Authority Figure


At a town hall meeting in Exeter, New Hampshire, last month, local
resident Bob Roughsedge introduced Rudy Giuliani as "the next mayor
of the United States." No one tittered or spoke up. Afterward,
Roughsedge wasn't even aware of the slip, and Giuliani, who is
usually quick to correct, did not seem aware of it either. Maybe
that's because Giuliani is actually running to be mayor of the
United States.Giuliani is selling himself to voters on the basis of his service as
New York's mayor. He is arguing that he has the kind of
administrative experience that would prepare him to be president.
"I've had a great deal of experience," Giuliani says. "I think it's
the kind of experience that helps to prepare [you to be] president,
if there's any experience that does." He also claims that he was an
exceptionally successful mayor. "I took a city that was the crime
capital of America, and I left a city that was the safest in
America," he declares. And he is saying that his approach to
governing the Big Apple is readily applicable to the national and
international problems a president would face: "The things that I
did as mayor of New York City, during very difficult times in New
York City--not all of them, but many of them--are transferable to
what America needs now, and that's why I'm asking people to vote for

Clearly, many Americans already buy the argument that Giuliani's
tenure in New York has equipped him to be a successful president,
as he leads the GOP field in nationwide polls. But, for those who
remain unconvinced, there are two questions worth pondering. The
first is whether Giuliani's tenure at City Hall was the unmitigated
success he claims it to be, or whether he made significant missteps
as mayor that he could also make as president. The second, and
perhaps more important, question is how Giuliani's behavior as
mayor--and his underlying philosophy of government--would translate
to his conduct in the White House. To answer that question requires
understanding Giuliani's particular view of liberty and authority.

By the time Giuliani took office as mayor in 1994, he had already
enjoyed a spectacular career as a U.S. attorney, becoming the
scourge of the Mafia and Wall Street inside-traders, including
Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky. In addition, he had already
acquired a philosophy of government and a way of dealing with
subordinates that would mark his eight years as mayor. He picked up
some of this approach in his years as a prosecutor, but most of his
core beliefs can be traced to his childhood in New York and to his
enrollment for 16 years in Catholic schools. Much of what struck
liberal New Yorkers as odd about Giuliani becomes readily
understandable when seen in this light.

Giuliani was born in 1944 and grew up as part of a large
Italian-American extended family in Brooklyn. His grandmother lived
with him and his parents, Harold and Helen D'Avanzo Giuliani. His
mother's brother, who was married to his father's sister, lived
downstairs, and other relatives lived nearby. Family members worked
for each other, loaned each other money, and sometimes even married
each other. (Rudy would marry his second cousin Regina Peruggi in
1968. ) The bonds of family carried over to old friends. The son of
Harold Giuliani's childhood friend Louis Carbonetti would end up
working for Rudy's mayoral campaigns, and his grandson would work
in the Giuliani administration.

The ties of family loyalty defied conventional morality. Four of
Rudy's uncles were policemen, and another was a fireman. But his
uncle Leo D'Avanzo was a bookie and loan shark with Mafia
connections. According to Wayne Barrett's Rudy!--an invaluable
guide to Giuliani's family and upbringing--Leo was seen as a black
sheep, but he remained a part of the Giuliani-D'Avanzo extended
family. When Leo bought a bar in which to house his operations, his
brother Vincent, a patrolman, secured the business license, and the
bar itself was called "Vincent's." Leo employed members of the
family, notably Harold Giuliani. And, when Leo's son, Lewis, got in
trouble, Harold and Rudy Giuliani interceded on his behalf.

Harold Giuliani led a troubled life. He wanted to be a boxer, but he
couldn't see without thick glasses. Still, he lived much of his
early life by his fists. In 1934, he was arrested for armed robbery
and served a year and four months in Sing Sing. Afterward, he went
to work in Leo D'Avanzo's bar as a bouncer and enforcer in charge
of collecting loan payments and gambling debts. He left the bar for
several years to work as a school custodian, but, after a nervous
breakdown, he returned.

