Bob Herbert should be persuaded to publish a collection of his many New York Times columns about Rudy Giuliani. There’s a wealth of juicy bits in them that people really ought to know before they consider making him President.
For example, if you want to know what America would look like under President Giuliani, this Bob Herbert column from March 2000 provides a clue:
The police intercepted the two teenaged boys who were running up Broadway, near 138th Street, and opened fire. This was on the night of Feb. 13, 1997. Robert Reynoso, 18, collapsed to the ground with a bullet in his chest. Juval Green, 17, fell with a leg wound.
The police would later say they thought the boys had a gun. There was no gun. And the boys, who survived the shooting, had not been involved in a crime. Nevertheless, the police arrested them. The charge — incredibly — was criminal possession of a firearm.
This is not a joke.
The Police Department tried to keep the shooting under wraps but I got a tip and wrote about it. When I visited Mr. Reynoso at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, he was handcuffed to his bed. Breathing and swallowing were so difficult for him, and he was in so much pain, that he would at times whisper to relatives, ”I just want to die.”
This shooting typified the over-the-top, overly aggressive behavior that has become the hallmark of policing under Rudolph Giuliani. The cops were responding to a report of shots fired at Broadway and 135th Street, three blocks away. Not only were Mr. Reynoso and Mr. Green shot, but four other innocent people were arrested.
The police were shooting and rounding up people without the slightest clue as to what was happening. Afterward, the department tried to conceal the extent of the madness. Top officials would not even confirm the four additional arrests until I let them know I had obtained a copy of a confidential memo from a police captain, Robert T. Varieur, to the chief of the department, Louis Anemone.
The memo said: ”During the confrontation in front of 3395 Broadway, four (4) individuals who were initially thought to be involved in the incident at West 135th Street were taken into custody. Upon investigation it was determined that there was no evidence to link them to that incident and these arrests were subsequently voided. All four (4) individuals were visiting from Baltimore, Maryland.”
Rudy’s just the guy you want at the head of the nation’s law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies, huh? Just wait; it gets better. Here’s another Bob Herbert column, from February 25, 1999:
It may be that Rudolph Giuliani never has a reflective moment. He just likes to push people around. He’s pretty indiscriminate about it. One day it’s an indisputably worthy target, like violent criminals, the next day it’s jaywalkers. One moment it’s the organized thugs at the Fulton Fish Market, the next it’s cab drivers and food vendors.
Mark Green, Carl McCall, New York magazine — they’ve all been targets. Mr. Giuliani shut down an entire neighborhood in Harlem and buzzed its residents with police helicopters because he didn’t like Khallid Muhammad. Solid citizens trying to exercise their right to protest peacefully have been fought at every conceivable turn. Many gave up, their protests succumbing to fear or exhaustion.
Civil rights? Civil liberties? Forget about it. When the Mayor gets it in his head to give somebody a hard time — frequently through his enforcers in the Police Department — the niceties of the First Amendment and other constitutional protections get very short shrift.
The latest targets are people suspected of driving drunk. The cops have been given the power to seize their vehicles on the spot. Why not? Why wait for a more sober mind — say, a judge — to assess the merits of the case? Why even bother with an annoyance like due process? Hizzoner — who would like to be known as His Majesty — makes the rules. And he says even if the drivers are acquitted they may not get their cars back.
Listen to him: ”Let’s say somebody is acquitted, and it’s one of those acquittals in which the person was guilty but there is just not quite enough evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. That might be a situation in which the car would still be forfeited.”
Bring on the royal robes and the crown. And get rid of those pesky legislators and judges.
Rudy Giuliani is a man with many facades. The Rudy who spoke to TV cameras after 9/11 wasn’t a complete stranger, but over the years New Yorkers had seen a whole lot less of that Rudy than of the Rudy who usually hosted his weekly call-in radio show, “Live from City Hall.” Amy Goodnough described the mayor’s on-air persona for the New York Times (August 1, 1999):
When Tony from the Bronx called to question the Mayor’s handling of the Amadou Diallo shooting, Mr. Giuliani told him, ”Either you don’t read the newspapers carefully enough or you’re so prejudiced and biased that you block out the truth.” When Bill in Manhattan asked why it was illegal to hang a flag from city property, Mr. Giuliani shot back, ”Isn’t there something more important that you want to ask me?”
And when David in Oceanside called last month to complain about the ban on pet ferrets, the Mayor of New York City leaned into the microphone on his desk and intoned, ”There is something deranged about you.”
A three-minute diatribe against the ferret advocate ensued, with Mr. Giuliani saying things like, ”You should go consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist with this excessive concern — how you are devoting your life to weasels.”
Not exactly the transcendent figure the nation thought it saw after 9/11.
