Wednesday, February 21, 2007

America's Mayor

Rudy Giuliani is blowing away John McCain these days in every poll. This has actually been true for a while, but now it’s sometimes by a huge amount. He’s blowing away the Democrats too.

I’m not voting for him. Well, I should hedge a little. I am not voting for him unless I become convinced he has truly, truly changed from the power hungry, angry and “Nasty Man” (according to former Mayor Koch, now one of his biggest supporters) that he was while mayor of New York City.

Let’s start with his seeming abhorrence of any free speech values while he was mayor. Free speech is a basic American value and written into the First Amendment to the Constitution as part of the Bill of Rights.

But, to “America’s Mayor,” no one had free speech if they were saying something he didn’t like (which is exactly the reason we have a first amendment). Take a deep breathe -- while he was serving as mayor, various courts had to stop him from:

• refusing to allow yellow cabs to protest by proceeding across the
59th Street Bridge in any reasonable numbers.

• making child welfare employees get city consent before talking to
reporters about non-confidential child welfare information (and thus
keeping the public from knowing what was going on from those who
knew best).

• enforcing a police department policy making officers who wanted to
talk with reporters about non-confidential police business without
city consent (and thus keeping the public from knowing what was
going on from those who knew best – to be fair, he did win the part
about making them give notice to the department, but when he lost
the consent part – the city gave up and dropped the whole

• giving summonses to Socialist Workers Party candidates for meeting and soliciting in a park.

• making artists get a license to sell or show their stuff in public
places (free expression in public forums is a bedrock principle).

• forcing Time Warner Cable of New York to show political news shows on channels set aside for municipal use (yes, of course, FoxNews).

• stopping a church from distributing condoms in a park.

refusing to allow a magazine to place ads on city busses that made
fun of him (oh, grow up, you big baby – you have paraded around in a dress when you wanted to have fun).

• keeping the Public Advocate (who was a political opponent not under his control) from getting his hands on records regarding the conduct of the New York City Civilian Complaint Board.

• refusing to honor a freedom of information request about a police
operation in Queens (the police gave up before the court acted).

• limiting to 25 and then 50, the number of reporters on the steps of
city hall for a press conference.

• when he lost that one, retaliating by closing the steps entirely
supposedly for security reasons).

• again in retaliation, allowing use of the public steps only for
events sponsored by a government official.

• severely limiting a rally in Harlem by a black group.

• completely stopping a second rally.

• severely restricting the reasonable use of amplified sound in Times

• dismissing a police office for participating in a controversial

• arresting a cab driver who asked officers why cabs could not cross
the Queensboro Bridge in a protest (acquitted by the jury).

• giving summones to people who were celebrating the winter solstice on a beach for trespassing.

• revoking a black religious group's long held sound permits and
threatening them with arrest (settled by the city, who essentially
gave up, paid damages and promised not to do it again).

• refusing to recognize a Latin NY police department group who wanted to march in parades under their own banner (yes, other ethnic groups are allowed – remember the Emerald Society).

• firing a police officer who was publicly critical of the department
after the Amadou Diallo killing.

• trying to evict the Brooklyn Museum from a city building because it
had a show containing a display disrespectful to Catholicism (and
yes, it was offensive – but too bad, we don’t need protection for
speech everyone likes).

Whew! Didn’t he win any?

He did win his sex industry battle, basically zoning adult entertainment stores out of many desirable spots in the city. Municipalities almost always win those fights as long as they leave some room for the strippers and such.

You might agree with the Mayor on some of these cases. And I’m not suggesting there shouldn’t be reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on speech which we all rely on so as to maintain an ordered society, or that there aren’t good reasons to terminate a police officer, etc. I am just saying that America’s Mayor must have set a record concerning one of the most important freedoms for all of us all. Could all of those judges and juries been wild eyed lefty hippies out to destroy civilization?

For me – that’s enough never to vote for this guy unless I was truly convinced he has evolved, but there is so much more. As Mayor Koch pointed out in his book on Giuliani, written before 9/11 happened and he began bowing at Mayor Giuliani’s altar (by the way, I otherwise have a high opinion of Mayor Koch), Giuliani was not content to win a battle; he wanted to destroy his opponents. He was a bully and a “Nasty Man”; hence the title of his book.

Here’s what we can learn from Koch about Giuliani. Some of these may events may ring a bell with you. The fact that Koch now backs Giuliani doesn’t make these things not true, or a real concern:

• While a U.S. prosecutor, Giuliani (RG) had stockbrokers handcuffed in their office and paraded out in front of their co-workers. All charges were eventually dismissed. Many people, including Koch, thought the handcuffing was an unfair publicity stunt (RG told Koch he had nothing to do with it).

