"It's insulting," says former NYC mayor Ed Koch about Rudy Giuliani's characteristic depiction on the campaign trail of New York City when he became mayor, according to Chris Smith's article, "Rudy Has Seen the Enemy and He Is...Us," in New York Magazine.
Chris Smith asks, "[W]ere we really living in the hellhole of depravity and despair that Giuliani describes without ever realizing it? And was he the man who single-handedly tamed 8 million misbehaving New Yorkers, delivering us from an economic and physical nightmare?"
From Smith's article:
The crack plague burned out just as Giuliani and [his police commissioner Bill] Bratton deployed an additional 8,000 men and women in blue—thanks to President Bill Clinton and David Dinkins, Giuliani’s much-derided predecessor at City Hall. The murder rate had actually begun declining in 1991, under [David Dinkin's] Police Commissioner Lee Brown, and continued to fall under his successor, Ray Kelly; Dinkins, however, wasn’t quick enough or deft enough to claim credit.
And did crime continue to drop under Rudy Giuliani as mayor? Yes, just as it did in most US cities: "murders also dropped 73 percent in San Diego; killings were down 70 percent in Austin, 59 percent in Honolulu, and 56 percent in Boston."
Rudy says on the campaign trail, "I lowered taxes in New York 23 times! Nobody had ever done it more than once."
Well, as Smith points out,
The city payroll ballooned by 25,000 during his tenure. Eight of those 23 tax reductions came from [the state government in] Albany. A ninth, by far the largest, originated in the City Council—and Giuliani fought it, tooth and nail, for nearly two years. The truly rich irony in that episode, the expiration of a 12.5 percent surcharge on personal income, is that it’s the same tax Dinkins, with the help of Council Speaker Peter Vallone, added to hire more cops.
What is more:
When a recession started, Giuliani wasn’t able to adjust. His borrowing and spending helped transform the city’s $3 billion budget surplus into a $4.5 billion deficit—most of which piled up prior to September 11.
Giuliani can seem thin-skinned, too. "On the presidential-campaign trail, Giuliani defines every issue and problem facing the country—not to mention his political competitors—as 'enemies.'" Smith recalls that during Giuliani's mayoralty, "When a newspaper story gave passing mention to David Dinkins’s role in bringing Disney to Times Square, Giuliani raged in a press conference that he deserved the credit."
Regarding Giuliani's character, Smith writes:
New York knows Giuliani is capable of quiet grace—and of cheap cruelty. He shook the city’s political culture out of its lazy, reflexively liberal posture. But Giuliani’s personal character is defined by a parochial, boys-from-the-neighborhood attitude that’s far more old-school bossism than 21st-century globalism.
Chris Smith is correct:
Giuliani arrived at City Hall at a pivotal moment in New York’s history, and his contribution to the city’s revival was enormous..... The downside to Giuliani’s temperament was that when battles didn’t present themselves, he invented them or lost interest.
Giuliani says he wants to do for the country what he did for the city. Yet the tactics he used in New York are either inapplicable or irrelevant. Crime is down nationally, and Bill Clinton reformed federal welfare policy; lowering taxes seems extremely unlikely, especially if a recession sets in. What would certainly be transferred to the White House, though, is Giuliani’s character. He’s selling his strength of will as an indispensable trait in a tough world. But we know from eight years of firsthand experience that Giuliani’s strength would also mean degrading his enemies, a contempt for the press and Congress, a mania for secrecy, and the rewarding of personal loyalty at the expense of competence.