Commentary Magazine


Topic: Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani vs. the Ignorant Agitators

There was some controversy over on Meet the Press this weekend when Rudy Giuliani got into a bit of a heated exchange on race, Ferguson, and public safety with Michael Eric Dyson, MSNBC’s Vice President of Accusing Everything That Moves of Being Racist. Dyson claimed, in a comment that should discredit him to anyone still taking him seriously, that Giuliani’s comments about black-on-black crime stemmed from “the defensive mechanism of white supremacy.” This morning on Fox, Giuliani defended his comments: “I probably saved more black lives as mayor of New York City than any mayor in the history of the city, with the possible exception of Mike Bloomberg, who was there for 12 years.” Yet while the argument centered on police action, to understand Giuliani’s contribution to this issue–which is even greater than he says himself–it’s important to take a step back from the policing issue.

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There was some controversy over on Meet the Press this weekend when Rudy Giuliani got into a bit of a heated exchange on race, Ferguson, and public safety with Michael Eric Dyson, MSNBC’s Vice President of Accusing Everything That Moves of Being Racist. Dyson claimed, in a comment that should discredit him to anyone still taking him seriously, that Giuliani’s comments about black-on-black crime stemmed from “the defensive mechanism of white supremacy.” This morning on Fox, Giuliani defended his comments: “I probably saved more black lives as mayor of New York City than any mayor in the history of the city, with the possible exception of Mike Bloomberg, who was there for 12 years.” Yet while the argument centered on police action, to understand Giuliani’s contribution to this issue–which is even greater than he says himself–it’s important to take a step back from the policing issue.

While Giuliani was not anyone’s idea of a traditional social conservative, there were aspects of his public policy of which the ends and the means were more conservative than he’s often given credit for. That’s why it’s worth putting the policing issue aside for the moment and concentrating on something else: his approach to inner city poverty and the role of fatherhood.

In a 2007 piece in City Journal appropriately titled “Yes, Rudy Giuliani Is a Conservative” (a premise many conservatives take issue with but one that is followed by a perfectly coherent case in the article), Steven Malanga goes over Giuliani’s highly successful welfare reform. And after discussing welfare, Malanga offers the following paragraph, which is rarely discussed but seems crucial to understanding Giuliani as a politician:

As part of Giuliani’s quintessentially conservative belief that dysfunctional behavior, not our economic system, lay at the heart of intergenerational poverty, he also spoke out against illegitimacy and the rise of fatherless families. A child born out of wedlock, he observed in one speech, was three times more likely to wind up on welfare than a child from a two-parent family. “Seventy percent of long-term prisoners and 75 percent of adolescents charged with murder grew up without fathers,” Giuliani told the city. He insisted that the city and the nation had to reestablish the “responsibility that accompanies bringing a child into the world,” and to that end he required deadbeat fathers either to find a private-sector job or to work in the city’s workfare program as a way of contributing to their child’s upbringing. But he added that changing society’s attitude toward marriage was more important than anything government could do: “[I]f you wanted a social program that would really save these kids, . . . I guess the social program would be called fatherhood.”

That is, in fact, something cultural conservatives–really anybody, but cultural conservatives in particular–should celebrate. And if offers a clear window into Giuliani’s approach to public policy. Public safety per se wasn’t the foundational principle of Giuliani’s mayoralty; it was a beneficial, and in some cases practically revolutionary, outgrowth of its real foundation: dignity.

There is much that Missouri police have done since the tragic death of Michael Brown that robs members of the Ferguson community of their dignity. So the point is not tough policing uber alles, nor would that have been Giuliani’s choice. Indeed, as I wrote at the time, the hasty militarization of the county police force was a mistake. When you work for the government in some powerful capacity, and you approach a citizen, how you approach that citizen tells him how the government sees him. If you show up on a tank-like vehicle dressed like you’re about to enter a war zone, the message you send to the citizens you are policing is that the government sees them as a warlike population. St. Louis County did not declare war on the Ferguson community, but could you blame them for wondering if they had?

Giuliani took the opposite tack, refusing to behave like an invading general, despite what his dimmest critics might claim. And what was the result? To briefly revisit Malanga:

Giuliani’s policing success was a boon to minority neighborhoods. For instance, in the city’s 34th Precinct, covering the largely Hispanic Washington Heights section of Manhattan, murders dropped from 76 in 1993, Dinkins’s last year, to only seven by Giuliani’s last year, a decline of more than 90 percent. Far from being the racist that activists claimed, Giuliani had delivered to the city’s minority neighborhoods a true form of equal protection under the law.

Those of us who have lived in Washington Heights know this is no joke. Those who like to play expert on MSNBC are usually speaking out of ignorance.

And the key point here is to understand that the belief in the dignity of men, women, and children, of families, infused every decision Giuliani made with regard to improving public safety in minority neighborhoods and the city at large. Accusations of “white supremacist” thinking aren’t merely obscenely stupid, though they are certainly that. They also tend to come from those who have never shown the black community a fraction of the respect or service Giuliani has.

