What has happened to Rudy? I think I saw him run through Iowa and New Hampshire, supposedly on the way to Florida. Giuliani has decided to play the big state strategy. Instead of wasting time and resources in small states that will never buy his brand of candidacy, he has decided to go for broke in February and to use Florida as his bellwether. It makes some sense, but it has eliminated him from consideration in the media for the last three weeks. It is hard for a candidate who is on the record in favor of abortion, has divorced twice, supports gay unions, was once in the forefront of gun control efforts, and once called immigration the greatest boon to American life, to fire up the base. That agenda is not exactly a winning prescription for a Republican candidate for president.
But there are other problems with Rudy. He likes to call himself “America’s mayor” — a reference to his days after 9-11 when he epitomized to Americans the very grit and courage of New Yorkers, and by implication, of this nation. Yet, his biggest critics are the first line defenders of NYC — the police, the fire persons, the EMTs. Some of the unions have even gone on the offensive talking to voters and to their own fellow uniformed people outside the city about what they see as his awful record as mayor and how the city should have been better prepared before 9-11. The criticisms are a real problem for him, for he has postured himself as a Churchillian figure during one of the most gruesome moments in U.S. history.
His star has also sunk with the revelations of accusations against his former police commissioner, Bernie Kerik, who was indicted on 16 counts of fraud, tax evasion, and making false statements. Rudy later recommended him for the post of head of Homeland Security until people began to unearth his past. Even President Bush was taken back that Giuliani has recommended a man with such problems. Everybody looked bad.
He made a similar misjudgment when he appointed Russell Harding to head the New York City Development Corporation. Russell, the son of a powerful Liberal Party leader in the city, had no experience and limited education. He embezzled more than $400,000 from the agency and was sentenced to five years in federal prison.
As he was AWOL from the first two, actually three primaries, he is being less and less talked about. The big state strategy makes sense on paper, but as Hillary has shown one has to slug it out early even if one can count on the bigger states later. Giuliani in South Carolina seemed a bit out of what was happening.
When the question came up about his leadership and how he could lead this nation in peril, he seemed a bit taken back falling on generalities instead stirring us with words ready to go into battle. He had better re-read Winston Churchill’s speeches. The latter never made that mistake.
Michael P. Riccards is Executive Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey.