Yorkers regarding many of the little things that make a big difference in our lives. (Not that I'm a big soda drinker, but does that really deserve all the energy it is getting? And is the city so broke that we need all that parking ticket revenue?)

    I would mention two others who deserve consideration as best mayors. One was William Gaynor, who was mayor 1910-1913. He broke with Tammany Hall, cleaned up corruption — and most importantly, pushed for the construction of the extensive subway system without which the city would not be recognizable today. And the other is DeWitt Clinton, who served three appointed (not elected) terms in the early 19th century. In addition to promoting education and the arts, he envisioned the Erie Canal and would later supervise its completion as Erie Canal Commissioner and as Governor of New York. It is not possible to overestimate the impact that the canal had to the economic growth of New York City in the 19th century.

  2. Edward Lobel says:

    Sorry my friend Charlie Hall, but I strongly disagree with you about rudy! He was not a good mayor at all!

    Granted he rose to the occassion on 9/11, but that is about all he really did correctly!

    The caos that followed was his fault becuase he located the emergency center in the world trade center.

    He had absolutely nothing to do with the decrease in crime, not a darned thing! Crime rates fell dramatically all over America and in some large cities the crime rate fell by bigger percentages than in New York City! Are people going to say he was responsible for lower crime rates everywhere! I think not. Lower crime was the result in a
    dramtic shift in the population that does crime and a sudden and dramatic decrease in crack usuage. I would like to say more police helped but I highly doubt that contributed to much. Police do not stop crime, they solve crime after the fact. That may sound silly, but think about it.

    There are several other bad things he did that cost the city lots of money (he was "sue" crazy and lost everyone of the cases which cost the city over ten million dollars!) Probably the worst thing he did was to flaunt his adulty in public! What do you think that said to people and especially his children!

    No, rudy does not belong on the list of great NYC mayors or evern good NYC mayors for that matter!

  3. Charlie Hall says:

    Crime rates fell in NYC much faster than the national average. There are still US cities with horrific violent crime rates. NYC isn't one of them and a lot of that decline occurred on Giuliani's watch.

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