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De Blasio vs. the NYPD–and Public Safety

If you were looking for a moment when the wheels truly seemed to be coming off the Bill de Blasio administration’s relationship with the NYPD, the late-August call by a prominent police union to oppose bringing the Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn is a good candidate. The idea had been floated for Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to host the DNC, but the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, Ed Mullins, had some choice–and public–words for the mayor:

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If you were looking for a moment when the wheels truly seemed to be coming off the Bill de Blasio administration’s relationship with the NYPD, the late-August call by a prominent police union to oppose bringing the Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn is a good candidate. The idea had been floated for Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to host the DNC, but the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, Ed Mullins, had some choice–and public–words for the mayor:

“While the Barclays Center is still new and glistening, the great city in which it stands is lurching backwards to the bad old days of high crime, danger-infested public spaces, and families that walk our streets worried for their safety,” Mullins wrote in an open letter running in Tuesday’s editions of the New York Post and The New York Times.

Mullins said de Blasio’s administration has made “dangerous choices” and as a result, the “degradation of our streets is on the rise.”

He added, sourly, “Right now, we don’t have a mayor who supports the police.” Mullins’s point was ostensibly that the NYPD shouldn’t have any additional burden put on it–indeed, that such a request would be chutzpahdik–while they’re being constantly second-guessed by a new administration. But it’s clear that the feeling had been building for some time and needed an outlet.

It’s worth keeping that moment in mind reading the latest news on the de Blasio administration’s ongoing power struggle with the NYPD. The background, briefly: de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, has been so involved with the administration that mayoral counsel Henry Berger is arguing she should legally be considered a consultant in order to shield her correspondence with the administration from reporters. McCray’s chief of staff, Rachel Noerdlinger, thus enjoys a high degree of access.

Noerdlinger, it was revealed by DNAinfo last week, is in a relationship with a man convicted of homicide and drug charges and who refers to police in derogatory language and nearly ran a cop off the road in New Jersey last year. De Blasio is sticking by Noerdlinger, who used to work for Al Sharpton. And now the Washington Free Beacon has unearthed something that New Yorkers probably had forgotten but the police groups might not have:

Rachel Noerdlinger, the controversial chief of staff to New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray, once called for boycotts of a local police union and all of its supporters, a position that could cause more headaches for Mayor Bill de Blasio as he seeks to minimize the fallout over Noerdlinger’s relationship with a convicted killer who has made disparaging comments about the police.

Noerdlinger, the longtime top aide to de Blasio’s wife, has been engulfed in controversy after it came to light that she is dating a convicted murderer and drug dealer who has called cops “pigs” and expressed distaste for white people.

The unearthing of these remarks by ex-con Hassaun McFarlan is said to have raised “serious concerns about Noerdlinger having a seat at top-level” New York Police Department (NYPD) meetings, according to the New York Daily News.

Noerdlinger in 2000, while working as Sharpton’s spokeswoman, called for the boycotting of companies that donated to the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which had been helping to pay for the defense of New York policemen acquitted on charges of murdering Amadou Diallo. The comments came at a time of high tensions in the city over the Diallo case.

As the New York Post reported at the time, Noerdlinger’s boycott call was made at the same time prominent Harlem Rev. Calvin Butts was stirring up public anger against both the police and then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani:

“There are many who are calling for calm, but I am not one,” he told The Post. “I think that people ought to be agitated, they ought to be active.”

Earlier in the day, Butts told worshippers, “There is an evil that permeates the place called City Hall,” and called on New Yorkers to stand up for their rights.

“There is no chance that your police will not be resisted. They must be resisted, they will be resisted,” he said in a sermon.

The benevolent associations, unions, and other police groups likely remember that controversy quite well. If so, they also remember the support they tended to get from the Giuliani administration, in stark contrast to the atmosphere of distrust building around de Blasio. The revelation that the administration now has someone on board who had been calling for a boycott of the PBA makes it easier to understand why someone like Mullins at the SBA sees a proliferation of red flags around this administration.

De Blasio has not proved successful at maintaining public safety while reining in police procedure. Actions have consequences, and a lot of New Yorkers remember well the consequences the last time distrust of the NYPD was allowed to drive public safety policymaking. And if de Blasio doesn’t remember that, he’s clearly got staffers who can remind him.

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Is Skyrocketing Gun Violence a Wake-Up Call for de Blasio?

Important caveats apply, but the news out of New York City on gun violence is not good. The New York Post reports:

The number of shooting victims has skyrocketed across the city this year — up 43 percent in just the last month — while fewer guns are coming off the streets, NYPD statistics reveal.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has repeatedly shifted the focus from shootings to a steep decline in homicides, and claims he is not worried about the gun violence.

But sources told The Post it will only get worse in the hotter summer months, and that the alarming trend is the result of a more “reactive” police force handicapped by the inability to use tactics like stop-and-frisk.

“Cops aren’t putting their hands on anyone,” a source said.

It’s early yet, and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is not entirely wrong, as a Post editorial concedes, that “Crime goes up, it goes down.” But as the Post also points out, crime fluctuates for a reason. There has always been a contradiction bordering on hypocrisy in liberal calls to crack down on legal gun ownership and Second Amendment rights to reduce gun violence while tying the hands of the police and impeding the proven–and constitutional–efforts to actually reduce gun violence.

Part of the left’s argument against the NYPD was that its “stop and frisk” policy resulted in relatively few arrests. They took this to mean that in such cases the stops themselves were unnecessary. It’s easy to spot the logical flaw here: the point was not to fill the prisons but to prevent crime. Which is exactly what the policy did:

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Important caveats apply, but the news out of New York City on gun violence is not good. The New York Post reports:

The number of shooting victims has skyrocketed across the city this year — up 43 percent in just the last month — while fewer guns are coming off the streets, NYPD statistics reveal.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has repeatedly shifted the focus from shootings to a steep decline in homicides, and claims he is not worried about the gun violence.

But sources told The Post it will only get worse in the hotter summer months, and that the alarming trend is the result of a more “reactive” police force handicapped by the inability to use tactics like stop-and-frisk.

“Cops aren’t putting their hands on anyone,” a source said.

It’s early yet, and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is not entirely wrong, as a Post editorial concedes, that “Crime goes up, it goes down.” But as the Post also points out, crime fluctuates for a reason. There has always been a contradiction bordering on hypocrisy in liberal calls to crack down on legal gun ownership and Second Amendment rights to reduce gun violence while tying the hands of the police and impeding the proven–and constitutional–efforts to actually reduce gun violence.

Part of the left’s argument against the NYPD was that its “stop and frisk” policy resulted in relatively few arrests. They took this to mean that in such cases the stops themselves were unnecessary. It’s easy to spot the logical flaw here: the point was not to fill the prisons but to prevent crime. Which is exactly what the policy did:

Research has converged on the conclusion that a shift from reactive to proactive policing by the N.Y.P.D. has played the crucial role in what the criminologist Franklin Zimring called a “Guinness Book of World Records crime drop.” Starting with community policing under Mayor David Dinkins, and greatly intensifying under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani with the Compstat system’s intensive monitoring of crime, the city flouted the leading theory that police cannot reduce crime but can only respond to it.

While crime rose in many large cities over the past decade, it continued to decline in New York City. Zimring singles out the use of focused vigilance with “hot spot” policing, which began in 2002, as a particularly plausible explanation. Our research shows that a central element of that approach is the increased use of stop and frisk in high-crime neighborhoods.

Yet activist judge Shira Scheindlin embraced the very same logical flaw that the left was trying to push against the NYPD, and dramatically escalated the left’s war-on-the-war-on-crime by including it in a ruling outlawing the practice. That gave ammunition to those seeking to oust the successful police commissioner Ray Kelly, and far-leftist Bill de Blasio’s victory in the mayoral election sealed Kelly’s fate.

Getting rid of Kelly was only an element of the plan to discard the strategies that had helped bring down crime and save the lives of countless New Yorkers, especially those in minority neighborhoods. Now the NYPD is on the defensive because gun confiscation is down and gun violence is up.

Bratton’s spin includes bragging about the fact that while shootings are up, homicides are down. This, as California police officer “Jack Dunphy” (a pseudonym) writes, is not due to police work:

The fact that more people are being shot but fewer of them are dying is more of a testament to the state of emergency medicine in New York than to anything Bratton might be doing. Those two lines on the graph cannot diverge for long, and with the police effectively neutered, the criminal class surely will take advantage.

It’s great that a combination of emergency medicine and, probably, luck has kept the homicide rate from spiking along with the gun violence. But de Blasio must know–and Bratton surely knows–that if the numbers don’t improve soon, or if they get worse, the NYPD better have a strategy to turn things around.

As I’ve written in the past, the success of Rudy Giuliani’s administration may have helped get de Blasio elected by taking a problem off the table for the Democrats, but it will, for the same reason, likely make the voters less willing to give de Blasio a break if things head south. After the Giuliani and Bloomberg years, New Yorkers have had two decades of steadily improving quality of life and have come to expect a degree of safety in the city streets.

Those who have been in the city long enough to remember the situation Giuliani inherited will see its return coming a mile away, and vote accordingly (with their feet if necessary, by leaving the city). Those who have never known a less safe New York may very well panic at the first sign of disintegrating public safety. Either way, de Blasio and Bratton don’t have much room for error. If these numbers are not a fluke, New Yorkers will know precisely who to blame.

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GOP Plans to Be Ready for Hillary, Again

In 2007, speaking to the Telegraph’s Toby Harnden, Rudy Giuliani offered a declaration: “If you want to defeat Hillary Clinton, I would be the best person to do that because I can make this campaign nationwide.” It would be something of a theme of his campaign, though that was partly due to the fact that Clinton was, for some time, the frontrunner across the aisle. In Harnden’s piece, Giuliani explains that he thinks the Democratic ticket will eventually be Clinton-Obama, in that order.

In the end, it wasn’t Clinton-Obama or even Obama-Clinton. It was, for the purposes of that rivalry, just Obama. This surprised people on both sides, who expected Clinton to eventually run out the clock on Obama’s insurgent challenge, and was never able to. It was doubly challenging for the GOP: not only was Barack Obama a better general-election candidate, but the GOP candidates were unprepared for him. They had been planning for Hillary.

And they are again. Both CNN and the Washington Examiner noticed that the GOP leadership gathering in Washington last week seemed awfully preoccupied with Clinton. The Examiner notes:

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In 2007, speaking to the Telegraph’s Toby Harnden, Rudy Giuliani offered a declaration: “If you want to defeat Hillary Clinton, I would be the best person to do that because I can make this campaign nationwide.” It would be something of a theme of his campaign, though that was partly due to the fact that Clinton was, for some time, the frontrunner across the aisle. In Harnden’s piece, Giuliani explains that he thinks the Democratic ticket will eventually be Clinton-Obama, in that order.

In the end, it wasn’t Clinton-Obama or even Obama-Clinton. It was, for the purposes of that rivalry, just Obama. This surprised people on both sides, who expected Clinton to eventually run out the clock on Obama’s insurgent challenge, and was never able to. It was doubly challenging for the GOP: not only was Barack Obama a better general-election candidate, but the GOP candidates were unprepared for him. They had been planning for Hillary.

And they are again. Both CNN and the Washington Examiner noticed that the GOP leadership gathering in Washington last week seemed awfully preoccupied with Clinton. The Examiner notes:

Concern about Clinton is framing many GOP officials’ approach to the 2016 contest and was much on the minds of those who gathered in Washington this week for the party’s annual winter meeting. Indeed, the GOP’s ongoing overhaul of voter turnout machinery — and the rules changes governing its presidential primary process — are being conducted with an eye toward helping the eventual GOP nominee overcome the Clinton juggernaut.

Giuliani’s experience provides a cautionary tale, but it also in some ways justifies the GOP’s focus on Hillary. The cautionary tale part is obvious: they thought she was inevitable, she wasn’t, and the concentration on Hillary constituted an opportunity cost in preparing for Obama. Additionally, the party structure around a presidential candidate needs to offer its own agenda, a vision for governing the country. A referendum can only be held on the administration in office, and in 2007-2008 the GOP was the party in the White House.

Republicans were able to run that kind of campaign against Obama in 2012, but it won’t be so simple when there’s no incumbent and they are trying to convince the country to give them back the levers of power. And if they prepare only for Hillary, and she doesn’t run (or loses the nomination/coronation somehow) they will be in the same situation as Giuliani.

However, that’s not the whole story. Giuliani, in fact, got a few things right. The first was how to run against Hillary. She would have been a historic candidate, and still would be, by attempting to be the first woman president. Giuliani seemed to understand the pitfalls of running against her better than Rick Lazio, her 2000 Senate opponent, did when he was faulted for looking like a bully. (This critique of Lazio from the left, painting Hillary as a damsel in distress, should actually have been quite offensive to her, and perhaps gave an indication of the trouble she’d have winning a Democratic Party nomination.)

In that Telegraph piece, Giuliani indicated that he would treat Hillary like a run-of-the-mill liberal and ignore her historic status. He also honed his attacks on policy: “If we do HillaryCare or socialized medicine, Canadians will have no place to go to get their health care,” Giuliani quipped at a GOP primary debate.

There is still plenty on the policy side to criticize Clinton, even (or especially) in areas the burgeoning Clinton campaign thinks it’s strongest. For example, in Amy Chozick’s New York Times magazine piece on Clintonworld, we learn:

If there is one thing that Clinton allies want to make sure you know — and will keep reminding you, over and over, in interviews — it’s that Hillary Clinton’s State Department was run nothing like her chaotic 2008 presidential campaign. When Clinton accepted the job as secretary of state, she did so with the understanding that she could bring some of her most loyal people — called the Royal Council by one aide — along with her. …

The cloistered State Department offered Clinton a chance to define herself away from her husband and to shed the stench of managerial dysfunction that still lingered from the campaign.

And wouldn’t you know it, she failed that test spectacularly. Even the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi noted massive organizational and managerial incompetence when Clinton was in charge at Foggy Bottom. Those who wanted to exonerate Clinton from the consequences of the attacks relied on her managerial incompetence to do so: a fuzzy chain of command, confusion over safety requirements, failure to prepare a slow-moving bureaucracy for the challenges of postwar Libya.

Republicans are playing the odds by betting that Clinton–especially with no one like Obama in her path this time–remains the favorite for her party’s 2016 nomination. There is much to be said for being prepared to face a challenging opponent. In that sense, they’re right not to interpret Giuliani’s loss as an argument against such preparation. At the same time, they should remember that Giuliani understood far better than some current Republicans–Mike Huckabee comes to mind–how to run against a candidate of her status in the identity politics world. But they’re also the party out of power, and they’ll have to make sure to have plenty of ideas of their own.

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The Flawed Christie-Giuliani Narrative

The political press has picked up the comparison between Chris Christie 2016 and Rudy Giuliani 2008 with gusto. This is a flawed comparison, though one can understand why reporters would be drawn to it. It fits a preexisting narrative and offers superficial similarities. But the problem is not only that the parallels may be weaker than they seem (they almost always are); it’s that the initial frames are wrong to begin with, and the press end up comparing new candidates to former candidates who never really existed.

That’s especially true in Giuliani’s case, since the “first draft of history” written about his campaign is demonstrably false. Yet it has somehow become Giuliani’s story anyway. And it finds its way into even solid stories by knowledgeable reporters. For example, here’s Politico’s latest on the Christie-Rudy comparison. It does a good job debunking many of the supposed similarities, but then we find this, as a red flag:

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The political press has picked up the comparison between Chris Christie 2016 and Rudy Giuliani 2008 with gusto. This is a flawed comparison, though one can understand why reporters would be drawn to it. It fits a preexisting narrative and offers superficial similarities. But the problem is not only that the parallels may be weaker than they seem (they almost always are); it’s that the initial frames are wrong to begin with, and the press end up comparing new candidates to former candidates who never really existed.

