Once Upon a Time There Was a Nice Rudy

Like any of us who struggle for self-esteem, the Mayor might be pleased to hear how enthralling many readers found his youthful commentary on carpetbaggers, excerpted recently in this space from a column he wrote for the Manhattan College newspaper in 1964. He might be even more pleased to learn that the researcher who found that moldering column brought back a few more samples from the morgue of the Manhattan Quadrangle .

Then again, he might not be thrilled to see his old essays excavated for public review. The opinions that once appeared under the byline of Rudy Giuliani on matters of politics and public policy have evolved quite perceptibly. His emphatic endorsement of Robert Kennedy’s carpetbagging (which he regarded as a boon to New York State) is not the only notion he has revised substantially since then.

Of course it would be “ridiculous,” as Mr. Giuliani himself might say, to hold him accountable for the ideas he expressed 35 years ago-at least as unfair as mocking Hillary Rodham Clinton for her long-forgotten student radicalism of the same era. And yet some of what he wrote back then resonates today.

In a bitter assault on Sen. Kenneth Keating, for instance, Mr. Giuliani denounced the Republican incumbent’s efforts to frighten Jewish voters into rejecting Kennedy: “If one could add up all the times Sen. Keating has either mentioned … his love for Israel, or the many bar mitzvahs he has attended, it would outweigh all the other things or issues he has raised throughout this campaign. Sen. Keating is desperately trying to patronize the Jewish people … Certainly, all of us have a stake in the protection of our firmest ally in the Middle East, but we do not go around wearing an ‘I Love Israel’ button. Let us hope the Jewish people, who have always been noted for their good common sense and their civic dedication, can see through this sham.”

(This high-minded perspective on ethnic and religious pandering has been inoperative for about a decade. The Mayor’s own foreign policy is well to the Zionist right of the incoming government of Israel. His favorite button is one that says “I Love Israel More Than You Do.”)

The young Rudy had little sympathy for the extremists who took over the Republican Party in 1964 with the nomination of Barry Goldwater, whom he considered a right-wing “patsy,” a sycophant of the John Birch Society and “an incompetent, confused and sometimes idiotic man.” After the election, the Quadrangle analyst continued to roast “the Goldwater people … [who] succeeded in inflicting a tremendous defeat on the Republican Party. Now, these same people who have come very close to destroying the party founded in 1854 seem to think they have some right to hold onto the leadership of the Republican Party.”

(Those silly Goldwater people did more than hold on. Rudy liked them better after they captured the White House with Ronald Reagan, and suddenly had jobs to fill in the Justice Department.)

He didn’t have much sympathy for conservatism in any form. In fact, he personally doubted that the American electorate would ever accept the “so-called ‘conservative’ philosophy of government,” with all its “erratic” and potentially “dangerous” prescriptions.

(Perhaps next year he will tell the inspiring story of his own rightward odyssey, as he tries to convince Republicans and Conservatives that he should be their Senator. Conservative Party leaders may pose hard questions, however, about all the city patronage he has provided to the Liberal Party-a matter that tends to concern them more than mere ideology.)

He gave astringent advice to the vanquished Republicans, whom he felt must “adequately address themselves to the problems of discrimination, of poverty, of education, of public housing and the many more problems that Senator Goldwater and Company throw aside in the name of small laissez-faire government … Strong, large government is necessary to deal with industries that are national and international and with problems that cities and states have ignored …”

(Notice that he embraced “large” rather than “big” government. Perhaps he was just a premature New Democrat.)

He mocked the complaints of the Goldwaterites about the “misinterpretation” of their candidate’s position on race by the “Eastern Establishment Pinko Com-symp Press,” notorious for being “bleeding hearts and do-gooders in the area of civil rights.”

(In those days, when excessive police violence made headlines mostly in the Deep South, he still admired civil rights activists and crusading journalists. This was long before he encountered the Rev. Al Sharpton and the New York Civil Liberties Union’s Norman Siegel-not to mention those bleeding hearts in City Hall’s press room.)

His early idealism about proper political conduct remains quite touching. Of Keating’s harsh attacks on Kennedy’s character, Rudy Giuliani wrote: “Personality attacks have no place in an election unless they can be documented. Any candidate using such a base tactic only proves his own inadequacy to serve in the position he desires.”

(What a nice young man.) Once Upon a Time There Was a Nice Rudy