The Coming Giuliani Dictatorship

|

Matthew Yglesias, after linking to Matt Welch's instant-classic April Reason cover story, links an anti-Rudy manifesto by New York "civic-republican" Jim Sleeper*.

The first serious problem is structural and political: A man who fought the inherent limits of his mayoral office as fanatically as Giuliani would construe presidential prerogatives so broadly he'd make George Bush's notions of "unitary" executive power seem soft.

Even in the 1980s, as an assistant attorney general in the Reagan Justice Department and U.S. Attorney in New York, Giuliani was imperious and overreaching, He made the troubled daughter of a state judge, Hortense Gabel, testify against her mother and former Miss America Bess Meyerson in a failed prosecution charging, among other things, that Meyerson had hired the judge's daughter to bribe help "expedite" a messy divorce case. The jury was so put off by Giuliani's tactics that it acquitted all concerned, as the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus recalled ten years later in assessing Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr's subpoena of Monica Lewinsky's mother to testify against her daughter.

At least, as U.S. Attorney, Giuliani served at the pleasure of the President and had to defer to federal judges. Were he the President, U.S. Attorneys would serve at his pleasure—a dangerous arrangement in the wrong hands, we've learned—and he'd pick the judges to whom prosecutors defer.

As mayor, Giuliani fielded close aides like a fast and sometimes brutal hockey team, micro-managing and bludgeoning city agencies and even agencies that weren't his, like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Board of Education. They deserved it richly enough to make his bravado thrilling to many of us, but it wasn't very productive. And while this Savonarola disdained even would-be allies in other branches of government, he wasn't above cutting indefensible deals with crony contractors and pandering shamelessly to some Hispanics, orthodox Jews, and other favored constituencies.

Good stuff, and worrisome if you care about executive power and civil liberties. But this isn't the kind of criticism that will hurt Giuliani in a general election, is it? I can't readily name a politician who's suffered because he "got too tough," as long as what/whom he was lording it over is unpopular.

*errata: I originally referred to Sleeper as a neoconservative. He ain't.

NEXT: I Do Miss Mom, but At Least the Car is Smoke-Free

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The real opposition to Giuliani will come, and is already starting to come, from “serious” Catholics. Not only is Giuliani pro-choice and pro-tolerance for gays, his current “marriage” is, in Catholic doctrine, a continuing mortal sin. Giuliani got a divorce to end his second marriage, not an annulment. Divorces, as every Catholic at least knows, is forbidden by the Catholic Church, absolutely. In the fifties, people were excommunicated (i.e., damned to Hell) for getting a divorce. Now that Giuliani has “remarried” (not a real marriage in the eyes of the Church, of course), he cannot be forgiven the sin of his divorce until he leaves his “false” wife and returns to his “real” one.

    Conservative Catholics are reluctant to publicly attack Giuliani on this point (he is a Republican, after all), but they feel it in their gut, and they resent it. And they will go after him on abortion, gay rights, etc.

  2. “As mayor, Giuliani fielded close aides like a fast and sometimes brutal hockey team, micro-managing and bludgeoning city agencies and even agencies that weren’t his, like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Board of Education.”

    There may be good reasons to object to Giuliani as a Presidential candidate. Certainly, his behavior in the Myerson case and others as a U.S. attorney was reprehensible. Of course most if not all U.S. Attorneys are publicity seeking sleaze balls. So, I am not sure you can’t write off some of Guilliani’s behavior to the nature of the position and I am not sure Rudy was any worse than any of the others.

    I will say this for Rudy, if there is one organization that absolutely deserves to be bludgeoned and micro-managed, it is the City of New York. He inherited the worst run city in perhaps all of the free world when he became Mayor of New York. If he hadn’t bludgeoned and micro-managed that city he would have been remiss in his duties as mayor.

  3. I can’t readily name a politician who’s suffered because he “got too tough”

    I would say Lyndon Johnson. Dick Cheney, too.

  4. Alan,

    “Conservative Catholics are reluctant to publicly attack Giuliani on this point (he is a Republican, after all), ”

    Yeah, you know how those Conservative Catholics are, all voting Republican and whatnot…

    What planet again?

  5. Alan,

    I am sure all 15 or 20 “conservative Catholics” who still buy the church teaching on divorce will vote against him.

  6. I, for one, welcome our new swarthy overlord.

  7. Shit. I’m going to have to vote for Team Blue again, aren’t I?

    Shit.

  8. I doubt the third marriage thing will hurt him with Catholics. Hardly any Catholics pay attention to Church doctrine in that area any more.

