Considering a Vision: Rudy Giuliani

In keeping with the promise made in my previous article, “Visionary Terms”, this is the first in a series of articles where we will explore both the history of the Presidential candidates and try to get a clear view of the vision they offer to the American people for their future.

Rudy Giuliani once was, for many, a name vaguely associated with New York, police brutality, and perhaps personal controversy for those addicted to tabloid headlines. It was not until September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center came tumbling to the ground and New York became the center of America’s anger, fear, and grieving, that Mayor Guiliani became a household name.


Rudy Giuliani was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1944 to second-generation Italian-American parents. He grew up in a working class, Catholic family, with a mix of “honest, decent citizens” and more dubious characters. He attended Manhattan College, and then New York University School of Law, from which he graduated cum laude in 1968. During these years he had student deferments to keep him out of the draft for the Vietnam War, and after graduation he became employed as a clerk for Judge Lloyd MacMahon, who wrote a special request to the draft board asking for another deferment for Giuliani, classifying him as an “essential employee”.

In 1970, Giuliani moved on to join the Office of the U.S. Attorney, and three years later became chief of the Narcotics Unit. In 1975, he became Associate Deputy Attorney General and chief of staff to the Deputy Attorney General in Washington, D.C. From 1977-1981 Giuliani worked in private law, until in 1981 he was appointed Associate Attorney General under President Ronald Reagan. In 1983 he was made U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he started making some headlines with high-profile cases.

In 1989, Giuliani ran for mayor of New York, losing the race to David Dinkins. Undeterred, he ran again in 1993, where his vows to clean up the city and crack down on crime won him the election by a relatively small margin. In 1997 he won his reelection by a much larger percentage, mostly due to his image as a “tough” mayor who had been responsible for the turn around in New York’s crime rate. It has been debated whether his hard-line tactics actually were the cause of the improved crime rate, or whether he was simply the beneficiary of a nation wide trend resulting from an improvement in the country’s economy, but either way the end result was the creation of an image of Giuliani as a man who gets things done. The other face of this image, however, is that of a man who turns a blind eye to police brutality in a Machiavellian stance of “the end justifies the means”. Under Giuliani’s watch, New York received the highest number of reports of police brutality and misconduct in its history.

On 9/11, Giuliani found himself facing one of the most tragic and overwhelming events in America’s past. New York City was awash in fear and speculation, and he gained national recognition in his efforts to keep order and soothe a devastated constituency. His frequent television and radio appearances assured the nation that everything was as under control as it could be, that recovery efforts were moving forward, that America would prevail. Critics allege that Giuliani’s speeches were merely that: speeches. That behind the nobly grieving facade, Giuliani bumbled repeatedly in his organizational efforts, making decisions both before and after 9/11 which cost lives during the rescue. Nevertheless, the image of Giuliani as “America’s Mayor” stands, mostly untarnished.

Developing the Vision

As Giuliani begins to rev up for his Presidential bid, he seems anxious to present America with a vision of strength and safety. He often references his presence at “Ground Zero” on 9/11, as a model for what kind of leadership he believes we need. Likewise, he references his success in turning around New York City’s crime rate as a model for what the United States can become. Thus far, he has been noncommittal with regards to international issues, saying that withdrawal from Iraq would be a mistake, but hedging that losing the war in Iraq will not end the War on Terror. He has not taken a stand on international trade or how to deal with an increasingly powerful China, but he has stated that we should open the oil reserves as a means of dealing with rising fuel prices. He recently revealed that he does accept the evidence of global warming, and feels that large corporations must be forced to limit pollution if we are going to combat it. Based on his previous actions, then, and his current statements, let’s take a look at what Giuliani’s vision for America might look like.

Giuliani appears to envisage a world which balances delicately on the juncture where conservatism meets liberalism. Gay marriage would be accepted and abortion would continue to be legal, but there would be “decency standards” for publicly funded institutions. Exactly what standards these would be is unclear, for while Giuliani is a Catholic, he does not support prayer in school or using religion as a foundation for government. The government would become smaller, with less bureaucracy and more technology. Taxes would be cut, but so would welfare, as Giuliani believes staunchly in a social contract where every service has a responsibility to accompany it. Job training centers would replace welfare centers, and everyone would have a job, including illegal immigrants, whom would swiftly be set on the right track for full citizenship.

Crime would be a thing of the past in Giuliani’s future, but at the sacrifice of personal privacy and some civil rights. An extensive, detailed computer network would hold fingerprints and DNA information for all American citizens, and law enforcement would be given great leniency to pursue even the smallest crimes. Graffiti, panhandling, and shoplifting would become a thing of the past, and more heinous crimes would be met with swift punishment. Children would walk safely through the streets, if only because no one would dare to provoke the wrath of the well equipped and infallible civilian police force.

The education system would be revamped, with an emphasis on competition and consumer choice, with a wide range of public, private, and charter schools available. Technological advancement would be pushed on many levels, from the classroom to the laboratory, with computers on every desk and stem cell research being federally funded. With such encouragement, who knows what other scientific advancements would be right around the corner?

On the international stage, we can only guess with regards to Giuliani’s vision, but his statements thus far regarding Iraq and his belief in zero-tolerance policies allow us to make an educated guess. We can assume aggressive military action would be a route Giuliani would be willing to continue to follow, though perhaps preceded by efforts at “tough talk” diplomacy, in the tradition of President Reagan, whom he admires deeply. His professed belief in the need to crack down on large corporations in order to curb global warming would be at odds with his previous actions to ensure economic growth in New York City, and so perhaps he would offer incentives, rather than legal requirements.

Giuliani’s vision of the future is a picture of blue-white tranquility, with the silent evenings coasting by the windows of the righteously resting. We the people work hard by day, keep the system moving with the financial rewards of our efforts in the evenings, and settle down in complacent tranquility at night to sleep the sleep of the innocent. The worries with which we trouble ourselves now will fade into the past like the bad dreams they were, and we will put our trust in the representatives of the government to keep all moral detritus swept off of our streets and out of our grasp.

Rudy Giuliani clearly has a vision. The only question remaining is whether it is one in which we want to live.