Rudy Giuliani: The Quintessential Control Freak
After eight years as one of the most formidable and successful Mayors New York City has ever known, Rudolph Giuliani is still incapable of overcoming a quirk in his character that leads him, time and again, to cast a shadow over his own achievements. After accomplishing something remarkable-such as guiding the city through Sept. 11 and its aftermath-Mr. Giuliani inevitably does something loopy and incomprehensible that makes city residents scratch their heads. The latest eruption of Mr. Giuliani’s particular madness occurred during his last week in office when, rather than turn over the mountain of Mayoral papers and artifacts from the past eight years to the Municipal Archives (as Mayors before him have done), he quietly made arrangements to place them with a private nonprofit group controlled by … Rudy Giuliani. Talk about a cheap ending: Not content with worldwide acclaim, Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” overreaches and decides that he alone must control what materials historians will have access to when they start sifting the history of New York circa 1993–2001.
What is striking here is just how petty Mr. Giuliani can be. Just as when he chose to announce his separation in public without informing his wife, or when he cut a secret, last-minute stadium deal with the Mets and Yankees, Mr. Giuliani creates elaborate, silly schemes that do nothing to enhance his stature or the well-being of the city. He is tone-deaf to how his impulsive, foolish acts undermine his extraordinary legacy.
While Mayors prior to Mr. Giuliani have placed some of their personal papers out of public view, none has claimed control over the thousands of documents, photographs and artifacts that are generated during a Mayor’s time in City Hall. Indeed, these items remain city property, yet Mr. Giuliani managed to cut a deal-approved by Mayor Michael Bloomberg-which will let him decide who gets to see what, with access to the materials to be controlled by something he calls the Rudolph W. Giuliani Center for Urban Affairs. If Mr. Giuliani does not wish to make certain documents available, historians, journalists and the general public will have to go through the lengthy process of filing a request under the Freedom of Information Act. Historians, aware of the Giuliani administration’s record of trying to keep even routine information from the public eye, predict a whitewashing of history. It’s bad for the city to have the record of such a crucial time subject to the whims of any one person, particularly an ex-Mayor who has shown himself impatient with versions of reality that differ from his own.
Someone needs to remind Mr. Giuliani that he is no longer Mayor. As a manager in the private sector, he will soon discover that he won’t get away with such impetuous, clumsy gestures. He’ll be a disaster in private commerce, and his new consulting firm will find itself with few clients, if he continues to shoot himself in the foot with such stunning regularity.
Mr. Giuliani should be satisfied with eight remarkable years as Mayor of the world’s greatest city. Let history take care of itself.
Summit in the City Usually they meet in Davos, Switzerland, but this year the world’s leading government finance ministers, corporate executives and big-shot economists are taking over the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for their annual summit meeting. The World Economic Forum was moved to New York after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as a sign of solidarity with the city. It is a welcome gesture.
It is also a sure sign of New York’s inevitable resurgence. The city remains an extraordinary place to do business-some might argue it’s the only place to do business, even after Sept. 11. As attendees no doubt know, world economic summits these days are not without controversy, with near riots breaking out in Seattle and Quebec. Who better than the New York Police Department to keep matters orderly and lawful? It’s reassuring, with 2,700 V.I.P.’s in town during a time of international turmoil, to have a police commissioner like Ray Kelly at the helm of the NYPD. Mr. Kelly, a former Marine, not only is tough and smart, but he has wisely appointed two deputy commissioners to help him in the battle against terrorism. The gathering will be his first test in this new world of counterterrorism, and we’re confident that he and his officers will handle whatever the demonstrators and street anarchists throw their way. As one department official commented, “The citizens of this city have been through a lot in the last five months. We will not tolerate anyone breaking the law. If they do so, they will be dealt with swiftly and firmly.” This week will be a test for Michael Bloomberg, too. The Mayor has set the proper tone by saying that dissent is fine, but civil disobedience and unlawful behavior will be nipped in the bud.
The city remains the world’s center of commerce and finance. After this year, the event’s organizers will perhaps recognize that New York is, in fact, a much more appropriate site for a World Economic Forum than a ski slope in Davos.
The Not-So-Super Bowl
Not with a bang but a whimper? There is something anemic about this coming Sunday’s Super Bowl game between the New England Patriots and the St. Louis Rams. The kickoff in New Orleans will lack that certain spark that comes when a charismatic team with a storied history takes the field. Of course, sports writers have done their plucky best to create some drama: Will the Patriots start Tom Brady or Drew Bledsoe as quarterback? And the New York tabloids are trying their mightiest to turn the underdog Patriots into a quasi– New York team, based on the fact that Patriots coach Bill Belichick is a former defensive coordinator for the New York Giants, a former assistant coach for the New York Jets, and was heir-apparent as coach of the Jets when Bill Parcells left the team in 2000. But Mr. Belichick quit that job after one day.
This was not the season for New York’s teams. The Giants, who lost in last year’s Super Bowl to the Baltimore Ravens, had a terrible year. The Jets created some excitement but were eliminated in the playoffs. Neither the Patriots nor the Rams are teams to inspire edge-of-the-couch moments. The Rams are a sleek, modern team that is the antithesis of New York–style football: They play in a dome, on artificial turf, with middle-of-the-road emotion. The Patriots are a grittier, more gratifying bunch, but let’s face it: Neither contender will supply the charge that teams such as the Jets or Giants-or, say, the Dallas Cowboys or Miami Dolphins or Oakland Raiders-carry with them into the stadium.
Of course, even if the New York teams had prevailed and were facing each other this weekend, one must remember that they both play in New Jersey. And just how excited could one get over a Turnpike Bowl?