    To get elected, all he has to do is plant some fake Islamic terror communication somewhere, saying that
    “El-Qaeda” is hoping the Democrats win as they are “soft on terror”. Just have it on O”Reilly” right before the elections.

    The best strategy for him is to just keep saying he knows how to be tough on terror, as he was “in the trenches” for 9/11; and talk in vague generalities about every other issue.

  9. I’ve been saying this all along. Guiliani’s got one tool in his toolbox, a whacking great hammer.

  10. I doubt the third marriage thing will hurt him with Catholics. Hardly any Catholics pay attention to Church doctrine in that area any more.

    Well, it does hurt him with MSM columnists who write about how Catholics will vote.

  11. Shit. I’m going to have to vote for Team Blue again, aren’t I?

    Yeah, because we all know how rabidly anti-authoritarian Hillary is.

    Geez, some choice, eh?

  12. Every time someone notices that Catholics don’t vote the way the bishops tell them to, Tom Donoghue gets a shooting pain in his left temple.

  13. John – I will grant you that Giuliani inherited a hell of a mess. However, he also inherited a generally improving climate (for example, no matter how much he wants to take credit for the drop in crime rates, it was happening all over the US). And not every fly needs to be crushed with a sledgehammer (think Chris Ofili and the Brooklyn Museum). And he did nothing for the image of the police, especially in New York’s minority communities.

    I am reminded of the adage, “Governing a great nation is like cooking a small fish: you ruin it with too much poking.” (Lao Tzu, from the Tao Te Ching.)

  14. He lost my vote due to his stance on the 2nd amendment. I’m not a gun freak or anything, I just don’t see how his support of the Assault Weapons Ban and gun bans in New York, square with the constitution.

    It’s not just the divorce that would hurt Guliani when it comes to the Catholic and Evangelical communities, it is almost everything with his social views. If, as many in the Evangelical community and I do, that life begins at conception, and if like the Catholics you won’t allow active members of your church to be homosexuals, and if you believe that it is important to keep good relationships with your family, then I don’t see how the Evangelicals can square all this with Guliani.

    To support for a man like Guliani would put Catholic and other churches in a purely political position after incidents like the last election where a Catholic Priest threatened to cut off Kerry from communion for his so called “wishy-washy” stance on abortion. It would confirm to many both within and out of the Christian faith that a number of churches and their leadership have become hypocritical sects concerned with the election of Republicans only.

    I’m not saying that any of the other candidates are necessarily better, but I don’t see how Guliani could garner the support of Christian conservatives unless a majority of them aren’t nearly as staunch in their beliefs as they sad they are when a Democratic candidate disagrees with them.

  15. I am much more afraid of this guy than of McCain. At least McCain won’t be opening any new torture camps, and we have no indication he will be going after the people on his Enemies List with the full force of the federal apparatus.
    Could the next issue of Reason have the cover story Be afraid of president Giuliani or will you keep on shilling for the Italian-American New York Republicans?

  16. typos

    square=>squares
    sad=>say

  17. On the other hand, the day Rudy gets the nomination all the heads of the Christian Right pundits will explode one by one. That’d be worth watching.

    And if Hillary wins too, it’ll be an all-NY election.

  18. Guiliani’s got one tool in his toolbox, a whacking great hammer.

    Please stop trying to make this man sound sexy.

  19. “but I don’t see how Guliani could garner the support of Christian conservatives unless a majority of them aren’t nearly as staunch in their beliefs as they sad they are when a Democratic candidate disagrees with them.”

    Rudy will get to nominate conservative justices. Religious conservatives tend to think long-term.

  20. Rudy is a tough one.
    He is the only one to ever reduce property taxes in NYC and the reduction in crime was amazing but he would have just as easliy passed a smoking ban as Bloomberg did and he (and Bloomberg) have some challenging personality issues.

  21. I don’t see how Guliani could garner the support of Christian conservatives […]

    I don’t see why he should have to.

  22. You speak of civil liberties as if they exist.

  23. Rudy’s Second Amendment positions definitely put my vote in question. Speaking of, why the hell hasn’t Hit and Run blogged the DC Circuit’s striking down of the District’s insane gun laws? That is by far the most important story of the day.

    I wonder if any of the Reason staff actually own a gun? Why not? Why isn’t there somone on the Reason staff who covers gun rights the way Ronald Baily covers Science or Balko covers SWAT abuses? If there on thing that pisses me off about Reason more than any other is how Second Amendment and gun rights issues are always treated as second class issues. I really think it is a cultural problem with the Reason staff. All of them are little suburbanite left and right coasters who have never been around guns and don’t feel passionate about the issue.

