Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A bum gets burned on a bum rap. And then burns himself passing the buck. It’s his usual sleazy behavior.

I don’t like Rudolph Giuliani, the former Republican Mayor of New York who’s now a potential Republican Presidential candidate.

Yes, he put on a great and admirable display of leadership immediately after the 9/11 World Trade Center disaster. He actually came off – at least for a few days – as sympathetic and likeable. And yes, under his administration the crime rate began to fall, policing got better, quality of life crimes lessened significantly, and prosperity grew here in New York grew. All good things.

But generally, Giuliani’s behavior was sometimes irascible, sometimes sleazy, occasionally in defiance of law, and largely focused around what was good for Rudy Giuliani. More about that later. First, an issue for which Giuliani is taking a rap he doesn’t deserve – and then reverting to his weasely form in dealing with the issue.


This has to do with the location of the mayor’s Emergency Operations Center – a radiation protected, supposedly blast-resistant, communications equipment-bristling, semi-secret “war room.” It was here that Mayor Giuliani was supposed to have been able to take charge of New York in case of atomic blast, citywide rioting, unprecedented flooding, or invasion by – I dunno, Martians, maybe.

As it happens, it was located at 7 World Trade Center, one of the neighboring buildings that were flattened and burned out by the falling debris from the 1 and 2 World Trade Center twin towers.

Hey, it’s easy to Monday morning quarterback this decision. On the negative side, it’s true as critics point out, that the World Trade Center had already been the target of an Al Quaida attack – a truck bomb that went off in a garage under one of the two towers. So maybe the Command Center should have been someplace else.

Brooklyn has been mentioned as a rejected location for a command center in the "he said/she said/they said/you said” accusations that have been flying around.

But there were also valid reasons for using 7 World Trade Center. It was close to City Hall and other municipal offices such as the Police and Fire Departments – a very quick drive or relatively short jog away. 7 World Trade Center itself was home to the New York offices of various Federal law enforcement agencies – you know, the ones that as it turned out weren’t speaking to one another, enabling the 9/11 plot to hatch, free from Federal interference.

Also, 7 World Trade Center was not one of the twin towers. To rule it out you’d have to posit that A) Al Quaida would try all over again to bring the towers down by a different means B) the Federal Government under George Bush would be completely asleep at the switch C) that this time they’d hijack a bunch of planes and fly them into the towers D) these “fireproof” buildings would then collapse, their structures virtually melted by the flames and E) that falling debris from the first two structures would completely destroy neighboring structures.


If you could posit A, B, C,D and E, you’d be the world’s greatest seer and medium. That’s really all Rudy Giuliani had to say in his defense of the choice of 7 World Trade Center. But no.

Instead, he whines that in effect, an underling working for him sort of, well, uh – made him do it. That was the recommendation, and how was he supposed to know better, Giuliani snivels.

Baloney, says the former underling, Jerome Hauer, who was Giuliani’s first director of emergency management. Others are weighing in on one side or another.

You’ll find URLs referring you to some of the details of finger-pointing at the end of this article. What’s important to note here is that finger pointing – passing the blame for bad things that happened on his watch to somebody else – is a hallmark of the Giuliani modus operandi. And for that matter, getting rid of underlings who are getting too much praise for doing good work is also part of his style.


Take the case of William Bratton, the first police commissioner under Giuliani (now chief honcho of the LAPD.) It was Bratton, recruited here from Boston, who dreamed up a new style of policing, patrolling and arresting quality-of-life criminals. That's one of the things that helped bring on a quick and wonderful reduction of the crime rate.

Almost everybody liked Bratton. Almost everyone praised him. And that really got Giuliani’s goat. Clearly Rudy wanted all the praise for himself.

Poof! Bratton was fired. Pretty soon, top NYPD administration was peopled with a number of hacks, one of them, Bernie Kerik, said to have Mafia ties and certainly problems with corruption and his own income taxes.

Hey, no matter. By following Bratton patrol policies, the cops were able to keep the crime rate down, and now Rudy Giuliani could get all the credit.


Giuliani wanted to make sure that nothing bad got blamed on him. The word was going around that interviews for various senior appointive jobs in his administration began with the question, “Would you take a bullet for the mayor?”

The meaning of that question was, “If something gets screwed up in your department, even if it happens because the mayor ordered it to happen, will you take all the blame and not mention you were doing this on the Mayor's orders?”

Rudy’s philosophy of life (“It’s all about me”) even extended to his own family. During Rudy’s inaugural, his seven year old son – remember, only seven years old – stole the show by mimicking his father’s gestures. Guess what? Rudy deported his own son. Well, only to a boarding school, but that was it. The poor kid was never seen in public again until his adulthood, when he proclaimed a rift with his father. Gee, no kidding.

The message was clear. Don't poke fun at Rudy Giuliani. Even if you're a little kid. Even if you're his own little kid.


There was also the little matter of trying to overthrow the city constitution. We have term limits here. At the end of his second term, Rudy suddenly went looking for a way to stay on as mayor after his elected term ended. In effect, he was feeling out the reaction to what might have been a municipal coup d’etat.

Imagine if the President of the United States did that. If it ever happens, this country stops being a democratically-elected republic and becomes a dictatorship.

So I’m horrified by Rudy Giuliani’s attempt at candidacy for President. He’s a potential dictator. He deserves to remain in private life with his third wife, enjoying icy relations with his kids.

But he doesn’t deserve flak on his choice of an emergency command post. As some wag said about the behavior of prosecutors and police during the OJ Simpson trial, “They’re trying to frame a guilty man.”

More on the potential national and international disaster that is Rudy Giuliani here:

On the World Trade Center command post flap:

On Giuliani’s mayoral temperament

Why lots of New York cops hate Giuliani

On Giuliani trying to feel out a municipal coup d’etat

Picture of Giuliani’s 7 year old son upstaging his dad, for which he was deported to boarding school:

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