That’s especially true in Giuliani’s case, since the “first draft of history” written about his campaign is demonstrably false. Yet it has somehow become Giuliani’s story anyway. And it finds its way into even solid stories by knowledgeable reporters. For example, here’s Politico’s latest on the Christie-Rudy comparison. It does a good job debunking many of the supposed similarities, but then we find this, as a red flag:

There are two constants between Giuliani and Christie – advisers Mike DuHaime and Maria Comella.

DuHaime, Giuliani’s presidential campaign manager, is a senior adviser to Christie since 2009. Comella, a Giuliani presidential campaign press aide, is Christie’s communications director.

DuHaime came under fire for Giuliani’s failed “Florida firewall” strategy, but has since been integral to Christie’s two successful campaigns. Comella is broadly respected and her team has shown the kind of web proficiency necessary in a modern campaign. …

Craig Robinson, a former executive director of the Iowa Republican Party and founder of The Iowa Republican website, argued that Christie’s team needs to show more than they did with Giulian (sic). If they do, he said, “the sky’s the limit” for Christie.

This “Florida firewall” myth has stuck, but it’s just that–a myth. That’s due in large part to Giuliani himself, who wanted to deflect concern about his early primary losses by suggesting he was waiting for Florida to turn the tide. But that’s not actually what happened.

“Rudy Giuliani would bypass early-voting Iowa and New Hampshire on his way to more moderate, voter-rich states like Florida and California, many pundits once predicted,” scoffed the New York Daily News in October 2007. “But a look at the presidential hopeful’s campaign datebook shows the former mayor is hunkering down in the two early battlegrounds far more than in other primary states.”

The Daily News backed up its headline, “Rudy Giuliani defies critics, campaigns hard in early states,” by reporting that Giuliani had spent more time in New Hampshire and Iowa than did John McCain, who eventually went on to win the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. The Daily News was onto something. In January 2008, after the New Hampshire primary in which Giuliani placed fourth, Jake Tapper and Karen Travers reported for ABC News that Giuliani held more events in New Hampshire than McCain, Mike Huckabee, Barack Obama, or Hillary Clinton did.

And it wasn’t just events. Giuliani spent millions on television advertising in New Hampshire–almost as much as McCain and more than Huckabee and Ron Paul combined. So what happened? Tapper and Travers explained:

But after a few weeks, when his poll numbers traveled downward instead of in the preferred direction, the former mayor’s campaign said it would stick with his original plan. In December an anonymous “top Giuliani aide” told The Politico newspaper that the new plan would allow the former mayor’s campaign “to marshal our resources for Florida and Feb. 5, while keeping options open for changes in the early states.”

He was competing and still losing, so he told Politico that he wasn’t really trying, that he was waiting for Florida and letting the other candidates tussle over the early states while he built his “firewall.” And so the “Florida firewall” story was ingested by Politico and remains a fixture of Giuliani-related stories to this day.

And now that Christie employs one of the same Giuliani advisors who was an architect of a plan that ultimately stayed on the shelf, the other comparisons between the candidates come alive, as if Christie would–or even could–run the same kind of campaign Giuliani did.

He can’t, though. Giuliani had to lean on 9/11 to a certain degree because he was otherwise incompatible with Republican primary voters. The former mayor ran as a pro-choice Republican. Christie is pro-life. And though Giuliani proved himself on 9/11 to be the kind of leader the country could count on in a crisis, national-security issues just don’t tend to dominate presidential elections.

Overall, the two candidates have major differences on nearly every subject of consequence. Yes, they’re both from the Northeast. But if political reporters can’t tell the difference between candidates because they hail from states near each other, 2016 is going to be a long silly season.

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Bill de Blasio and New York’s New Normal

Few doubt that New York’s Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has benefitted from the twenty years of Republican governance he decried to win the Democratic nomination. New Yorkers’ memories of the disastrous Dinkins administration may be fuzzy, but there are also many with no memories of that era at all. For many this is difficult to believe, but yes: it really was that long ago.

That may have helped de Blasio win the election. But the fact that Republicans are victims of their own success to some degree in New York should not be too comforting to de Blasio. He and his backers seem to be forgetting the flip side to this coin: New Yorkers have gotten comfortable living in a safe city, and their tolerance for crime has thus diminished. De Blasio has almost no margin of error because his political base has no idea what it’s like to live in a city that can’t control its crime.

With the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy later this month, remembrances of that era are everywhere. But in 2007, the New York Times reported on another reason to look back to 1963:

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Few doubt that New York’s Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has benefitted from the twenty years of Republican governance he decried to win the Democratic nomination. New Yorkers’ memories of the disastrous Dinkins administration may be fuzzy, but there are also many with no memories of that era at all. For many this is difficult to believe, but yes: it really was that long ago.