  24. Good point about 2nd Amendment coverage. Also, to be more specific about one of your previous comments, John. The city of NY needs to be bludgeoned, but especially, especially, especially the MTA (subways, buses, etc.).

  25. John:
    Balko does indeed own a gun. He had a nice, long post on why he does at his personal website.

  26. John, Culturally speaking, Reason, as an organization, is fine on Amendment 2. I do agree, however, that there hasn’t been as much emphasis on gun rights as maybe we would like to see.

    Quick Reminder: The ACLU doesn’t think you have a right to own a gun, so Nadine Strossen can schmooze with us here and there, and I’ll even buy her a glass of cab, but never, ever, will I support her organization in any meaningful sense.

    Some of my best friends are liberals regards, TWC

  27. I’d forgotten about Guiliani proposing to extend his term of office “on an emergency basis” after 9/11.

    I guess with everything as crazy it was that week, the significance of that didn’t really hit me.

    We don’t do that in this country. That’s pretty scary.

  28. Quick Reminder: The ACLU doesn’t think you have a right to own a gun, so Nadine Strossen can schmooze with us here and there, and I’ll even buy her a glass of cab, but never, ever, will I support her organization in any meaningful sense.

    See, I have issues with this. It’s the perfect being the enemy of the good. The ACLU’s official position on 2nd Amendment cases is … stay out of them*. Sure, the ACLU won’t stand up for the RKBA, but to my knowledge they aren’t fighting against it either (if I am wrong, links please).

    If RKBA is your litmus test, great. Support a group like Jews for the Preservation of Firearm Ownership or if you can stand their authoritarian stance in regards to the War on Drugs, the NRA. Neither the JPFO nor the NRA lobby for any other right other than RKBA and the NRA feels that criminals (even those involved in victimless crimes) deserve to have mandatory minimums if they posses a gun.

    Again, I am not saying that RKBA is not a valid litmus test, but when you are willing to sacrifice your other rights so you can keep a gun, it’s not a winning scenario.

    *IN BRIEF
    The national ACLU is neutral on the issue of gun control. We believe that the Constitution contains no barriers to reasonable regulations of gun ownership. If we can license and register cars, we can license and register guns.

  29. To add to my criticisms of the NRA above, remember that victimless crimes(felonies) include online gambling, bookmaking and prostitution. IOW, if a prostitute carries a gun for personal protection, according to the NRA she deserves a minimum of five years in prison when caught.

  30. I’d forgotten about Guiliani proposing to extend his term of office “on an emergency basis” after 9/11.

    Seems you forgot a lot. What I remember was others beating the pot for him to stay on and he saying that the process has been followed and a new mayor has been elected.

  31. Kwix, it’s not just the gun issue and I don’t have a litmus test with respect to that. ACLU won’t go to the mat for you when your civil rights are violated by the IRS either.

    BTW, from your link….easier than looking for it myself. The money quote is this:

    Except for lawful police and military purposes, the possession of weapons by individuals is not constitutionally protected.

    Hardly a hands off approach. But even if it is just a hands off approach, hands-off is just a diplomatic way of saying John Q has no right to own firearms.

    Also interesting because Nadine doesn’t care if something is constitutional or not and said so in an interview with Cathy Young some years ago. So constitutional is only important if it is used to deny gun owners standing under the law but not important if it involves some other form of civil rights abuse that the ACLU finds intriguing. Like prayer in school. Or reproductive rights.

    Aside from the constitutional issue there is also the moral issue as well. In a libertarian society a gun would be treated no differently than any other personal property.

    I’m not willing to sacrifice any rights and those rights include gun ownership if I so desire it.

    ACLU POLICY

    “The ACLU agrees with the Supreme Court’s long-standing interpretation of the Second Amendment [as set forth in the 1939 case, U.S. v. Miller] that the individual’s right to bear arms applies only to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia. Except for lawful police and military purposes, the possession of weapons by individuals is not constitutionally protected. Therefore, there is no constitutional impediment to the regulation of firearms.” –Policy #47

  32. One other thing, the ACLU makes no distinction between private behavior and government behavior that I’m aware of. It sees no difference between Hooters discriminating against men in it’s hiring practices and the government enacting legislation prohibiting men from working at Hooters. Same, Same.

