Former U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani became the 107th mayor of New York City in 1994 on the Republican ticket. He was the first non-Democrat to become mayor in 24 years.
In January 1994, Rudolph William Giuliani became New York City's first Republican mayor since John Lindsey was elected in 1965. Giuliani's tough-on crime platform perhaps clinched the victory for the former U.S. attorney for the state of New York. In the years since his election, this tough stance seems to have paid off; in 1995, Giuliani announced that the murder rate in New York City had dropped by nearly one-fifth, the biggest annual decline in decades. However, he remains a controversial political figure, and on at least one occasion he has committed a widely-criticized breach of diplomacy—when he ejected Yasser Arafat Leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, from a New York concert.
Started in Courts
Giuliani was born into a second-generation immigrant Italian family in Brooklyn, New York, on May 28, 1944. He was the only child of Harold and Helen Giuliani. As a child, the young Giuliani sometimes worked in his parent's bar and grill. The elder Giuliani was determined that his son attend college and rise above the family business. Rudolph Giuliani was educated in Catholic schools and then attended the all-male, Roman Catholic Manhattan College. There he seriously considered entering the priesthood, but eventually decided on law. He graduated from New York University's law school in 1968, and went on to have an impressive career in government, working first as a law clerk for a federal judge, and then as an assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of New York. Giuliani took on sensational corruption cases, and his reputation as a dogged prosecutor grew.
In 1975 Giuliani went to Washington, DC to work in President Gerald Ford's administration, under Judge Harold Tyler, deputy attorney general in the Justice department. Giuliani originally a liberal Democrat, had recently defected to the Republican party. When President Jimmy Carter took office in 1977, Giuliani followed Tyler to work for his law firm. Giuliani moved back to Washington under President Ronald Reagan, as associate attorney general in the Justice department. There, Giuliani took considerable flak for refusing asylum to Haitian refugees, deeming that the Duvalier regime was merely economically—not politically—oppressive to its people.
Became U.S. Attorney in New York
In 1983 Giuliani returned to New York for good, this time as U.S. attorney for the Southern District. In that position, Giuliani enjoyed some high-profile successes. He infiltrated some of the most powerful Mafia crime families and indicted a New York parking violations bureau official as part of a bribery ring. In the spring of 1986, uncovered the New York insider trading scandal, handing down indictments against several Wall Street investors. Among those arrested was Ivan Boesky, who turned himself in before Giuliani could indict him. In exchange for a lesser charge, Boesky agreed to pay $100 million and to secretly tape record conversations with other insider traders.
However, Giuliani has often been criticized for his grandstanding style. One of the lost legendary examples during his years as U.S. attorney was the arrest of three men involved in the insider trading scandal—Richard B. Wigton, a Kidder, Peabody executive; Timothy L. Tabor, a former employee of Kidder, Peabody; and Robert M. Freeman of Goldman, Sachs. Two of the men had been handcuffed at work and paraded in front of their colleagues, to the media's delight. The charges against all three were later dropped.
Giuliani eventually left the U.S. attorney's office, but still remained one of the most prominent and controversial figures in New York politics, going before the polls in 1989 in his first hotly contested mayoral race against David Dinkins. In that election, the main issue was racial strife, which was threatening to tear the city apart. Giuliani's conservative political stance was less appealing to voters than that of Dinkins, a liberal Democrat.
But in one of the most racially charged events to occur in New York City, Mayor Dinkins stumbled badly. In 1992, in the mostly Jewish section of Crown Heights in Brooklyn, a car in a Hasidic motorcade hit a young black child. After, a mob of angry blacks descended on a Jewish scholar visiting from Australia, stabbing him to death. Riots followed, in which 80 Jews and 50 policemen were injured. A jury later acquitted the man charged with the killing, following which Dinkins issued a lukewarm statement "expressing faith in he jury system … roundly denounced as insensitive to Jewish concerns," wrote Todd S. Purdum in the New York Times Magazine. Dinkins's Crown Heights blunder opened the door for Giuliani to the Jewish vote.
