In last Wednesday’s National Review Online, Evans & Novak reporter David Freddoso hammers former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani as a man with a mean streak. Freddoso’s piece recalls some of Giuliani’s more colorful moments in office including his once saying, “If you tell me off, I tell you off — that’s my personality.”
Freddoso repeats the often-stated myth that Giuliani was hated by the end of his term, until the September 11 terrorist attack rehabilitated his supposedly tattered reputation and rocketed him to global fame and acclaim. On the contrary, a key survey showed that New Yorkers regarded Giuliani very highly less than a month before al-Qaeda agents demolished the Twin Towers.
An August 5-12, 2001 poll by the New York Times — perhaps Giuliani’s most bitter critic during his eight-year administration — showed that among 1,353 New Yorkers surveyed, Giuliani was very popular and widely credited for having rescued Gotham from the flames in which he found it in 1994. As Adam Nagourney and Marjorie Connelly reported that August 15:
Only 25 percent said they believed that the city would become a worse place to live in the next 10 to 15 years, the lowest percentage since The Times first asked the question 28 years ago. Eight years ago, before Mr. Giuliani was elected, half of city residents were pessimistic about the long-term course of the city.
And 4 in 10 said Mr. Giuliani’s policies had a lot to do with the improvements. Overall, 55 percent said they approved of the job he was doing, compared with 30 percent who disapproved.
So, the man who the conventional wisdom still says would have vanished into a rain of rotten tomatoes had September 11 not occurred, in fact, enjoyed a 55 percent approval rating one month before al-Qaeda struck.
Naturally, The West 43rd Street Gazette entombed news of Giuliani’s popularity in paragraph 30 of Nagourney and Connelley’s story — the very last paragraph.
Freddoso does concede that, “Maybe a hard, mean man was what New York City needed after decades of feel-good, politically correct thinking had made the place unlivable and nearly ungovernable.”
This is one reason why Giuliani is exactly the presidential candidate around whom conservatives and libertarians immediately should coalesce.
While Giuliani differs with many social conservatives on abortion, gay rights, and gun control, the fact is he is positively Reaganite on taxes, spending, public order, quality of life, welfare reform, school choice, racial preferences, privatization, shrinking bureaucracy, Americanization of immigrants, fatherhood, moving foster kids into adoptive families, pulverizing Islamo-fascism, and maintaining peace through strength. Giuliani also says he would appoint federal judges and Supreme Court justices akin to Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, and Sam Alito. Former Solicitor General Ted Olson’s endorsement of Giuliani last week speaks well of the ex-mayor’s judicial temperament.
Beyond being solid on eight or nine of any 10 issues that motivate conservatives and free-marketeers, however, a bit of the “meanness” that Freddoso criticizes is exactly what the next president of the United States should bring to the Oval Office.
Washington Republicans suffer from endemic niceness. Top GOP leaders believe that if they simply smile and work hard not to upset their opponents, everything will be just fine.
For example, President Bush did not press the GOP Senate to hold a vote on retaining John Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Such a roll call, presumably, would have rendered Bolton’s archenemy Chris Dodd (D.-Conn.) uncomfortable. So, the speeches were not given, the troops were not rallied, and the yeas and nays were not tallied. Republicans stuck their tails between their legs and scurried away yet again as poor John Bolton quietly resigned with nary a peep from the White House. Invertebrate former Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) adjourned the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body for the rest of the year last December 7 so senators could go Christmas shopping.
How nice. How sweet. How pathetic.
President Giuliani would have made senators stick around to vote on Bolton, and likely much more of his agenda. (Why not harness congressional majorities when you have them?) Giuliani would have stood by Bolton, spoken on his behalf, and stirred the GOP base to call, write, and demonstrate on the ambassador’s behalf.
“Do Senate Democrats want to help keep America safe from Iranian and North Korean nukes, or not?” Giuliani might have asked bluntly before news cameras. “I want a yes/no vote on John Bolton by Friday so he can get back to work. Any questions?”
Giuliani and Bolton might have won that vote, or they might have lost. But everyone on the Right could have held our heads high and proudly said that we all did what we could do to keep John Bolton on duty. And if that effort made Chris Dodd late for lunch, well too damn bad.
Similarly, President Bush showed extreme niceness when he held a meeting just before the Senate switched from Republican to Democratic control, thanks to Vermont U.S. Senator James Jeffords’ defection from the GOP to independent status. The day before Trent Lott handed the Senate keys to then-minority leader Tom Daschle (D.-S.D.), Bush discussed education with various senators. To his left in the Cabinet Room sat Ted Kennedy (D.- Mass.) and, one seat over, none other than Jeffords himself.
That sent a clear signal around Washington: Go ahead and sabotage this president in public, and he will invite you to the White House for a photo opportunity.
President Giuliani might have told Jeffords not to bother dropping by the White House until the next administration. Even if Giuliani needed Jeffords’ vote on certain matters, he would have been wise and tough enough to handle him by phone, rather than to telegraph spectacular weakness by posing for photos with him after he torpedoed his own party’s control of the United States Senate.
Finally, the Bush Administration has been as stern as a box of puppies when it comes to prosecuting people for mishandling and leaking classified data, much of it vital to preventing America from suffering another deadly terrorist attack.
Sandy Berger, President Clinton’s national security advisor, notoriously stole classified documents related to Clinton-era efforts to neutralize (or not neutralize) Osama bin Laden. Berger stuffed those papers into his socks during the 9-11 Commission’s deliberations, hid them under a construction trailer across the street from the National Archives, retrieved them later on, then shredded them at home with scissors. Berger, a career foreign-policy professional, knew very well that this was no way to treat classified materials.
Berger was fined $50,000, sentenced to 100 hours of community service, and denied his security clearance — for three years.
How could Attorney General Alberto Gonzales allow such a cushy plea deal? Why didn’t he thrown Berger behind bars for a year or two? Well, that would be mean, and who wants that?
Similarly, The New York Times’ revelation of America’s SWIFT anti-terrorist-financing program gave this country’s sworn enemies a blueprint of how the U.S. tracks their money. To date, no one has been prosecuted for leaking or publishing this life-and-death information. Nor has the Times suffered any consequences for this act of treason. At a minimum, this unpatriotic rag’s correspondents should have been booted from the White House grounds and Air Force One for 30 days. They could have practiced their First Amendment press freedoms from the comfort of the Times’ Washington bureau, where C-Span and AP wire copy likely are available.
Tough? You bet. Mean? Not if it discourages the Times and other media outlets from making it easier for al-Qaeda to murder Americans and our allies.
The Bush Administration and the GOP congressional minority, in all their niceness, now find themselves foundering amid low approval ratings and an utterly demoralized political base. Beyond his broad smile, President Giuliani would employ his spine and an occasional snarl to make his administration worthy of conservatives’ pride.