Rudy Awakening

RUDY AWAKENING….What would Rudy Giuliani be like as president? In our November issue, Rachel Morris looks for the answer by digging around in the nooks and crannies of his two terms as mayor of New York City. Here’s an excerpt:

In 1996, Doug Criscitello, a former federal budget analyst, started work as the first director of the Independent Budget Office. Criscitello expected to put his auditors to work immediately, but then he received a surprising communication from the mayor’s office. It was a memorandum informing him that all the IBO’s requests for data had to be referred to City Hall — despite plain language in the city charter stating that the IBO could get information directly from municipal agencies. Puzzled, Criscitello contacted Giuliani’s lawyers, who reaffirmed the message. “They weren’t nasty about it. They were very matter-of-fact,” said Criscitello. ” ‘Here’s how we’ve decided to interpret the charter, and if you disagree there’s a legal process you can go through and we can get a judge to rule on this.'” Eventually, the IBO sued the mayor’s office for the data, and in 1998 a state judge ruled that City Hall had violated the city charter and ordered it to start cooperating. Meanwhile, Giuliani had bought two years of time.

Criscitello had run into what was becoming a signature feature of Giuliani’s governing style. Chafing against the limits of his authority, Giuliani was taking an increasingly instrumentalist view of the law: it was only as good as how well it was enforced, and should be overstepped when doing so served his ends. His administration tussled in court not only with the IBO but also with numerous interest groups, the state comptroller, the public advocate, and the city council. “All of those were effectively cases that said, he’s gone beyond the restraints on executive power,” said Eric Lane, director of the 1989 charter commission and a law professor at Hofstra University. By 1999, the city council was forced to allocate money specifically for the purpose of suing City Hall, which had 685 lawyers on its payroll and had increased its legal budget by 41 percent since Giuliani took office.

….New York State’s comptroller, H. Carl McCall, had a similar experience to Criscitello’s when he tried to undertake routine audits of how well the city had provided services in areas ranging from restaurant inspections to policing. First, City Hall refused to provide the information. Then, in 1997, Giuliani booted McCall’s auditors out of city agencies. McCall issued seventeen subpoenas in one month alone, all of which the mayor’s office ignored. After two years, the state’s highest court ordered his administration to turn over the information. By that time, however, Giuliani had already succeeded in the effort that mattered most to him: significantly delaying the comptroller’s efforts. Not until 2000, for instance, would McCall be able to produce an audit of crime statistics, and when it finally appeared, the auditors noted that they were still unsure whether they had received all of the relevant material. As a “matter of policy,” they wrote, City Hall had decided not to provide the customary document confirming that the data was accurate and complete.

Choosing the best presidential candidate among the 2008 contenders is a tough job. Picking the worst is easy. Rudy Giuliani is the guy you’d get if you put George Bush and Dick Cheney into a wine press and squeezed out their pure combined essence: unbounded arrogance and self-righteousness, a chip on his shoulder the size of a redwood, a studied contempt for anybody’s opinion but his own, a vindictive streak a mile wide, and a devotion to secrecy and executive power unmatched in presidential history. He is a disaster waiting to happen.