• Also while a prosecutor, he had the daughter of a Supreme Court Judge taped by her own emotionally troubled daughter (again, RG, told Koch he told her not to do it, and it happened by accident – yeah, that sounds likely).

• Micromanaging the police department to the point of even deciding who gets detective badges (in other words, good bye merit promotions – either support RG or no advancement).

• Publicly demeaning the school chancellor, Ramon Cortines, because he would not fire people RG did not like. Cortines resigned (Koch predicted that the police chief would be next, and guess what?).

• Attempted to impoverish the Citizens’ Budget Commission, a watchdog group that exist to criticize government for misspending money because it criticized him, as it does every mayor. The City’s budget director who called Trustees of the Commission, all of whom in some way who did business with the city, and urged them not to attend the commission’s fund raising dinner. Ironically, RG defended his assistant on FREE SPEECH GROUNDS. All of a sudden he believes in it. Oh, c’mon. If that wasn’t a blatant attempt to squash free speech by the government, what is?

• Drove away his highly successful police chief, William Bratton, with whom he had to share credit for the falling crime rates (which, by the way, were falling all across the country).

• Stood on the stage of Lincoln Center and demanding that Arafat leave a performance. You probably aren’t a big Arafat fan either. Fine, but he didn’t actually sneak into the country to go to a show. The event was sponsored by the City and the United Nations at the event. Would RG like it if someone did that to Putin or Hu while he was president. I don’t think so. Koch, who is a big Israel supporter and dislikes Arafat, claims to have been terribly embarrassed by RG’s behavior.

• Destroyed the merit system for picking judges. Rudy wanted and got political appointees and even the power to get rid of some of the ones he did not like (which is the way to make sure you get bad, but politically connected judges).

• Fined by the Campaign Finance Board, Giuliani later threatened to cut off the Board’s operational budget.

• Reached down deep into lower level City employees and firing those who he thought did not support his agenda. This type of thing happens all the time and is always reprehensible. Doesn’t make it right for him though.

You’ll have to read Koch’s book if you want more. Throughout the book, Koch acknowledges RG’s administrative abilities and many accomplishments. He was just troubled by his partisanship, bullying, showboating and over the top tactics.

Of course, RG is now a national hero, in the manner we now make heroes out of people who really haven’t done anything heroic (RG did not run up the stairs in the Towers and carry out anyone – in fact, if you saw him on tv that first day, he looked like he was in shock -- not that you can blame him). He was mayor for 9/11, did a good job, tried to be calm and inspirational, channeled Winston Churchill and went to a gazillion funerals. Unfortunately, for some people, that is enough to vote for him for president despite some frightening personal characteristics. You can commend him for his actions and not vote for him.

What people might forget was that once he got a handle on things after the 9/11 tragedy, he tried to push his mayoralty past his elected term, by proposing to stay on three months after the elected mayor’s inauguration. Now that is the Rudy that scares the hell out of me. We switch elected officials even during our worst times, Rudy, just like your hero, Winston Churchill, came in during World War II.

Koch initially had reservations about RG, but endorsed him after RG assured him that the events behind his concerns were false. Koch soon stopped believing that. I guess he believes them again as he seems to think the world of Giuliani now

This has been a pretty negative post. So, if I am shown to have misstated that whirlwind of fact above, I will correct myself here. I will also leave an open mind. If RG can convince me that he is no longer the virulent autocrat who cannot take being bucked, then he might be a fantastic choice. But he would have to say something like – “I was a virulent autocrat and I have changed”. Don’t count on it.

Last thought -- If you find George Bush too partisan or too authoritative (“I’m the decider”) then just wait until Rudy gets into office. You ain’t seen nothing yet. And if he does win, I better blow up this blog.


  1. Too late ! You will be led out in handcuffs and called an enemy of the people.
    There are those who do believe he would be a good president. I believe he would have made a fantastic commisar in Stalin's Soviet Union.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Read his book, Leadership. While I disagree with many of his political views, the events of 9/11 and his prostate cancer have brought fundamental changes to this man. He is not the fascist that ruled NY. If he wins the nomination, I may cross party lines. He has become a true leader, and has gained some compassion through his experience.

  4. By the way, Ramon Cortines sucked,and street vendors should be licensed. Go Rudy!


Your comments are welcome.

About Me

My photo
I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .