February 21, 2007


Rudy Can Fail: He's a leader, not a manager (Jacob Weisberg, Feb. 21, 2007, Slate)

[O]ver time, Giuliani's Putin (or Rasputin)-like tendencies became increasingly evident. Instead of taking on new challenges after his re-election in 1997, he dedicated his second term to punishing his enemies, including his wife at the time. He made his former driver, Bernard Kerik, chief of police and retreated even further into the comfort of his cronies. Fran Reiter, who served as a deputy mayor under Giuliani, describes him as depressed and directionless after being sworn in for the second time. "He can get mired in the petty stuff," she told me. "He doesn't suffer political opponents well, and there are times when he doesn't compromise well."

In his second term, Giuliani showed himself to be a classic micromanager, unable to delegate and unwilling to share the spotlight. He had already driven out William Bratton, his victorious chief of police, in a battle over credit. Bratton's fate was sealed when he, not Rudy, appeared on the cover of Time. Nor could Giuliani abide mockery. He went to court to try to stop New York magazine from advertising itself on the sides of buses as "POSSIBLY THE ONLY GOOD THING IN NEW YORK RUDY HASN'T TAKEN CREDIT FOR." After Sept. 11, he threatened, in Caudillo-like fashion, to ignore the legal term limit and run for re-election again if the candidates running to succeed him didn't all agree to let him stay in office for three extra months.

Rudy's weaknesses as a manager--and as a human being--have become more evident in the light of his successor, Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg has neither a whim of steel nor a pandering bone in his body. Arriving in 2002 at a City Hall that had no e-mail system or computerized payroll, he quietly cleaned up the mess--including a huge number of dubious, no-bid contracts--without faulting his predecessor. He and his police commissioner, Ray Kelly, have managed to continue to make further gains against crime, which few thought possible, without becoming obsessed with their press clippings. Above all, Bloomberg has taken on the big problems Giuliani never faced, without the constant attitude that he might declare martial law if you cross him again.

Perhaps the biggest difference is on fiscal issues. Giuliani, who lost interest in curtailing the growth of city government in his latter years, left behind a fiscal catastrophe--a $6.4 billion deficit proportionately bigger than the hole that caused the 1975 fiscal shortfall. "Bloomberg cleaned this up by cutting spending as much as he could without gutting basic services, negotiating labor givebacks, and increasing property and other taxes," says Esther Fuchs, a former Bloomberg adviser and now a professor of public policy at Columbia University. The tax increases were deeply unpopular but necessary. Bloomberg's style is less theatrical than Giuliani's, but as a negotiator, he's probably tougher. Last winter, he took a paralyzing transit strike and sent the union's chief to jail rather than cave to demands that the city couldn't afford over the long term. Today, the city's budget is in surplus, construction is ubiquitous, and despite 9/11, New York has become a more attractive business destination than ever.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 21, 2007 5:32 PM

Perhaps Jacob Weisberg from Slate isn't an entirely unbiased observer here. But then again, according to our esteemed host we're also supposed to unquestioningly believe in everything the crazy Iranian mullahs say...

Posted by: b at February 21, 2007 6:01 PM

"Caudillo," as if that were a bad thing.

Giuliani has set himself as the anti-Carter: a stealth candidate, who is almost the opposite of what he seems.. All that talk about social issues is deception. As Caudillo, Giuliani throws whatever bones need to be thrown.

By now we should understand that ideology loses. We cannot undo in the short-term the economic system set up during more than half a century. Better a fox when a fox in needed and a lion when a lion.

Posted by: Lou Gots at February 21, 2007 7:18 PM

The Bernie Kerik nomination was a Rudy preview.

Posted by: oj at February 21, 2007 9:03 PM


To the contrary, the lesson is to question what the wahoos say about both the mullahs and the Mayor. They have both wrong.

Posted by: oj at February 21, 2007 9:06 PM

A "manager" for President? Sound like Weisberg is endorsing George W. Bush.

Posted by: ratbert at February 22, 2007 12:31 AM


Posted by: erp at February 22, 2007 7:58 AM