With this 9/11 thing continuing to work for former mayor Rudy Giuliani, we can’t help wondering how President Giuliani might handle a crisis before the arrayed minions of the White House press corps. Of course, the answer is simple: You only have to go back and look at his record as mayor.
Let’s face it: If the subject was controversial, Rudy was testy, whether he was talking to reporters in the blue room at City Hall or to ordinary New Yorkers on his radio show. The question is: Do we really want a president like that?
Who could forget his response after police officers shot and killed the mentally unbalanced, hammer-wielding Gideon Busch in 1999?
A reporter inquired whether the mayor was concerned about the shooting because Busch had been armed with only a hand tool.
“Ha—you gotta be unreal,” the mayor replied, according to The New York Observer. “Really just a hammer? A hammer is a deadly weapon. Would you like to have a hammer inserted in your brain?”
Later, of course, it emerged that the hammer was small, and that the officers were a good distance away from Busch when they opened fire. Moreover, Busch never actually struck anyone with the hammer, and it’s doubtful that the officers were ever in imminent danger.
When reporters raised questions about the NYPD’s account of the Busch shooting, Rudy said it was “about the cheapest shot you guys have taken at the Police Department.”
Or what about the time he used a press conference to release the sealed juvenile record of Patrick Dorismond, an unarmed man shot by police officers?
Rudy described Dorismond as “no altar boy.” In fact, earlier in his life, Dorismond
was an altar boy—and he’d attended the same Catholic school that Rudy had. The city settled that case for $2.25 million.
After cops shot and wounded 16-year-old Michael Jones, who was riding his bicycle with a toy gun in hand, Rudy blamed the teen’s parents, as this newspaper’s Wayne Barrett reported in 1999. “Adult supervision would have prevented the gun,” he said. “It would also have prevented being out at 2:30 in the morning for whatever purpose, and I don’t think the purpose for which he was out was a salutary one.”
Giuliani, ABC News reported, once told the mother of a robbery suspect killed by police: “Maybe you should ask yourself some questions about the way he was brought up and the things that happened to him. Trying to displace the responsibility for the criminal acts of your son onto these police officers is really unfair.”
How would a President Giuliani handle a visit to the U.S. by a controversial international figure? Well, as mayor, Giuliani once had the late Yasir Arafat ejected from a concert at Lincoln Center. The White House and the United Nations condemned him, but Rudy wouldn’t apologize. “I would not invite Yasir Arafat to anything, anywhere, anytime, anyplace,” he told reporters. “I don’t forget.”
Sometimes Rudy used anger to avoid tough questions, as in his response to Newsday
‘s then City Hall bureau chief, Paul Moses, in 1996. When Moses asked a pertinent question about the declining number of police officers assigned to city neighborhoods, Rudy quickly detonated.
“The level, sometimes, of questions is at the point of idiocy,” he blustered. “Patrol strength is not as important by any means as the amount of crime that goes on in a city.”
Moses, now a journalism professor at Brooklyn College, says he remembers the exchange quite well. “It was a very polite question, and he blew up,” he says. “About 300 of his top people were in the room. The people who worked for him were mortified. One aide said to me, ‘I don’t know where that came from.’ ”
Then there was the time in June 2001 that Rudy lambasted union boss Larry Hanley during a town-hall meeting in Staten Island. Hanley had had the gall to ask Giuliani why his picture was plastered all over buses owned by a company that did business with the city.
“That is total, ridiculous nonsense,” Rudy stormed, even as his words were being captured on tape. “My picture is on thousands of buses, and I find people who make false and irresponsible charges of corruption to be reprehensible. That’s it. Take the microphone away. End of the conversation. Sorry, Mr. Hanley, that’s the end of the conversation. That’s the end of the conversation. . . ”
When Hanley and some of his members began booing the mayor, Rudy responded: “Oh, you came here to cause trouble, and you’re a bunch of idiots.”
When mere citizens pissed him off, Rudy often called them crazy. Like the time he told a man suffering from Parkinson’s disease: “There’s something really wrong with you, John—I mean, there really is. I can hear it in your voice. Why don’t you stay on the line, we’ll take your name and your number, and we’ll send you psychiatric help, ’cause you seriously need it.”
And who can forget the immortal “ferret call,” when Rudy told an advocate for the furry rodents: “There is something really, really very sad about you. You need help. You need somebody to help you. This excessive concern with little weasels is a sickness.”
He also invoked mental illness in this broadside against the Brooklyn Museum’s “Sensation!” show: “Public funds should not be used to support sick demonstrations by people, even if they call themselves artists.”
But what about Rudy’s maxims? After all, a president has to have some moral touchstones for political action. Here’s one of Rudy’s: “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 and how you do it.”
George W. Bush has shrewdly given fewer press conferences than any other modern president—after all, why ask for trouble? But given Rudy’s mayoral record of explosions, if he becomes president, it might be a good idea for his aides to eliminate them entirely.