“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Looking back on 2007, there is perhaps no better way to describe the slow, political unraveling of Rudy Giuliani than to quote Charles Dickens.
Back in February, when Giuliani officially announced he was running for president, things were peachy. Casting himself as both a hero of Sept. 11 and a tough-minded chief executive who tamed New York City (and who also became a hero on 9/11, in case he forgot to mention it), Giuliani quickly cruised to a commanding lead in the national polls. On issue after issue, however, it soon became clear that he was trying to both run on and away from his record in New York.
Take, for example, Giuliani’s impressive record of reducing crime, two centerpieces of which were his:his no-nonsense support of the federal assault weapons ban and his efforts to rid our city of illegal guns. As mayor, he railed against obstructionist gun rights organizations like the National Rifle Association, labeling them “extremists,” and filed lawsuits against a gun industry that he claimed “profits from the suffering of innocent people.” Candidate Giuliani, however, shamelessly panders to this core bloc of Republican primary voters, speaking reverently of the Second Amendment while expressing newfound regret over the city’s ongoing legal battles against gun dealers, a strategy that he himself initiated.
When it comes to fiscal responsibility, again, Giuliani just doesn’t seem like his old self. Yes, he reined in spending and cut taxes at times while mayor, as he now proudly boasts. But he had plenty of tax-and-spend moments as well, though it’s unlikely you’ll hear him discussing his hard-fought, albeit unsuccessful, battle against the largest tax cut in city history — a measure he now brazenly takes credit for — or the fact that, despite all his supposed fiscal restraint, the city still would have faced a $2.8 billion deficit when he left office, even if 9/11 hadn’t happened.
He’s undergone a campaign trail conversion of sorts on immigration, as well. Rudy the Realist, who, while mayor, offered hope to undocumented aliens and lauded them as “some of the hardest working and most productive people in this city,” has been replaced by Round ’Em Up Rudy, who is now quoted as saying he wishes he could have deported all 400,000 illegal immigrants living in New York City.
Likewise, the pro-choice mayor who pushed domestic partnership rights for gay and lesbian couples hardly resembles the artful dodger of today who quietly tiptoes away from these positions with coded language aimed at winning converts among the family values crowd.
Even the mayor’s famously candid and pugnacious personality seems to have been polished and repackaged. After all, the elected official who showed few misgivings about personally insulting constituents on his weekly radio show spent much of a recent appearance on “Meet the Press” trying to laugh — or more accurately, giggle — away serious questions about his consulting firm’s possible ties to terrorist sympathizers and foreign dictators.
As it stands now, Giuliani’s White House prospects have dimmed considerably. His recent, precipitous slide in the polls no doubt was accelerated by his own ghosts of Christmas past — the recent corruption indictment of his former protege and business partner, Bernard Kerik, and the ongoing questions about police security arrangements for his then-girlfriend/mistress (and current wife) Judi Nathan. These are troubling revelations that shouldn’t be shrugged off lightly. But, in the end, what is perhaps even more tragic and alarming isn’t the fact that our former mayor is slow to admit his mistakes in the present, it’s that, more and more, he appears to be haunted by his principles from the past.