John Bourke: Rudy Giuliani - the halo removed

Time (if you pardon the pun) has a way of clouding the memory so they say and with his latest accolade as Time magazine's Man of the Year, now might be an appropriate time to remind the public (or possible even enlighten those who may never have even known anyway) about the other side to Rudy Guiliani - the one that is not quite so alluring, the one that many people seem to have forgotten in the midst of the embarrassing current love-fest for the man.

Seemingly overlooked here has been the overriding reputation that Guiliani has for being one of the most intolerant and insensitive people around. His capacity for at times brutal character assassination of those whose opinions he cannot abide is legendary in New York City and unparalleled in many ways. Former mayor, Ed Koch once described him as the sort of person who "probably enjoyed pulling wings off flies when he was a child".

Two of his most prominent victims in this regard were NYC School's Chancellors Ramon Cortines and Rudy Crew, both of whom he basically drove out of office just because he did not agree with their approach to things. Indeed, interestingly enough, the critical key issue of education became a major hallmark of failure with the system in the city witnessing almost no improvement at all during both Guiliani's terms of office as mayor.

Then there was Police Commissioner, William Bratton. Despite his success in securing significant reductions in crime, Guiliani drove him out of office too disliking his growing popular, profile.

Little surprise then that he went on to both embarrass himself and the entire city with the humiliating spectacle in 1995 of having Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ejected from the Lincoln Center in Manhattan on a visit to the US on the grounds he was a terrorist. So appalled was then Clinton administration that they publicly criticized him for it. As ever, of course, Guiliani was completely unrepentant, simply dismissing the man as a terrorist whilst evidently unaware of the fact that has had been democratically elected as the head of his people some 6 years earlier.

So certain was he of being right about everything that he could not even agree with his own Republican Party with the result that remarkably he endorsed opposition Democratic candidate, Mario Cuomo in the election for Governor of the state in 1994. Cuomo lost and Republican candidate, George Pataki won making Giuliani look ridiculous once again.

1999 saw him displaying his intolerance yet again with his attempts to remove funding for the Brooklyn Museum of Art simply because, in reality, he just did not like what they were exhibiting.

Perhaps, Rudy Guiliani's most well known display of his legendary insensitivity came with the issue of race relations in NYC between the NYPD and the Black community. The killing of Amadou Diallo in 1999 in a hail of 41 bullets from plain-clothes police officers when it was subsequently discovered that he was unarmed and had committed no crime of any sort was a classic example. Guiliani was seen to side with the cops while seemingly showing little, if any remorse or understanding for the feelings of the minority community who clearly felt persecuted and alienated.

This impression was then further reinforced with his apparent character assassination the following year in 2000 of another unarmed Black victim of a fatal police shooting, Patrick Dorismond.

It became clear at this point that Guiliani's approach to the Black community in the city was largely based around the attitude that they essentially just did not matter that much as they would never vote for him anyway.

Even in his closing years, his attempts to contest the then vacant seat for Senator ran aground because of him contracting prostate Cancer. In reality, however, many pundits have also attributed his withdrawal from the election race to his much publicized affair with Judith Nathan which went on publicly and remorselessly whilst at the same time living in the mayor's mansion house with his wife and children.

In the midst of all of this, Rudy Giuliani never once hesitated to take credit for turning the city around from top to bottom. The fact that evidence clearly existed which suggested that much of this recovery in NYC might well have been equally attributable to an overall trend of improvement that was going on all over the US in many other cities too, never fazed him in the slightest.

The truth is that Guiliani's legacy as mayor of NYC is very much a mixed one of both good and bad. Indeed, it could well be argued here that his much applauded performance in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the city on September 11th afforded him the opportunity to end his reign in glowing style unlikely the middle or start parts of his reign which were by no means quite so glowing.

Indicative of how askew the public's perception of this man has gotten is the farcical final curtain bow of being accredited as Time magazine's Person of the Year. No amount of lame justifications on the magazine's part will ever detract from the fact that Guiliani's international notoriety post September 11th was completely predicated upon the actions of Usama bin Laden in the first place. All of which ignores the behind the scenes finances which may have motivated such a decision such as the obvious huge drop in subscriptions had the put bin Laden on the cover. Apparently we are supposed to believe that the 27% drop in advertising prior to this issue of the magazine did not factor into their decision here.

I am not trying to suggest that I am presenting a fair and balanced picture here of the man. However, neither is anyone else right now. Like most things in life, there are two sides to every story. The September 11th side of Rudy Guiliani is all fine and well, but there is another side too and that one just is not very pleasant. 24 hours after appearing on the cover of Time magazine, a CNN poll showed 25% of those polled as already saying that he should run for President. So, the moral of this story is very clear - be careful what you wish for or you just might get it.

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