Still, Giuliani's tough-guy approach has been difficult for New Yorkers to embrace. In the fall of 1992, Giuliani made an appearance at a rally for the Policemen's Benevolent Association (PBA), a gathering of "raucous, beer-drinking, overwhelming white police officers" outside City Hall, wrote Purdum in the same article. Crowd members bore racially offensive signs critical of Dinkins, among the now legendary, "Dump the washroom attendant!" The demeanor of the crowd, which later moved in droves to block traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge, reflected badly on Giuliani. But what tainted him the most was his address to the PBA, in which he used expletives that Dinkins had originally used to respond to an officer's charge that the mayor did not support the police.
The rally was a major political fiasco for Giuliani. According to writer Purdam, he probably gained no votes from it—the police officers either were already supporters or lived outside of the city. And it damaged the reputation he was trying to build—that of a peacemaker. The speech he made after his loss in the 1989 election also damaged him. He announced that Dinkins had won, and in response, his election aides started booing. Giuliani began screaming, "Shut-up!" repeatedly. Later he said he feared that the crowd was out of hand, and their remarks would seem racially motivated.
Prior to the 1993 elections, many New Yorkers were horrified by a Giuliani plan to put 90-day limits on stays at homeless shelters. He remarked that he thought offering, unlimited access was actually "very cruel." "It sounds generous and compassionate," Giuliani was quoted as saying in a New York magazine article, "but it isn't. There's an understanding of human psychology that's missing. The less you expect of people, the less you get. The more you expect, the more you get." Giuliani also alienated liberal voters by his statement that he would bar controversial Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan from speaking at Yankee stadium, depriving him of his First Amendment rights.
Many political analysts say that Giuliani's attitudes seem to be a throwback to earlier times, that they distort and oversimplify the growing complexity of urban problems. Wrote Catherine S. Manegold in the New York Times after the election, "Throughout this year's campaign, Mr. Giuliani spoke tirelessly about the need to 'clean up' a city that he sees in moral and physical decline. To his supporters, he came across as a tough-edged iconoclast bent on bringing order out of urban chaos, a crusading Batman to New York City's gritty Gotham."
Yet other pundits call Giuliani a candidate for the future, and one who transcends political lines. "With his emphasis on individual responsibility, Giuliani is much closer in political philosophy to the New Democrat Bill Clinton claims to be than to David Dinkins is," said Fred Siegel, a professor of humanities, quoted in a New York magazine article.
To save Giuliani from his gaffes, he hired campaign mastermind David Garth, who was on the winning side in five of the last seven New York mayoral contests. Garth also went to bat for Vice-President Al Gore during the 1988 presidential primary, and handed a victory to Arlen Specter in a 1992 Republican senatorial race in which he was trailing. Garth helped solidify Giuliani's image as a "fusion candidate" just as Garth had done for John Lindsey's election in 1965, assembling minority candidates and representatives of minority districts to run on the same ticket.
With Garth maneuvering what a New York Times Magazine article dubbed "the race race," Giuliani was also able to capitalize on his anti-crime reputation. Dinkins maintained that crime decreased during hid term and according to John Taylor in a New York magazine piece, they had. Murders fell from 2,262 in 1990 to 2,055 in 1992, Taylor wrote. But to New Yorkers, the prevailing perception was that crime was on the rise. "One reason is the increasing brutality and capriciousness committed," wrote Taylor. "Entire families are executed in drug wars. Teenagers kill each other over sneakers. Robbers casually shoot victims even if they have surrendered wallets. The proliferation of carjackings means people are no longer safe even in their automobiles." One of Giuliani's campaign promises, along with creating jobs through tax cuts, and reducing administration in schools in order to increase money spent on teachers and students, was to crack down on such crimes, and he had the resume to back it up.
Still, many New Yorkers expressed dissatisfaction with both candidates. Time magazine ran a short article entitled "The Politics of Disgust," in which Janice C. Simpson claimed that "The only movement [in the polls] is the rising disapproval rating for both [candidates]. Neither candidate is getting across a message that he can be an urban Mr. Fixit. Dinkins comes off as a courtly but unimaginative bureaucrat with a taste for fussy clothes and fancy ceremonies. Giuliani has a reputation as a humorless autocrat with an abrasive management style that involves shooting first and asking questions later." An editorial in the New York Times began its editorial for David Dinkins with an expression of voter sentiment just before the election: "Something must be badly wrong with a system that can't produce candidates better than David Dinkins and Rudolph Giuliani. The real issues are being oversimplified. It doesn't really matter who wins."
