(Another in a series of columns about potential GOP presidential candidates for 2012.)
America has suffered yet another terrorist attack on the Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day in Detroit. The only thing that did not happen was the final detonation. And in light of these continuing failures, we must have strong new leadership in the White House in 2012.
Now former New York City mayor and 2008 Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani has announced that he will not run in 2010 for either the US Senate seat from New York state or for the governorship of New York state.
This means one of two things: Either Giuliani is permanently withdrawing from public life at age 65. Or he is “clearing his calendar” for a 2012 presidential bid.
If indeed Giuliani is planning to run for the White House, he joins former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee as 2008 contenders who appear to be preparing to run again.
Giuliani was raised in New York City. He graduated from Manhattan College in The Bronx (part of the city) and from New York University School of Law in 1968. A Democrat and then Independent, he switched to the Republican party after the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, calling Democrat policies “naïve”.
In 1981, Giuliani was named associate attorney general in the Reagan administration. In 1983, he was appointed US attorney for the southern district of New York where his prosecutions resulted in the convictions of corrupt Wall Street figures, organized crime bosses, drug dealers and crooked government officials. He amassed a record of 4,152 convictions and only 25 reversals.
He has his own personal model for a ‘second chance’ campaign for the White House. Giuliani himself was defeated in 1989 in his first bid for the New York mayoralty, running as a candidate of change, the first Republican since John Lindsay in the 1960s to be seriously considered for mayor.
During televised debates with opponent David Dinkins in 1989, Giuliani was blunt. “I’m the reformer” he said, adding that “If we keep going merrily along, this city’s going down,” and that electing Dinkins would represent “more of the same, more of the rotten politics that have been dragging us down”.
In a 1993 rematch, Giuliani defeated Dinkins by about the same margin as the city spiraled out of control and voters looked to a strong and confident leader. Two of the four city newspapers endorsed Giuliani in 1993, compared to one paper in 1989. By his 1997 re-election bid, however, all four papers endorsed Giuliani and he won with 59% of the vote.
In his 8-year tenure, ‘conservative’ Giuliani performed what could be called miracles on an ultra-liberal city that many said was ungovernable, and established his reputation as a no-nonsense leader with conviction and spine. His crime-deterring strategy was based on what is called the ‘broken windows’ approach, which says that crime starts with small things like broken windows and then expands. So Giuliani began cracking down on minor offenses such as graffiti and marijuana possession, and getting really tough on criminals at all levels. He also began employing computer programs to track crime in the city. Some New Yorkers attacked him for being too tough, but after decades in which criminals had had the upper hand, his approach was welcomed by most.
This sounds like our current war with terrorists. We need to get tough or suffer the consequences. Rudy will be tough. Guaranteed.
Then by continuing to prosecute union and government corruption, he took hold of the city’s finances and turned them to the better. And ultimately he was seen as The Mayor Who Saved New York.
Near the end of his second term, Giuliani dropped out of a 2000 race with Hillary Clinton for the New York state US Senate seat after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
By September 11, 2001, with only four months left in his second term, Giuliani managed to rebound from several years of bad press over his personal life and some of his tactics as mayor. In the wake of the terrorist attacks, he came to be known as America’s Mayor for his brave stance following the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.
After the attacks, he comforted the shocked city. “Tomorrow New York is going to be here. And we’re going to rebuild, and we’re going to be stronger than we were before… I want the people of New York to be an example to the rest of the country, and the rest of the world, that terrorism can’t stop us,” he said.
His boldness appealed to New Yorkers and to all Americans. When a Saudi prince suggested that the attacks were a result of arrogant American policies Giuliani asserted, “There is no moral equivalent for this act. There is no justification for it… And one of the reasons I think this happened is because people were engaged in moral equivalency in not understanding the difference between liberal democracies like the United States, like Israel, and terrorist states and those who condone terrorism. So I think not only are those statements wrong, they’re part of the problem.” This was the type of candid language that showed Giuliani for the tough leader that he was.
His popularity more than doubled to 79%, and Time magazine named him Person of the Year for 2001. In the ensuing years, he became one of the best-known political figure in America. Since his mayoralty, Giuliani has worked in the private sector as an international security consultant and lawyer.
In the run-up to the 2008 GOP presidential contest Giuliani was was perceived as the clear front-runner who surged even more after the collapse of the candidacy of the eventual nominee John McCain in summer 2007. But by January 2008, McCain had rebounded and Giuliani showed poorly in primaries in New Hampshire and Florida and quit the campaign.
In a potential 2012 presidential bid, Giuliani now may be seeing America in the same circumstances as New York was in 1993, and choose to run as a reformer to bring the nation back from the brink of fiscal disaster. And his tough stance on terrorism and national security certainly will appeal to millions who are frightened by Obama’s pre-9/11 mindset including the trial for charged terror mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City – which Giuliani strongly opposes – Obama’s seeming lack of concern over the Fort Hood massacre; and the possible transfer of Guantanamo terror detainees to Illinois.
And while conservatives may oppose Giuliani’s social liberalism or his disastrous personal life (he’s been married three times), they may be willing to vote for him based on his past record as an economic reformer. And based on guarantees from Giuliani that he will appoint conservative judges. Otherwise conservatives probably will hesitate to support him.
Giuliani is the first New York mayor to have received so much national recognition, which must be galling to all the liberal mayors in a very liberal city. Because everyone knows that Rudy would make a very good president if he chooses to pursue that goal.
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