  33. And if Hillary wins too, it’ll be an all-NY election.

    Except of course for the fact that Hillary isn’t from NY, and only represents us in the Senate because the seat happened to be open in 2000. Not that we’re incapable of producing homegrown statists (Giuliani, Schumer, Cuomo, Spitzer, etc), but at least they’re OUR statists!

  34. Kwix,

    The NRA does not take an official position on anything other than firearms and hunting issues. It seems reasonable to restrict firearms ownership by felons; that our legislators have classified drug users and prostitutes as felons cannot be laid at the feet of the NRA.

  35. BTW, for all those freaking out that Reason doesn’t have a post about today’s gun ruling: I’m on the NRA email list, and have gotten two emails from them today about new stuff at the NRA online store and an endorsed life insurance company–but nothing about the District Court ruling. Go figure.

  36. joe-

    Every time someone notices that Catholics don’t vote the way the bishops tell them to, Tom Donoghue gets a shooting pain in his left temple.

    This Tom Donoghue? (I think you meant to say Bill Donohue)…

    (given your apparent lack of ability to accurately propagate the leftist narrative, you should expect to be ‘excommunicated’ shortly…) :o)

  37. Bad news is easier to trumpet than good news.

  38. Every time someone notices that Catholics don’t vote the way the bishops tell them to, Tom Donoghue gets a shooting pain in his left temple.

    The bishops don’t tell Catholics who to vote for, though that’s probably less a matter of principle than a matter of protecting the Church’s tax exemption.

    But I wonder, are you encouraging people to vote for candidates supporting the Iraq war and the death penalty (both of which are opposed by the US bishops)?

  39. Also, keep in mind that today’s 2nd Ammendment ruling was by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals, not the full Court. It may yet be reversed by the full Court of Appeals and never make it to SCOTUS.

  40. So,
    Is it looking like the least painful candidate is Obama?

    I mean, I will be supporting Ron Paul in the primaries, but when it comes down to it, who’s to hope for?

  41. Is it looking like the least painful candidate is Obama?

    Obama has a more pleasing personality, but does anyone here seriously think he isn’t worse on (to pick two issues at random) gun rights and taxes than Giuliani or McCain?

  42. RC,

    He’s definitely better (for me, not for you) on the Iraq war, though hopefully that’ll be a moot issue by the time of the general election. Giuliani’s gun rights record isn’t much better than Obama’s or Hillary’s. Taxes I’m not sure about — McCain is big on national sacrifice, after all.

    This is the most vomitous slate of candidates I’ve seen during my voting career.

  43. “The bishops don’t tell Catholics who to vote for, though that’s probably less a matter of principle than a matter of protecting the Church’s tax exemption.”

    Bullshit. They denounce particular candidates, loudly announce that the positions they hold go against Catholic teaching, and tell the laity to vote according to Catholic teaching.

    “But I wonder, are you encouraging people to vote for candidates supporting the Iraq war and the death penalty (both of which are opposed by the US bishops)?” No, I’m reporting on how the Church’s heirarchy behaves during election season. Though it is worth noticing, the Church makes much less noise about those issues and others that would encourage a vote for Democrats than the “family values” issues that favor Republicans.

  44. Being Roman Catholic (hummbly, as I say), The US Bishops and the Holy Sea are divied on pretty much everything. The US Bishops, like the Jesuits are trying to undoe everything the Vatican says to do. It’s rather depressing and disturbing.Like most leftist, the US Bishops want their cake and to eat it to. Like most (not all) Roman Catholics, the US Bishops do not speak for me.

    And for Rudy, I’m not voting for him simply because I don’t agree with the majority of his views.

    Oh, and for the ones who on here who say a lot of Catholics don’t follow Catholic doctrine anymore, are saddly mistaken. Just because the majority of Catholics in congress and here in the states say one thing, and do another. Does not mean we are all like that.

  45. 1. It’s “Holy See.”

    2. Google “polls Catholics church teachings”

    The numbers don’t lie.

  46. Is it looking like the least painful candidate is Obama?

    You people amaze me.

    Obama is a liberal’s liberal. And not even a Bill Clinton type third wayer. He’s a throw back to the Jimmy Carter days. Government as a means to create heaven on earth, micromanaging of personal behavior, all the nonsense.

    Even if you didn’t like any of the Republican candidates calling Obama the least offsenive in the field is nutty.

  47. The Second Amendment doesn’t say what a lot of you people seem to think it says.

  48. Ah, no wonder that GOP twit Dondero has a boner for Giuliani…

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.