Harold never told his son about his criminal past--Rudy says he only
found out about it in 2000, from Barrett's biography. The father
was clearly ashamed of what he had done and tried to protect Rudy
from his own unsavory life. He discouraged his only child from
hanging around the bar with Leo's son, Lewis, and, in 1951, he
moved the family to Garden City, Long Island, to get Rudy away from
the bar. His message to his son was, essentially, do as I say, not
as I do. In 2001, Rudy Giuliani told Time magazine, "He would say
over and over, 'You can't take anything that's not yours. You can't
steal. Never lie, never steal.' As a child and even as a young
adult, I thought, 'What does he keep doing this for? I'm not going
to steal anything.'"

His father's words, along with the example of other family members,
had their effect. As a U.S. attorney, Rudy Giuliani prosecuted
crooked cops, inside traders, corrupt politicians, and the Mafia.
He never appears to have had any mob ties himself or, except for
minor campaign infractions, to have engaged in any corrupt
practices. He also reproduced in his capacity as a public official
the extended family, bound together by loyalty, that he had grown up
in--albeit, in this case, with a single dominant father figure. He
called loyalty the "vital virtue" and surrounded himself with men
and women who were sometimes termed "YesRudys." Bernard Kerik, who
would serve as his police commissioner, once described entering
Giuliani's inner circle as analogous to becoming a "made man in a
Mafia family." Like the Giulianis and D'Avanzos, he also tolerated
disreputable characters as long as they remained loyal.

In Catholic schools, Giuliani learned the virtue of hard work and
discipline, but he also acquired a Catholic outlook on government
and society. At Bishop Loughlin in Brooklyn, an honors high school
to which Giuliani commuted from Garden City, half his classes were
devoted to the study of religion. At Manhattan College, he had to
take theology as well as ancient and medieval philosophy (including
Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas) during his first two years, and
he studied philosophy and political science as a junior and senior.
From all accounts, he took his lessons seriously. At one point, he
even thought of becoming a priest.

There are two aspects of Catholic philosophy that show up clearly in
Giuliani's political outlook. The first, which he would have found
at almost any religious school, is a tendency to view politics and
history as a moral contest between good and evil. That is sharply
in contrast to a secular post- Enlightenment view of
individuals--from presidents to petty thieves--as products of
historical forces greater than themselves. The difference between
Giuliani's view and the secular one would show up in his attitude
toward crime and criminals.

Second, Giuliani was exposed to a specifically Catholic (as opposed
to Protestant-individualist) view of the relationship between
authority and liberty--one that dates from Aquinas's Christian
Aristotelianism, was spelled out in Pope Leo XIII's Encyclical on
the Nature of Human Liberty, and still enjoys currency today, even
in the wake of Vatican II. Catholic thinkers do not see liberty as
an end in itself, but as a means--a "natural endowment"--by which
to achieve the common good. For that to happen, individuals have to
be encouraged to use their liberty well; and that is where
authority comes into play. Authority, embodied by law and the
state, encourages--at times, forces-- free individuals to
contribute to the common good. Or, to put it in Aristotelian terms:
Authority--by creating a just order-- encourages liberty over

Of course, Giuliani made his career as a prosecutor rather than a
philosopher, and there are certainly Catholic teachings he has
repudiated or ignored. In 1989, wanting the New York Liberal
Party's endorsement for his GOP mayoral bid, Giuliani renounced his
past opposition to abortion and Roe v. Wade. But his exposure to
Catholic and classical political thought clearly had a lasting
impact on him. At a forum on crime in March 1994, sponsored by the
New York Post, Giuliani voiced views on liberty and authority that
seemed to flow from these teachings. He criticized liberals for
seeing only "the oppressive side of authority." "What we don't see
is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything
they want, be anything they can be," he said. "Freedom is about
authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human
being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about
what you do." Asked in the question period to explain what he
meant, Giuliani said, "Authority protects freedom. Freedom can
become anarchy." Norman Siegel, the executive director of the New
York Civil Liberties Union, said afterward that he was "floored" by
Giuliani's definition of liberty and authority. But anyone who
studied philosophy at a Catholic college would not have been
surprised by Giuliani's words.