That may have helped de Blasio win the election. But the fact that Republicans are victims of their own success to some degree in New York should not be too comforting to de Blasio. He and his backers seem to be forgetting the flip side to this coin: New Yorkers have gotten comfortable living in a safe city, and their tolerance for crime has thus diminished. De Blasio has almost no margin of error because his political base has no idea what it’s like to live in a city that can’t control its crime.

With the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy later this month, remembrances of that era are everywhere. But in 2007, the New York Times reported on another reason to look back to 1963:

As 2007 draws to a close, it seems very likely that there will be fewer than 500 killings in the city (as of Sunday evening, there had been 492) for the first time since reliable records started being kept.

That was 1963.

The body count that year reflected the beginnings of what was to be an alarming rise in the city’s murder rate through 1990.

So if you live in New York today, you may remember the bad old days of high crime, but you probably don’t remember the last time the city was as safe as it has been in the current era. That’s the message Republican candidate Joe Lhota tried to send in his campaign ads against de Blasio. But the ads fell flat.

In fact, the reality of New York in 2013 left Lhota–a former deputy mayor in the Giuliani administration–grasping to conjure visions of a dangerous past as prologue. In one ad, he used footage from a recent biker gang attack to make his point. Yet this made no sense: showing recent crimes that took place under the “right” kind of public safety strategy is surely not a very good way to argue against theoretical changes in that strategy.

It was a riddle Lhota never came close to solving: how do you explain the consequences of certain policies to voters who aren’t familiar with either the consequences or the policies? Lhota might as well have been regaling the crowds with stories of how he used to walk to school uphill in the snow both ways while carrying his shoes.

But that doesn’t mean the new normal worked solely to de Blasio’s benefit. The very same elements that helped him win the mayoral election will likely have the opposite effect once in office. What kind of tolerance will the brunch-and-farmer’s-market crowd have for unsafe streets? De Blasio doesn’t want to find out.

And that means de Blasio will be confronted with a fact many on the left have, against all evidence, relentlessly denied: the NYPD is keeping the city safe. As Heather Mac Donald explained in the New York Post just before Election Day:

In the ’90s, the local press incessantly promoted other cities’ crime records as rivals to New York’s, so desperate was it to discredit the idea that New York’s dependency-routing Republican mayor and his newly assertive police department were behind the New York turnaround. Yet, by decade’s end, those other cities’ crime declines — most notably San Diego’s and Boston’s — flattened out or reversed. …

Today, Boston’s murder rate is twice New York’s; Washington DC’s is three times New York’s; Baltimore’s, five times. If New York’s blacks faced the same homicide risk as San Diego’s blacks, our city’s overall homicide rate would be nearly 75 percent higher.

Policing alone explains the New York crime-fighting difference. New York was nearly the same city in 1990 and 2010 regarding the same liberal “root causes” of crime — income inequality, poverty and drug use have not diminished. Even conservatives’ own pet “root cause” of crime — illegitimacy — hasn’t improved.

That will be a reality check for de Blasio, who subscribes to the classic liberal mode of governance: decry the rich while depending on them for revenue. This approach to governing really should have been discredited long ago: the rich already keep the city running with tax revenue and the money they spend around the city, and enabling the poorer city dwellers to improve their standard of living doesn’t get any easier when you soak the job creators.

But again, it’s hard to discredit something people have no memory of. There is no frame of reference for so many younger New Yorkers or those who have moved to the city in recent years. The New York they know–the only New York they know–is the one they live in now. They expect de Blasio to keep it that way.

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De Blasio’s Advantage: No One Believes Him

The first lesson to take away from Bill de Blasio’s first-round victory in the Democratic primary and then nearly fifty-point landslide in the general election is that it is quite possible none of it would have taken place but for an early television ad starring his son, Dante. That ad introduced many voters to de Blasio’s diverse family, and he never looked back. The power of presentation seems much better appreciated on the left these days than the right.

More important, however, is the conventional wisdom slowly building about de Blasio’s intentions once in office. The New York Daily News’s insightful opinion editor Josh Greenman tweeted his instinct that de Blasio will treat crime prevention in New York the way Barack Obama treated anti-terrorism policy: “that pragmatism will trump principles to ensure security.” His column on the election, published at about the same time, expanded a bit:

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The first lesson to take away from Bill de Blasio’s first-round victory in the Democratic primary and then nearly fifty-point landslide in the general election is that it is quite possible none of it would have taken place but for an early television ad starring his son, Dante. That ad introduced many voters to de Blasio’s diverse family, and he never looked back. The power of presentation seems much better appreciated on the left these days than the right.

More important, however, is the conventional wisdom slowly building about de Blasio’s intentions once in office. The New York Daily News’s insightful opinion editor Josh Greenman tweeted his instinct that de Blasio will treat crime prevention in New York the way Barack Obama treated anti-terrorism policy: “that pragmatism will trump principles to ensure security.” His column on the election, published at about the same time, expanded a bit:

While too much political friction brings paralysis, too little presents the opportunity for major mistakes. For the good of the city, de Blasio has to see this danger coming. He needs to get used to saying no to his friends, and even turning some of them into enemies. …

Similarly, de Blasio, who has made a career of channeling complaints about the NYPD, will soon be the commander-in-chief of those armed forces, responsible for driving the murder rate lower and holding the line on quality-of-life crimes.

