The few New Yorkers who already have an eye fixed on next year’s U.S. Senate race can be assured that Rudy Giuliani’s campaign theme-beyond the fact that he actually lives here-will be his record on crime, and how we should vote for the man who took back the city from the Sons of the Son of Sam. There’s a grain of truth in that claim, but law-and-order Rudy is among the most lawless mayors the city has ever had.
Barring Tina Brown’s magazine launch party from the Brooklyn Navy Yard because Hillary Clinton might be the cover girl is nothing more than monumental pettiness. But Mr. Giuliani’s attempt to rip up the City Charter simply to prevent Public Advocate Mark Green from becoming Mayor is a more serious matter. It shows breathtaking arrogance on the Mayor’s part to assume-contrary to the constitutional process-that he can decide who will not be his successor. That’s the function of elections. And, after all, elections are about the only thing separating Rudy’s New York from a banana republic.
The Mayor seems to live by a twisted version of Tip O’Neill’s tired maxim: All politics is personal. Whether threatening to ban Alfonse D’Amato from lobbying city agencies or wasting tax dollars to sue New York magazine for using his image in an advertisement, Mr. Giuliani rules this town with a vengeance. It’s his kick-ass attitude that makes him a formidable mayor, but will his philosophy of government-“My way or the Joe DiMaggio Highway!”-work in the collegial corridors of the U.S. Senate?
Of course not. But that’s no reason not to send him there. Indeed, it’s the very reason why we should send him there.
Every election offers a fleeting glimpse of the man cowering behind the spin doctors of the world. A true glimpse of Bill Clinton came in 1992 when he left New Hampshire to oversee the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a brain-damaged man. That political murder (let’s call it what it was) was an early sign of Mr. Clinton’s cowardice. New Yorkers will soon have our own moment of revelation when Mr. Giuliani visits Little Rock, Ark. The trip, of course, is aimed not at voters in Arkansas, but in New York: “Ah’ve never lived here, ah don’t know anything about the state, but ah’d sure like to be your Senator,” the Mayor cackled to David Letterman in a hayseed drawl reminiscent of Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade .
The audience loved his not-so-subtle gibe at the First Carpetbagger, but it’s tempting to wonder if by going to Little Rock, Mr. Giuliani is whistling past the graveyard. After all, traveling the length of the country to publicly declare-nay, celebrate-one’s ignorance seems an astonishing admission from a man who aspires to Federal office.
This jaunt to Little Rock sounds ridiculous but does raise a valid question about who New Yorkers should choose for their next Federal representative: a woman who knows little about the state (so opts for a Oprah-esque “listening tour”) or a man who boasts of knowing nothing about the rest of the country.
What Rudy does know is New York City, but the five boroughs are far removed from the clubby atmosphere of the Senate, as is the Mayor’s unique method of garnering political support. There’s little question that Mr. Giuliani could win, even though many upstaters probably hold equally negative views of the city and Mrs. Clinton. A more pressing question is whether Rudy should become New York’s junior senator. For the sake of the city, the answer must be a resounding Yes.
Not on merit or principle, I hasten to add, for Mr. Giuliani is quite clearly lacking in both. Put simply, the pros of booting Mr. Giuliani upstairs-picture him playing the role of junior senator to Chuck Schumer-outweigh the cons of keeping him in City Hall.
Sure, the rider may change horses, but the lash will go on. Mr. Giuliani would remain a powerful political figure here. But it seems just to consign our most combative and brawling politician to America’s most deliberative and sedentary body. At least he would wield considerably less power over the lives of New Yorkers than he does now. And if he tries to ring the steps of the Capitol with cops and concrete barriers-as he did with the People’s Pulpit at City Hall-that’s someone else’s problem.
Only when Rudy Giuliani takes his temper tantrums and adversarial attitude to the nation’s capital will we have a city where minorities needn’t worry about arbitrary treatment, where cops do not act as judge, jury and executioner, and where fatuous editors can launch magazines wherever their little hearts desire.
So shout it loud: Rudy for Senate! Nothing personal, Hillary, but we need this more than you.
Terry Golway insists on returning to this space next week.