In the nineteenth century, Catholic thinkers used the concepts of
liberty and authority to criticize democracy, but there is nothing
inherently anti- democratic about Christian Aristotelianism. In
U.S. politics, it claims adherents as politically diverse as
liberal Mario Cuomo--whose 1984 Democratic convention speech
portraying the nation as a family was a stirring application of
these principles--and conservative Pat Buchanan. But, just as the
danger of Protestant individualism is that it can be used to
rationalize plutocracy, the danger of Catholic communitarianism is
that it can be used to rationalize a slide toward authoritarianism.
Giuliani's ideas on liberty and authority were integral to his
assault on crime in New York, but they also may have encouraged a
penchant for using power to curtail freedom.

Unlike Irish immigrants or Jews after 1932, Italian-Americans were
not committed to a particular political party. In New York,
working-class Italians tended to be Democrats, while middle- and
upper-class Italians tended to be Republicans. Fiorello LaGuardia,
who was mayor of New York from 1934 to 1945, was an upper-class
progressive Republican who was closely allied with Franklin
Roosevelt; Vincent Impelletteri, mayor from 1950 to 1953, was a
working-class conservative Democrat. Rudy Giuliani's parents fit
this changeable mold. As Barrett recounts, they were registered
Democrats when they lived in Brooklyn. When they moved to
middle-class Garden City, they changed their registration to

When he went to high school and college, Rudy Giuliani, like many
young Catholics, fell under the spell of John and then Robert
Kennedy. He thought of himself as a liberal Democrat and
volunteered for Bobby Kennedy's presidential campaign in 1968. He
saw both men as strong leaders willing to use the full power of
government to solve problems. In the Manhattan College student
newspaper, he praised John Kennedy's support for "strong, large
government," and rejected the Republican "laissez-faire" approach.
"The Republicans must find men who will adequately address
themselves to the problems of discrimination, of poverty, of
education, of public housing, and the many more problems that
Senator Goldwater and company throw aside in the name of small
laissez-faire government," he wrote.

But Giuliani was not part of the 1960s counterculture or the New
Left. He was against the Vietnam war because, he later explained,
it "didn't meet the conditions of what Catholics call a just war,"
but he didn't demonstrate against it. One NYU law school classmate
recalled him as "a real Robert Kennedy Democrat, a liberal, except
on law and order." Over the next three decades, Giuliani would
retain his support for a "strong, large government," but, after he
became a U.S. attorney, he would see its principal purpose as
ensuring law and order rather than providing housing or eliminating

Giuliani voted for George McGovern in 1972, but, shortly after he
was appointed Ford's deputy associate attorney general in 1975, he
changed his registration to Independent. In 1981, when Ronald
Reagan appointed him associate attorney general, he changed his
registration again, this time to Republican. In 1989, when he
announced his first race for mayor of New York, he did so in a
small room at the Metropolitan Republican Club where LaGuardia had
announced his own run in 1933. During the 1989 primary, he would
dally with running to the left of incumbent Ed Koch. But the
liberal David Dinkins defeated Koch in the Democratic primary, and,
rather than running as a progressive Republican, Giuliani ran on a
law-and-order platform--the same approach he would take in his
successful 1993 rematch with Dinkins.

The writing of history isn't usually served well by presidential
campaigns, and this one is no exception. To sum up his mayoralty,
Giuliani likes to quote George Will's comment that "his eight years
as mayor were the most successful episode of conservative
governance in this country in the last fifty years." On the other
side, Giuliani's liberal opponents, eager to undermine the main
argument for his presidency, insist that he was a complete bust as
mayor. In Harper's, Kevin Baker has described Giuliani as a
"do-nothing mayor" who "accomplished almost nothing of
significance." The truth in this case is somewhere in between.
Giuliani had an outstanding first term and, until September 11, a
less than spectacular, at times even disastrous, second term that
brought out many of the weaknesses in his philosophy of government.