Two of his most startling tirades recently came in response to calls from David Guthartz, the ferret advocate — whom Mr. Giuliani said has made repeated phone calls to his aides — and Margarita Rosario, whose son Anthony, an 18-year-old robbery suspect, was shot dead by two police detectives in 1995. Mrs. Rosario called last month, identifying herself only as Margarita from the Bronx, and said that she wanted to discuss Con Edison. But instead she started protesting the shooting, and Mr. Giuliani barely let her speak.
”Maybe you should ask yourself some questions about the way he was brought up and the things that happened to him,” the Mayor told Mrs. Rosario, whose nephew, also a suspect, died in the shooting. ”Trying to displace the responsibility for the criminal acts of your son onto these police officers is really unfair.”
Yep, that’s our Rudy.
If you want a a textbook case of how a public official should not handle a crisis, study Giuliani after the Amidou Diallo shooting. Diallo, a black immigrant from Guinea, was cornered in the vestibule of his Bronx apartment building by four New York City plain clothes cops. The cops fired 41 shots at Diallo, killing him. Diallo was unarmed and not the suspect in any crime; he was just trying to go home.
After the shooting, America’s Mayor failed to soothe the city’s frayed nerves. In fact, his every public utterance made public anger grow. At first he asked the public not to jump to conclusions about what happened, which was reasonable, but over the next several days the man who sounded just the right notes after 9/11 was out of tune with the city. The Mayor seemed more defensive than conciliatory. He recited statistics comparing fatal police shootings in New York with those in other cities, as if to claim the NYPD didn’t shoot as many people as other cops do, so what’s the problem?
Most inexcusable after such a racially charged incident, for weeks Giuliani failed to reach out to the city’s African Americans. Dan Barry wrote for the New York Times (February 11, 1999):
That was the clear message at a news conference convened yesterday by C. Virginia Fields, the Manhattan Borough President, and attended by, among others, former Mayor Edward I. Koch, who had troubles of his own with many black political and civic leaders. But rather than score the Mayor, most of the speakers pleaded with him to open the lines of communication.
Being Mayor ”requires a willingness to hear,” Mr. Koch said.
”So we’re saying to the Mayor: ‘Listen.’ ”
Ms. Fields agreed. ”I certainly am not blaming Mayor Giuliani or Commissioner Safir for the tragedy that took place,” she said, referring to Police Commissioner Howard Safir. Nevertheless, she said that the city ”must change the tone and move in a different direction.”
Mr. Giuliani responded last night by impeaching the event’s credibility, noting that Mr. Koch is a persistent critic and saying that Ms. Fields failed to acknowledge the Police Department’s accomplishments, including reduced crime in black neighborhoods.
Six weeks later, the Mayor finally made a gesture toward his critics. Dan Barry wrote March 28, 1999:
Time and again, the Giuliani administration has demonstrated the ability to make the routine seem unusual and the bizarre seem mundane. How else could a meeting between the Mayor and the city’s highest-elected black official take on the significance of a Botha-Mandela sitdown? How else could a mayor have refused to meet that leader for more than a year?
Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s session last week with C. Virginia Fields, the Manhattan Borough President, was viewed as so extraordinary that the City Council Speaker, Peter F. Vallone, who arranged the meeting, somehow emerged as the great healer of City Hall. Then came word that the Mayor had agreed to meet with State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, another black leader he had rebuffed for years, and would soon be inviting other people of color to Gracie Mansion for face-to-face chats.
Nearly seven weeks after the Amadou Diallo shooting began roiling race relations in the city, the administration decided that the time had come to, as one aide put it, ”build bridges” and let the ”healing process” continue. And so Mr. Giuliani was poised to be congratulated for meeting elected city and state officials — activities that used to be normal conduct for any mayor, an expected duty of the office.
I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from these examples, but I assure you that they are not atypical examples.
Here’s another example, provided by Jimmy Breslin in New York Newsday:
As the mayor, he had a detective driving one of his girl friends out of the Gracie Mansion driveway while another detective was arriving with another girl friend and was waved off to prevent a domestic riot.
All the while upstairs there were his wife. and children.
Giuliani then showed appropriate behavior by walking in a parade on Fifth Avenue with his girl friend and all the while his children could sit and watch him on television.
If Giuliani is the nominee, I swear to you I will hunt down every rightie who wanted Bill Clinton impeached because of Monica and shove this column in his/her/its face.
I can’t diagnose Rudy Giuliani, but there’s no question he is seriously miswired. He is autocratic, intolerant of criticism, and as mayor used the NYPD as his private praetorian guard. In fact, he combines many of the worst qualities of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. And he’s a lot smarter than Bush, which makes him more dangerous.
Just thought you ought to know.