You Say “Mean,” I Say “Kinda Crazy”

I asked yesterday what Rudy Giuliani’s awesome national security credentials were supposed to be, and people replied that he seems mean and therefore tough and therefore good. Jonathan Alter makes an important point about this (via K-Drum): As any actual New Yorker should recall, Giuliani’s kind of crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I thought he was a pretty good mayor! I was too young (16, I think) to vote to re-elect Giuliani in 1997, but I’m exactly the sort of liberal New Yorker who he won over during his first term to be able to sweep to a crushing re-election victory.

It’s worth recalling, though, that in his second term he basically went berserk. He’d always had “His ridiculously thin skin and mile-wide mean streak” but in his second term that came to dominate everything. There were two basic directions in which it would have been reasonable to take that term. He could have tried to apply the hard-charging zeal he’d brought to reforming police procedures to some other significant area of urban policy. Alternatively, he could have focused on keeping his policies in place while trying to heal some of the wounds that implementing them caused. Michael Bloomberg has basically managed to do both. Giuliani, in essence, did neither. Instead, he picked a series of bitter-yet-pointless fights that served to reveal both a basic vindictiveness and a fundamental lack of interest in policies outside the realm of law enforcement.

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These are not characteristics which, when combined with the gross opportunism we’re now seeing on various cultural issues, are desirable in a president. Also recall his post-9/11 efforts to suspend the City Charter and extend his term in office, adding a dose of power-hunger into the mix.