The Wannabes: Giuliani and Pataki

The first-ever Republican convention in New York was supposed to be a showcase for a pair of New Yorkers who are said to have national ambitions: former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and three-term Governor George Pataki. Both were given key assignments-Mr. Giuliani gave a tone-setting first-night address, while Mr. Pataki had the honor of introducing President George W. Bush on the convention’s climactic evening.

Many commentators have declared that both men took full advantage of the opportunity offered them, with Mr. Giuliani getting the edge over Mr. Pataki, apparently because pundits believe chest-thumping exploitation is preferable to bland rambling. Perhaps it is. But lost, unaccountably, in all of this was Senator John McCain’s eloquent, thoughtful and-most of all-civil speech on Day 1 of the convention. For our money, the Arizona Senator acquitted himself extremely well in showing that it is possible to be partisan without being nutty, passionate without being crude, and patriotic without being arrogant.

It took no small bit of courage for Senator McCain to point out that defeating our enemies will require the constancy and fortitude of all Americans-not just Republicans. Many other speakers seemed to argue otherwise, that only a Republican can be trusted with our safety. Indeed, that was the implicit message of one of Mr. Giuliani’s many exploitative 9/11 anecdotes. He told the nation that at some point on that terrible day, he turned to then–Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and said, “Thank God George Bush is our President.” This suspiciously self-serving story tells us something about Mr. Giuliani, not Mr. Bush. Did he really believe, as the horror unfolded in front of him, that only George W. Bush would know how to respond? And if he really did utter these curious sentiments, what evidence would have led him to such a conclusion-Mr. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard? We just don’t believe those lines. Does Mr. Giuliani really think that only Mr. Bush-and not, say, Al Gore-would have gone after the perpetrators of this atrocity? What drivel. Likewise Mr. Giuliani’s implicit likening of Mr. Bush to Winston Churchill, a man who saw the evil of Nazism long before his colleagues. What warnings did George W. Bush deliver about militant Islam before Sept. 11? Unfortunately, Mr. Giuliani came across more as stand-up comic than statesman.

As for Mr. Pataki, his speech was thankfully devoid of Mr. Giuliani’s bluster and lame attempts at wit. Unfortunately, it also was devoid of anything resembling content. It was a collection of mind-dulling platitudes, most of them about Sept. 11-it was shameful to see the leaders of a wounded city so willing to exploit their constituents’ sorrow. The Governor has made a virtue out of being bland. But what works in Albany clearly does not work on the national stage.

Senator McCain, by contrast, served himself, his party and his country by reaching out beyond mere partisan politics to point out that we are all in this together, that we are engaged in a conflict we’d rather avoid, but simply can’t. The Senator did not exploit tragedy, and did not suggest that his partisan opponents were somehow unpatriotic and/or incapable of defending the nation’s interests.

He made his point: that he believes George W. Bush is the right man for the job. In doing so, however, he did not belittle those who might disagree.

As Rudy Giuliani might say, thank God for John McCain.

Conrad Black: Where Are The Criminal Indictments?

When Lord Conrad Black published his gassy, pretentious, 1,280-page biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt last year, he probably never guessed that he himself would soon be the subject of a far more readable tome, one coming in at a mere 513 pages but not lacking for high drama. A special committee of new board members of Hollinger International, the newspaper conglomerate from which Lord Black resigned as chief executive last fall, has issued an internal report accusing the blustering press lord and his sidekick, former Hollinger president F. David Radler, of presiding over a “corporate kleptocracy” in which the two men looted the company of $400 million-or 95 percent of the company’s net income-between 1996 and 2003.

The report, prepared by former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Richard C. Breeden and part of a shareholder lawsuit seeking to recover $1.25 billion from Lord Black and others, notes: “At Hollinger, Black as both C.E.O. and controlling shareholder, together with his associates, created an entity in which ethical corruption was a defining characteristic of the leadership team.” In addition, “Behind a constant stream of bombast regarding their accomplishments as self-described ‘proprietors,’ Black and Radler made it their business to line their pockets at the expense of Hollinger almost every day, in almost every way they could devise.” The report also concludes that Hollinger’s chichi board-which included Henry Kissinger and right-wing former Pentagon advisor Richard Perle-“functioned more like a social club” and was largely “ineffective and careless” when it came to stopping Lord Black’s sleazy doings. Mr. Perle, who also ran Hollinger’s Internet subsidiary, receives special mention for having allegedly scooped up $5 million in questionable fees. Now Mr. Perle is claiming that he, too, was duped by Lord Black, his former pal, who, we now learn, regarded him with disdain. In e-mails to top Hollinger executives, Lord Black wrote that he was “well-aware of what a trimmer and a sharper Richard is at times.” But who’s the trimmer and the sharper? Lord Black makes Mr. Perle look like a neophyte in the trimming and sharping department.

The new report will likely be read with great interest over at the S.E.C. and the U.S. Attorney’s office, both of which are conducting investigations into Lord Black’s previously reported shenanigans. The report casts new light on Lord Black’s Hollinger-financed shopping spree: $23 million spent on leasing planes “indiscriminately” to fly Lord Black and his wife, Barbara Amiel Black, to their various homes; $3 million to buy the couple a co-op on Park Avenue; $90,000 to spruce up Lord Black’s Rolls-Royce; $42,870 for a birthday party at La Grenouille for Lady Black; $28,480 for three dinners for Henry and Nancy Kissinger. And then there’s the $1.1 million salary which Lady Black collected for doing, well, nothing.

The Blacks also used company cash in an attempt to grease their way into New York’s charity world. Lord Black dipped into Hollinger’s coffers to pledge $283,000 to the Metropolitan Opera; $100,000 to the New York Public Library; $40,000 to the Museum of Modern Art; $15,000 to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Benefit; and $20,000 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation Gala. All worthy causes, yet Hollinger received scant credit; instead, Lord and Lady Black reaped the attention, as a plaque honoring them went up at the Metropolitan Opera and the Public Library asked them to serve as chairman and chairwoman of a Literary Lions dinner. Similar shameless striving is what brought Lord Black his dubious British peerage: After buying London’s Daily Telegraph , he became a member of the House of Lords. New Yorkers can be grateful that Lord and Lady Black’s ascendancy on this side of the pond has been effectively squelched by the steady stream of unsavory revelations.

When it comes to Conrad Black, we have only one question: Where are the criminal indictments?