Giuliani's greatest achievements in his first term were, as he would
himself say, the reduction in New York's crime rate and, equally
important, the reduction in the popular fear of crime. In September
1990, Time had run a cover story titled, "The Rotting of the Big
Apple." Five years later, New York magazine would run a cover story
called, "The End of Crime as We Know It." Giuliani can't take all
the credit for this, of course, but he approved the strategy by
which the police reduced crime and appointed the man--Police
Commissioner William Bratton--who carried it out. Not
coincidentally, it was a strategy that perfectly accorded with his
own approach to government.

When Giuliani took office in January 1994, some conservatives
advised him to focus on cutting taxes. Influenced by the Manhattan
Institute, Giuliani had begun to embrace the laissez-faire economic
theories he had once scorned, but he still had his priorities. "Tax
cuts are important, but so are other things-- like law
enforcement," he told supply-sider Lawrence Kudlow at a discussion
that winter. Giuliani also rejected the liberal argument that, in
order to reduce crime, he would have to address its "root causes,"
such as unemployment or poverty. Instead, he saw the problem as a
contest between right and wrong-- moral freedom and license--in
which he would have to use the authority of the state to strengthen
the former.

Through the efforts of Fred Siegel, editor of the Manhattan
Institute's City Journal, Giuliani became acquainted with the
"broken windows" theory of crime prevention. It focused on stopping
the disorder--broken windows--that created a lawless atmosphere.
Disorder, criminologist George Kelling wrote, can consist of
"youths hanging out on the corner, panhandlers, hustlers and
suggestively dressed prostitutes on the street, public drunkenness
and rowdiness." According to Kelling, public disorder of this kind
eventually led to "serious crime as well." Kelling proposed that
police patrol neighborhoods to discourage--and, if necessary,
arrest--the perpetrators of disorder. The broken windows theory fit
Giuliani's view of liberty and authority. It meant that, in order to
create order and encourage moral liberty, citizens would have to
allow the police to discourage behavior that was often only
marginally illegal.

Giuliani hired Bratton, Boston's police chief, to put the strategy
into practice--and, supplemented by the innovative use of computers
to single out and target high-crime neighborhoods, it had a
dramatic effect on New York's crime rate. Giuliani's detractors
would later say that the decline began under Dinkins, but that is
misleading. The city's murder rate reached an all-time high in
1990, then declined slightly over the next two years. But it was
only after Giuliani took office that the crime rate declined
precipitously--starting in 1994, when it fell by 12 percent. New
York's reduction in crime also far exceeded the national
average--16 percent in the first half of 1995 compared to one
percent nationally.

Giuliani enjoyed similar success in driving the Mafia out of both
the Fulton Fish Market and the commercial garbage business. He also
reduced fraud in New York's welfare rolls--no small accomplishment.
From 1989 to 1995, more than 270, 000 New Yorkers were added to the
welfare rolls. After Giuliani instituted fingerprint checks and
home visits in 1995--an infringement on liberty to be sure--the
welfare rolls declined by 18 percent the first year.

Giuliani easily won reelection in 1997 and enjoyed widespread
popularity-- even in parts of the black community. Black leaders
like the Reverend Floyd Flake appreciated that Giuliani's policing
methods--however intrusive--had revived neighborhoods that had been
riven by drugs and guns. As journalist Andrew Kirtzman put it in
his book on the Giuliani years, "The essential truth of '97--that
life on the streets was calmer, safer, saner--was just as relevant
to the poor of Bed-Sty as to the prosperous of Brooklyn Heights."

Yet, by 2001, Giuliani's last year in office, he was widely loathed
in the black community. New Yorkers, fearing the onset of political
disorder, were "holding their breath" waiting for Giuliani to leave
office, according to John Mollenkopf, an urban affairs expert at
the City University of New York. The reason was that Giuliani,
emboldened by his initial success, had gone too far in his exercise
of authority.