Deep down, despite all his criticism of Bloomberg, de Blasio knows: If he loses a handle on crime, the jig is up.

Indeed it is. De Blasio is unlikely to get himself a second term if he reminds New Yorkers of the bad old days of crime. But what’s more interesting, and no doubt frustrating to conservatives, is the fact that progressives who run on dismantling successful security policies get elected because these days, voters just don’t believe them. Maybe it’s the Obama effect: years of shamelessly vilifying the American national-security establishment turned into obsessive targeted assassination, the surveillance state on steroids, and a third and nearly a fourth new military engagement in the Middle East once Obama grasped the levers of power.

There’s a certain amount of condescension in this view, probably unwarranted with regard to both Obama and de Blasio. Obama has always seemed to understand the difference between foreign entanglements, as he sees them, and domestic security. His tech-heavy campaigns and nanny-state addiction to control foreshadowed his policy agenda. For his part, de Blasio is an experienced political operative who has worked for both Clintons in New York–and for David Dinkins, whose failed mayoralty resulted from the last time New Yorkers elected a Democratic mayor.

De Blasio capitalized on the public’s Bloomberg fatigue, but even the outgoing mayor, having been a campaign target, told the New York Times after the two met post-election that he wasn’t sure de Blasio was silly enough to govern as he campaigned:

Still, Mr. Bloomberg offered a hint that his successor may find governing a metropolis to be slightly more complicated than the more abstract terrain of a political campaign.

“He’s got to make his own decisions,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “Some things will look easy, and then he gets into them, he’ll find them more difficult, and maybe he’ll change his mind.”

There’s that condescension again, as the Times translates Bloomberg’s message: governing is “slightly more complicated” than not governing. De Blasio is getting the Obama treatment at this point. The true liberal governing agenda is so reckless that most people on the left just assume liberals are making empty promises, and those on the right hope they are.

It’s the strange reality of post-9/11 politics, and a testament to the success of figures like Rudy Giuliani. New York has suffered through periods in which it was difficult to imagine the city at or near its true potential. It is now difficult for New Yorkers to imagine that mindset, thanks in large part to the public servants who helped rescue the city from the Dinkins era. It is characteristic of this new confidence–which borders, at times, on a very un-New York complacency–that few are willing to believe a progressive will govern as a progressive, that liberalism is fun in theory but there are too many lives at stake to put it into practice.

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The Dinkins Democrats

The competition for the Democratic nomination in New York’s mayoral race bears a surprising resemblance to the Republican presidential contest in 2012. There is the experienced but uninspiring frontrunner struggling to establish their ideological bona fides. There is the geographically underserved but critical base of voters putting up candidates who quickly falter. There is the somewhat lackluster group of candidates, with more high-profile personalities being implored to join the race to no avail.

And now there is the anybody-but-the-frontrunner theme that results in transitory poll boosts for underestimated candidates. After disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner jumped into the race, he quickly eliminated most of Christine Quinn’s putative lead in the polls, even becoming the technical “frontrunner” himself on occasion. But it turned out his sordid personal history wasn’t exactly history, and he has since faded in the polls. This has always helped not just Quinn but also Bill Thompson, since the race may very well go to a run-off where Thompson, a former comptroller and recent mayoral candidate, has a distinct advantage.

The polls showed Thompson winning in a run-off even with Weiner in the race. But Weiner’s drop in the polls has created room for another candidate bubble, and Quinnipiac says the new leader is Public Advocate Bill de Blasio:

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The competition for the Democratic nomination in New York’s mayoral race bears a surprising resemblance to the Republican presidential contest in 2012. There is the experienced but uninspiring frontrunner struggling to establish their ideological bona fides. There is the geographically underserved but critical base of voters putting up candidates who quickly falter. There is the somewhat lackluster group of candidates, with more high-profile personalities being implored to join the race to no avail.

And now there is the anybody-but-the-frontrunner theme that results in transitory poll boosts for underestimated candidates. After disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner jumped into the race, he quickly eliminated most of Christine Quinn’s putative lead in the polls, even becoming the technical “frontrunner” himself on occasion. But it turned out his sordid personal history wasn’t exactly history, and he has since faded in the polls. This has always helped not just Quinn but also Bill Thompson, since the race may very well go to a run-off where Thompson, a former comptroller and recent mayoral candidate, has a distinct advantage.

The polls showed Thompson winning in a run-off even with Weiner in the race. But Weiner’s drop in the polls has created room for another candidate bubble, and Quinnipiac says the new leader is Public Advocate Bill de Blasio:

With strong support from white Democratic likely primary voters and voters critical of the so-called stop-and-frisk police tactic, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio leads the Democratic race for New York City mayor with 30 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

With four weeks to go, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has 24 percent, with 22 percent for former Comptroller William Thompson, 10 percent for former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, 6 percent for Comptroller John Liu, 1 percent for former Council member Sal Albanese and 7 percent undecided, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.

The mayoral race is devoid of candidates with high name recognition (except of course for Weiner, whose high name ID isn’t doing him any favors), so the fluctuating polls may be registering the voting public’s discovery and consideration, rather than approval, of the individual candidates. Additionally, though de Blasio will be understandably cheered to see his name in lights, the votes could not have come from a worse place, strategically, for him.

