The Giuliani Dilemma

How Freddy and Mark Used Rudy to Define Themselves

Giuliani had tried to get the City Council to repeal term limits the week before, with mayoral aides Joe Lhota and Josh Fuller calling councilmembers and business leaders to push for it. On Friday, when even the sponsors of an earlier repeal effort, like councilmembers Stan Michels, Bill Perkins, and Guillermo Linares balked, the bill never even came to the floor. At the same time, Lhota and company were also pressing Governor Pataki to postpone the September 11 primary to buy time for either a two-year extension of Giuliani's term or a term-limit repeal. They were also rallying their tabloid allies—and reaching out to business leaders like Real Estate Board president Steve Spinola, developer George Klein, and sporting goods kingpin Mitchell Modell—to push decision makers.

While Green pondered, Giuliani confirmed his conversation with Silver at a press briefing, saying the repeal was "possible." He also revealed that he'd met with two candidates, was waiting for the third, and had offered them a plan that he said "has nothing to do with me." He said he wouldn't detail it until after he'd completed the conversations with the candidates. But he did make clear that the plan related to the complexities of power transfers and the need for more time. He said he'd been through three transitions himself, suffering under their calendar constraints.

He claimed he'd gone through the Gerald Ford transition in 1974, after Richard Nixon's resignation, when actually he didn't take office as associate deputy attorney general in the Justice Department until one year after the new Ford team came in, according to Harold Tyler, the official who hired him. He also said he'd gone through the Reagan transition, though his nomination was held up by Senate Republicans over questions about his handling of a prior federal probe until May 1, 1981, five months after Ronald Reagan took office.

Illustration by Alan Carlstrom

Strangely enough, Green edited a 1992 book about the Clinton transition and wrote an introductory essay with 10 strategies for doing one, including the admonition "Any political leader has to let his or her natural adversaries know that he or she stands for something and won't be rolled." In the 1992 book called Changing America and published by the Citizens Transition Project, Green wrote that "a progressive president needs to choose a major moment to stand on principle," a call whose echoes hung over Green now at this gut-check, transitional moment.

The exit polls from the primary two days earlier also were hanging over him. They showed that 41 percent of the Democrats who voted were prepared to vote for Giuliani in November if he were on the ballot. It was a number that made Green insiders sweat. Belying it was the fact that less than 2 percent of Dems wrote in his name and that 80 percent voted for Green, Ferrer, or Alan Hevesi, each of whom had run with strong anti-Giuliani credentials of one sort or another. But from Green's perspective, he was wrestling with the dark dilemma that if he didn't give Giuliani a small slice of his term, he might not have one at all.

He says now that he reached the conclusion three times to turn Giuliani down, but decided in the end to join Bloomberg, who had instantly agreed. At 8:25 that night, he called Joe Lhota, adding that he "expected" that since he was acting "in the spirit of nonpartisan unity" that the mayor would "bring the same spirit" to the extended transition period. He says that though Giuliani's entire governmental history demonstrates a wholesale inability to share power with anyone, he did not make this mutual nonpartisan hope a condition because "this was no time to dicker." He insists that despite his acquiescing to this plan, he still believes that he "would be the best person to take the city through those three months," a perplexing claim since his only defense of the deal is that it's best for a city in turmoil.

Asked, for example, if he thought Giuliani should pick the site for the city's next emergency command center over the next few months, Green told the Voice: "No. There are a hundred issues that he and I could have a different perspective on, and I believe he should generally not be making decisions that bind us." Aware that Giuliani told the Times over the weekend that he was already searching for a site, Green said that Rudy's "last decision about the 7 World Trade Center site turned out to be flawed." Giuliani spent $15 million constructing a supposedly "impenetrable" center on the 23rd floor of the WTC, even though the towers next to it had already been bombed. The center was never used during the attack and quickly obliterated.

Green's only explanation for agreeing so quickly to the Rudy proposal—though Giuliani pondered his options for at least a week—is that "when I make my decision, I give my answer." He talks about how soundly Harry Truman slept after dropping the first A-bomb. He says, "Executive authority is about thinking through a decision and moving on," all the while concealing much of the process that led to it. A top aide, more accurately, said Green rushed to "assure the mayor, make the mayor comfortable," a disquieting priority to many of his backers.

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