I am not defending Rudy, the presidential candidate. Almost no one who has lived in New York wants Rudy anywhere near the nuclear football, nor would we like to see his strongly authoritarian instincts (however much they arguably may have done for New York’s policing) unleashed on the federal justice system. Rudy is craaaaaaaaazy, albeit not in a way that made him a particularly bad mayor.
This is, I think, true. The American people should spend some time considering the fact that a large number of people who voted for Rudy Giuliani as mayor and who then voted for his designated successor have no desire whatsoever to see him in the White House. Part of it is just that being crazy seemed “in character” for New York. It’s a town full of crazy people. There was a sort of “that’s our Rudy” mentality about it — what a crazy character! — after all, Ed Koch was crazy, too, and David Dinkins was just boring. It’s a point of pride. Everyone loves the proverbial ranting and raving cab driver. One doesn’t, however, necessarily want to see him running the country.
The crux of the matter is that the mayor of a city has way, way, way less power than the president. When Giuliani cooked up his nutty scheme to use 9/11 as a pretext to cancel an election, suspend the rule of law, and extend his term in office, all that happened was . . . none of that happened, since he was just the mayor. By contrast, as we’ve been learning lately, it’s really hard to stop the President of the United States from ordering that people be indefinitely detained and tortured in secret on the basis of God-only-knows what evidence. The damage that these aspects to Giuliani’s approach could do as mayor were rather limited, but as a potential president it’s a whole different can of worms.