Giuliani's seemingly insatiable appetite for authority was evident,
first and foremost, in the way he ran his administration. Obsessed,
as always, with loyalty, he demanded that power be centralized in
his hands and that he receive credit for any of the
administration's achievements. Even the Department of Environmental
Protection's daily reports on the water level in the reservoir had
to be cleared through Giuliani's press office before being released.
He also replaced Dinkins-era officials with loyalists, some of whom
had little preparation for their jobs. Tony Carbonetti, the
grandson of Harold Giuliani's friend, was put in charge of the
Office of Appointments, even though his previous experience
consisted mostly of running a bar in Boston. According to Kirtzman,
"one agency estimated that, of patronage hires, 60 percent were
qualified, 20 percent had no experience, and 20 percent were
'dirtbags.'" Among these hires was Carbonetti's father, who was
named director of the Community Assistance Unit. He was forced to
resign after admitting that he had two driver's licenses and had
failed to pay

$156,000 in liens and judgments against one of his businesses.

The most important casualty of this process was Bratton, who,
besides Giuliani himself, was most responsible for the
administration's early success. Whenever the press gave too much
credit to Bratton, the police chief and his spokesman John Miller
would be called into city hall to be bawled out by Giuliani
loyalists. Miller was finally forced to quit. After Time put
Bratton on its cover in January 1996, an enraged Giuliani had City
Hall attorneys begin investigating his personal expenses. That was
enough for Bratton. He quit two months later.

In The Prince of the City, Fred Siegel called Giuliani's ouster of
Bratton "the single biggest mistake" of his administration. Bratton
was replaced by a colorless bureaucrat and "YesRudy" man named
Howard Safir who lacked Bratton's understanding of the broken
windows theory and would prove incapable of mitigating Giuliani's
excesses. These began soon after Safir was appointed. Eager to
accelerate the decline in New York's crime rate, Giuliani pressed
Safir to triple the size of the Street Crime Unit, the elite group
that swept into neighborhoods and implemented the broken windows
strategy. Under Bratton, these units had operated with discretion,
sometimes attempting to resolve situations without making arrests,
often acting as community relations specialists. But, wrote Siegel,
"rapid expansion was achieved through diminished training and by
sending untested units out without a veteran heading the team."

In 1997, the police stopped and frisked 27,000 citizens--double the
number from the year before. Those who were stopped began to
include members of the black middle class, including Flake and
deputy mayor Rudy Washington. Resentment rose in minority
neighborhoods. Then, a series of brutal incidents set off massive
protests: In February 1999, four inexperienced members of the
Street Crime Unit killed Amadou Diallo, an unarmed Guinean vendor.
And, in March 2000, an undercover narcotics detective killed an
unarmed security guard, Patrick Dorismond. Instead of trying to
placate his angry constituents, Giuliani, convinced of his
righteousness, inflamed them. To discredit Dorismond, Giuliani
released his nugatory juvenile arrest record and said he was no
"altar boy." Ironically, it turned out Dorismond was an altar boy
and had attended the same Catholic high school as Giuliani.

Giuliani also pushed the concept of broken windows well past what
Kelling and Bratton had envisaged. On the basis of an article in
City Journal, Giuliani decided that he needed to suppress not only
petty criminals, but also jaywalkers, street vendors, speeding
bicycle messengers, and reckless taxi drivers. "If we don't act in
a civil manner here, we can't thrive as individuals or as the
capital of the world," Giuliani announced in February 1998.
Giuliani's new campaign, billed "Creating a More Civil City," was
met with strikes from cab drivers and food vendors, as well as
angry reactions from citizens threatened with arrest for
jaywalking. Giuliani finally gave up on it, but, the next year, he
took on the New York art scene. He tried to stop the Brooklyn
Museum from putting on a provocative show, "Sensation," which he
called "sick stuff." Giuliani's attempt to cut off city funding for
the museum and fire its trustees was defeated in court.

