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Rudy: Management Genius

By Matthew Yglesias on March 6, 2007 at 12:15 pm

"Rudy: Management Genius"

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Rich Lowry says Rudy Giuliani has what it takes to be the antidote to George W. Bush’s incompetence:

Giuliani’s axioms of governance, described in his book “Leadership,” now read as a kind of rebuttal to Bush’s hands-off management style. One of his rules is “Always Sweat the Small Stuff.” Another is “Prepare Relentlessly.” He delivered annual 90-minute State of the City addresses without a prepared text: “I presented it from my own head and heart, not from a page.” And “Everyone’s Accountable, All of the Time.” Giuliani kept a two-word sign on his desk: “I’M RESPONSIBLE.”

Famously the first CEO president, Bush has had his reputation as an executive trashed by Katrina and Iraq. Bush had seen his role primarily as setting goals, then remaining resolute and confident about them. But the resolution and confidence are self-defeating if the goals aren’t matched with the appropriate means. Bush has been ill-served by his willingness to stand by failed subordinates (thereby eroding any sense of accountability), by his relative lack of interest in details and by his inability to establish coherence within his own government.

Frankly, I think this is crap.


Cashing in on post-9/11 popularity with a business/self-help book on “leadership” offering the same pearls of wisdom you could get from a popular retired NFL coach or, for that matter, a high school basketball coach is not the same as management expertise. Specifically, when it came to municipal management, the signal quality of the Giuliani administration was tunnel vision. He came into office deciding that what he cared about was reducing the crime rate and security credit for reducing the crime rate. He pursued both goals zealously, and achieved them both. On the education front, what he wanted to do was avoid being held responsible for NYC school performance — he pursued that goal zealously. When he didn’t care about something — like, say, improving school performance — he didn’t do anything about it.

This produced okay results as mayor. The crime problem when Giuliani took office was really bad. Things got much better under his tenure. The fall in crime improved other aspects of city life. Giuliani got tons of credit for it and cruised to re-election. At the same time, it was a self-limiting process and by the end of his second term all he was doing was picking pointless fights and aggravating people, not moving on to tackle new problems. Low-profile things like, say, disaster response were horribly mismanaged, just like Bush with Katrina. Corrupt toadies like Bernard Kerik did very well. Absolute loyalty was the key qualification for top aides.

Again, it all comes back to the same thing: the case for Giuliani rests entirely on some good post-9/11 speeches and on the theory that he deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the unusually large crime drop NYC experienced in the 1990s. The first is plainly irrelevant. The second might be relevant if Giuliani were running for mayor of a large city with a major crime problem (Washington, DC, say) but has nothing to do with being president. His term as mayor, meanwhile, strongly suggests to me that he’s not really up to the job. He’s primarily a glory-chaser and a spotlight hog, which are absurd qualities for a president to have since, unless a US Attorney or a mayor, the president is constantly in the spotlight no matter what he does. I think he’d be clueless in an office where attention-grabbing publicity stunts are pointless.

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