Time writer Janice Simpson predicted that in a race "with no candidate who stands out as a clear vote for competence," that voting would break down along racial lines. That happened in the 1989 election, and also in the 1993 election. According to Felicia R. Lee in the New York Times, Simpson was correct. More than 90 percent of blacks voted for Dinkins, and so did most Hispanic voters. But very three out of four white votes went to Giuliani.
Lee wrote that New York City's black population was deeply disappointed by the election results, which indeed turned out to be a race based on race. "None interviewed said that Mr. Dinkins was a great mayor, but they said he tried to delve into the social factors behind problems like crime during a time of dwindling resources. Most said that despite his flaws, Mr. Dinkins would have won re-election had he been white. "Beyond that," Lee continued, "their concern was that Mayor-elect Rudolph W. Giuliani has surrounded himself with mostly white males with little understanding of issues of concerns to blacks, poor people, or other special interests."
According to Alison Mitchell writing in the New York Times, Giuliani addressed those concerns in his victory speech. Standing at the lectern with David Dinkins, the mayor-elect said it was time for the city to join as one, "whether you voted for me, for David Dinkins or you decided not to vote or you voted for any of the other candidates, we are all New Yorkers."
Tough on Crime
In the years since he was elected, Giuliani has maintained his emphasis on crime-fighting, using a range of methods—Comstat, a computerized analysis of crime statistics and police accountability, low tolerance for misdemeanor crimes especially gun and drug possession, targeting high-crime areas, holding local commanders responsible for results in their precincts, and implementing corporate management techniques in the police force.
In an article printed in American City and County Janet Ward said that it wasn't easy to shock New Yorkers— especially with good news. However, at a New Year's Eve (1996) press conference in Time Square, Mayor Giuliani and Police Commissioner Safir did just that. "When the ball comes down in Times Square tonight," said Giuliani "it will be coming down in one of the safest cities in America." Ward went on to say that it had been a long time since "one of the safest cities" and "New York" were used in the same sentence, but the facts support the claim. The city had realized double-digit decline in crimes for the past three years. New York had 48,016 or 15.7 percent fewer crimes in 1996. Overall, Giuliani said, "the city has seen 163,428 fewer felonies since 1993, a drop of almost 40 percent. Additionally, 1996 saw the city's lowest number of crime complaints in 27 years. The big crime, murder, dropped 16 percent in 1996 and has fallen nearly half since 1993."
Giuliani called the decline "a very significant success," and proof that New York is becoming safer. "People outside of New York City are very often almost shocked by the notion that it is not the most dangerous city in America," Giuliani was quoted as saying in The Daily Telegraph. "That's a reputation that the city, despite all of the statistical information to the contrary, can't quite shake." However, the drop in crime has not been attributed to any one factor. Some have suggested that it may be due to a demographic shift—a decline the population of teenage males, the group that is statistically most likely to commit crime. Another is that the crack epidemic, which hit the city in the mid-1980s, began to ease up in the early 1990s. But the New York City police commissioner says that police effectiveness has more to do with it than the media and other observers are willing to give them credit for.
Giuliani has also continued to harass the Mafia. In September of 1995, he appointed a monitor to inspect the books of the five-day Feast of Saint Gennaro, the annual carnival of New York's Little Italy. Few New Yorkers were surprised when the Grand Jury investigating the case announced that the Mafia skimmed the profits of the street vendors at the festival. However, only the most cynical were not surprised when it was revealed that the dollar bills which the devout pinned to the statue of Saint Gennero— intended for the Catholic church and its charities—also ended up in the pockets of the Mob.
Giuliani has sometimes committed mistakes in international diplomacy. In October 1995, Giuliani ejected Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, from a concert at New York's Lincoln Center, which was part of the UN's 50th anniversary celebrations. Despite intense criticism from the White House, the State Department, the UN, and even some Jewish groups, Giuliani defended his decision, claiming that Arafat had "never been held to account for the murders [for which] he was implicated." Just a few days earlier, when Cuba's President, Fidel Castro, was in New York, Giuliani had refused to invite him to a gala dinner. "It's my party and I'll invite who I want," he was quoted as saying in The Daily Telegraph.