Andrew Kirtzman attributes Giuliani's threats against the Brooklyn
Museum to a desire to curry favor with upstate New Yorkers whose
votes he would have needed to win the 2000 Senate election against
Hillary Clinton. And, indeed, Giuliani currently brags about his
bid to shut down the exhibit when trying to woo social
conservatives. But this move, like his poorly executed expansion of
the Street Crime Unit and his crusade against street vendors and
jaywalkers, was consistent with Giuliani's growing commitment to
use his authority at the expense of liberty.

Perhaps the most telling example of Giuliani's attempt to expand his
authority came after September 11. In the crisis created by the
terrorist attacks, Giuliani excelled as a leader. He was calm and
eloquent, a voice of reassurance while the president, aloft in Air
Force One, remained curiously silent. But, even before the dust had
settled over Ground Zero, Giuliani began lobbying the New York
legislature to repeal the city's two-term limit so he could run
again, while simultaneously pressuring the candidates vying for his
office to accept a 90-day extension of his term. Giuliani's moves
showed a reluctance to cede power and a contempt for the democratic
process. It was a demonstration of how far he would go in the
pursuit of authority.

Of course, if Giuliani were elected president in November 2008, he
might have no interest in resuming the push for ever-widening
spheres of authority that accelerated in his second term as mayor.
But he has given no indication that he has rethought those years.
Indeed, he now seems to revel in the opposition he provoked. "Go
back and read The New York Times editorials at that time and what
they were saying about me, and all of the others," Giuliani
recently advised an audience of social conservatives in Washington.

So it is reasonable to take Giuliani at his word and to imagine his
presidency as an extension of his mayoralty. To do that is to
contemplate an administration that would challenge many Americans'
conception of their own liberty. It would perpetuate the worst
aspects of Bush's imperial presidency: the contempt for Congress
and the press; the encouragement of a polarized politics; the
centralization of power in the White House; and the administration
of government based upon loyalty rather than competence. That may
be something a sizeable chunk of Republican voters want--but it is
not something that will appeal to most Americans.

There is one final matter to consider: Giuliani's claim that what he
accomplished in New York is "transferable" to the nation as a whole.
Put simply, that idea is impossible, disastrous, or entirely
misleading. Giuliani cannot export welfare reform from New York to
the federal government, since national welfare reform already
happened. A broken windows strategy probably wouldn't help the FBI
unearth white-collar crime or catch terrorists. Giuliani claims he
will "control spending" as he did in New York; but, in fact, the
budget went up 37.6 percent during his two terms, leaving his
successor with a large deficit even before September 11. As for
cutting taxes, which Giuliani has also promised to do, most of his
New York tax cuts were relatively minor--the most important were
initiated by the state. And, in any case, the next president will
have difficulty selling still another tax cut in the face of huge

The centerpiece of Giuliani's claim, however, is the suggestion that
his approach to fighting crime provides a model for conducting
foreign policy. In a recent essay for Foreign Affairs, he wrote: "I
know from personal experience that when security is reliably
established in a troubled part of a city, normal life rapidly
reestablishes itself: shops open, people move back in, children
start playing ball on the sidewalks again, and soon a decent and
law-abiding community returns to life. The same is true in world
affairs. Disorder in the world's bad neighborhoods tends to spread.
Tolerating bad behavior breeds more bad behavior."

This is a foolish analogy. In policing the world, the United States
cannot claim to be enforcing its own laws; we lack legitimacy to do
so, as we found after invading Iraq. When the nypd went into poor
neighborhoods, it was not an occupying force; when the U.S.
military took over Baghdad, it was, and it suffered the
consequences. Some of the "neighborhoods" Giuliani wants to clean
up, such as Iran, possess their own armies and can call on other
"neighborhoods, " such as Russia and China, to deter an attempt to
punish them for bad behavior. In short, the world is not New York
writ large, and the trade-offs between authority and liberty look
very different from the White House than from Gracie Mansion. But
these distinctions seem lost on the man who aspires to be the next
mayor of the United States.

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