Nation & World

Profile: Giuliani's record is operatic — dramatic highs and lows

Editor's note: With the Iowa caucus set to kick off the primary election season Jan. 3, the Telegraph will present profiles of the major presidential candidates. New profiles will appear each day through Jan. 3.

In a city with 8 million people, five boroughs, 24 subway lines and two major-league baseball teams, even the most ardent New Yorker had a hard time keeping track of the many faces of Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

There was the Prince of the City, the Giuliani whose policies dramatically reduced crime, transformed 42nd Street from a seedy porno district to an urban Disney attraction, slashed welfare rolls, cut taxes, turned a deficit into a surplus and tamed a government bureaucracy that many experts had said was untamable.

"Rudy Giuliani fundamentally changed the way New York is governed in generally positive ways," said Fran Reiter, a former New York state Liberal Party head who was deputy mayor under Giuliani. "As such, he changed the way New York is governed in the future — it was a successful mayoralty." Then there was the Prince of Darkness, the ego-driven, thrice married, mean-spirited, always combative Giuliani.

"He's an oversized personality who can capsize a ship in calm waters," said Fred Siegel, a professor at New York's Cooper Union and the author of "The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of American Life." "The good comes with the bad. It's a package — you can't separate one from the other."

Voters know Giuliani as "America's Mayor," the leader who gained national praise for the resolute and compassionate way he steered New York through Sept. 11, 2001, when two hijacked jetliners brought down the World Trade Center.

His handling of Sept. 11 is the cornerstone of his presidential campaign, but it's only part of his story as mayor. To know Giuliani fully, friends and foes agree, one must also know the man who was running New York the day before the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

"The people who are supporting him have one image, 9-11, and are unfamiliar with his record," said former New York Mayor Ed Koch, a one-time Giuliani supporter-turned-critic and the author of "Giuliani: Nasty Man." "I thought he handled 9-11 superbly; no one could have handled it better. But had there been an election on 9-10, he couldn't have been elected dogcatcher."

After a high-profile career as the No. 3 official in President Ronald Reagan's Justice Department and the mob-busting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Rudolph William Louis Giuliani became New York's 107th mayor on Jan. 1, 1994, after his second run for the office.

Embracing free-market economic solutions and an aggressive "broken windows" law enforcement strategy that focused on small crimes in order to deter bigger ones, Giuliani vowed to take back the city by restoring a sense of safety and civility.

But his path to a more tranquil New York was anything but. He angrily butted heads with the Democratic City Council and advocacy groups that quickly chafed under what they called the new mayor's mean-spirited and autocratic ways.

But friends and foes say that Giuliani more often than not appeared to be itching for a fight. Former U.S. Rep. Floyd Flake, D-N.Y., one of the few African-American elected officials to endorse Giuliani for a second term, said the mayor's combativeness was a legacy from his days as a federal prosecutor.

"His biggest problem is ego — he has this superiority complex," said Flake, now a Giuliani critic. "He's always a prosecutor; he's never left that role. His life revolves around proving people guilty."

That instinct often got him into hot water. In 2000, Patrick Dorismond, a 26-year-old African-American off-duty security guard, was shot and killed in a scuffle with an undercover police officer outside a midtown Manhattan bar after the officer asked Dorismond where he could buy marijuana. Dorismond had angrily told the officer that he wasn't a drug dealer.

Giuliani defended the police action. He ordered Dorismond's court-sealed juvenile criminal record released to the media. He quipped in a television interview that the victim was "no altar boy."

In fact, the victim had been an altar boy and had attended Brooklyn's Bishop Loughlin High School, Giuliani's alma mater.

He sparred with his first police commissioner, William Bratton, who was one of the main architects of the get-tough law enforcement strategy that Giuliani credits for cutting crime dramatically.

When Time magazine put a trenchcoat-clad Bratton — not Giuliani — on its cover for a January 1996 story, "City Hall was apoplectic," recalled Andrew Kirtzman, the author of "Rudy Giuliani, Emperor of the City."

In retaliation, Giuliani's administration opened an investigation into a book deal that Bratton had signed and, after the tabloids reported the commissioner's propensity for traveling in high style, scrutinized trips that Bratton and his wife had taken.

Bratton got the hint and quit after two years on the job.

People who know Giuliani say his fight with prostate cancer, his (third) marriage to Judy Nathan and the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks have softened the former mayor.

But Guy Molinari, a former Staten Island borough president and the co-chairman of Giuliani's presidential campaign in New York, disagrees.

"Rudy is the same Rudy I met years ago," he said. "He's a very firm person; he's hard-charging. He's not changing direction at all."