Giuliani Attacks The Wrong Policy

Our guest blogger is Robert Gordon, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

giulianimccain.jpgFormer New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is now placing robocalls attacking Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) on the grounds that Obama “opposes mandatory minimum sentences.” If Giuliani took his own record in New York seriously, he would be attacking Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for McCain’s record of fighting funding to put police officers on the street.

Giuliani has always taken credit for his leadership of New York City during a massive crime drop. And the truth is, he deserves some credit—but not for mandatory minimums. New York’s famous mandatory minimums, the Rockefeller drug laws, date back to 1973.

More important, it’s hard to credit those laws with causing a crime drop two decades later. Other cities, with laws just as tough, didn’t see the crime reductions of New York in the Nineties. Since Giuliani left office, crime has dropped even further, even though the Rockefeller laws were softened. That, by the way, was thanks to Republican George Pataki. These days, the willingness to cut back on mandatory minimums extends to still other softies, like Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

As discussed here, and developed in more detail here, two far more important reasons that crime dropped so fast under Giuliani were that (a) the police force in NYC grew twice as quickly as in other big cities, and (b) Giuliani deployed those cops in a smarter fashion. Unfortunately, McCain voted to kill the Clinton program that helped pay for Giuliani’s expansion of the police. And, while that program has since helped other departments to adopt New York’s smart policing tactics, McCain has opposed those efforts too.

Not that these calls are really about policy.