The poll essentially reapportioned Weiner’s support after he reminded voters why he is not currently serving in elected office. That reapportionment happened just as de Blasio was introducing himself to the voters. But if Weiner is truly washing out of contention, de Blasio’s first-place ranking may be just as temporary as the leads of those he displaced. That’s because of the reason for his sudden support as speculated by Quinnipiac:

Stop-and-frisk is excessive and harasses innocent people, 60 percent of likely Democratic primary voters say, while 31 percent say it is an acceptable way to make the city safer. Among those critical of stop-and-frisk, 34 percent back de Blasio, with 24 percent for Thompson and 22 percent for Quinn.

Democratic likely voters support 66 – 25 percent the creation of an inspector general to independently monitor the New York Police Department.

De Blasio does best among those who want to get rid of the police tactic that has been so effective against crime. Most Democratic candidates have shifted to the left on this issue, but Weiner has not shifted as far. That has thus far anchored the rest of the Democratic candidates in place, since they would have to try to compete for pro-NYPD votes in the primary. If Weiner is not going to be competitive, and Democratic opinion is moving away from support for the police, there is nothing to stop Quinn or Thompson from moving further to their left if that’s what it takes to outflank de Blasio. If de Blasio loses this issue, he probably loses his lead.

The real lesson, then, of the Democratic primary contest is that no one is running as the responsible, law and order candidate. De Blasio’s lead is tenuous because there is nothing substantive to differentiate him from the others, and both Thompson and Quinn have either reliable voting bases or more money than de Blasio. There is an opening for a Democratic candidate to run as somewhat tough on crime, but none of the candidates has any desire to do so.

That means there’s an opening for such a candidate on the GOP side, and both Joseph Lhota and John Catsimatidis will try to run as the “Giuliani” candidate with warnings about the Democrats taking the city back to its Dinkins-era dystopia. But neither Lhota nor Catsimatidis has Giuliani’s credibility on crime issues. And it’s important to remember that Giuliani lost to Dinkins his first time running, and only (narrowly) defeated Dinkins after what was a truly disastrous, riot-plagued term in office.

The Dinkins era was twenty years ago. It’s a blessing that New Yorkers could forget what it was like. It is alarming that a new crop of Democrats threatens to remind them.

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Policing Succeeds Where Gun Control Fails

When it comes to preventing gun violence, there are two avenues to pursue: target legal gun owners or the criminals those gun owners are trying to protect their families from. In January, NPR ran a program segment that perfectly captured this dichotomy, titled “Chicago’s Gun Ban Fails To Prevent Murders,” about the Windy City’s skyrocketing violence. In its description of the segment, NPR included this: “We discussed police focus on ‘hot spots,’ and the dissolution of gangs. But listeners asked: What about gun bans?”

The title of the program gives it away, but restrictions on gun ownership–of which Chicago had some of the toughest–failed utterly to stop the bleeding. But what about the other side of that coin? What if, in other words, rather than targeting legal gun owners interested in protecting themselves, the city attempted to fulfill its responsibility to protect them? What if, instead of succumbing to the inevitability of murder in certain city neighborhoods and thus following the inexcusable liberal tendency to concretize urban inequality, the city aimed to restore the dignity of American life to every street corner of Chicago?

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When it comes to preventing gun violence, there are two avenues to pursue: target legal gun owners or the criminals those gun owners are trying to protect their families from. In January, NPR ran a program segment that perfectly captured this dichotomy, titled “Chicago’s Gun Ban Fails To Prevent Murders,” about the Windy City’s skyrocketing violence. In its description of the segment, NPR included this: “We discussed police focus on ‘hot spots,’ and the dissolution of gangs. But listeners asked: What about gun bans?”

The title of the program gives it away, but restrictions on gun ownership–of which Chicago had some of the toughest–failed utterly to stop the bleeding. But what about the other side of that coin? What if, in other words, rather than targeting legal gun owners interested in protecting themselves, the city attempted to fulfill its responsibility to protect them? What if, instead of succumbing to the inevitability of murder in certain city neighborhoods and thus following the inexcusable liberal tendency to concretize urban inequality, the city aimed to restore the dignity of American life to every street corner of Chicago?

“I said the most fundamental of civil rights is the guarantee that government can give you a reasonable degree of safety,” former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani once said in a speech looking back on the police reform he instituted that saved a city. “The fact is that all the civil rights that we posses–the right to travel, interstate commerce, the right to a public education–all of those rights are essentially meaningless if you are afraid to exercise those rights.”

That gives you an idea of what it has been like in some parts of Chicago, where parents are afraid to let their children go outside to play or are concerned there is literally no safe route for their children to take to get to school. Wealthier neighborhoods don’t have the same worries, so Chicago is effectively two cities: one to which the city is able to provide the dignity of life in the free world, and one in which that city provision is an absent luxury. It should go without saying, but apparently it doesn’t: legal handguns are not the cause of this.

What Giuliani did was to revamp the city’s police force through the use of the data-driven CompStat system and by reorienting itself toward preventing, instead of simply solving, violent crimes. Giuliani gave poorer neighborhoods back their dignity, and now, reports the New York Times, that attitude is being imported with success to Chicago by a desperate Mayor Rahm Emanuel:

So far in 2013, Chicago homicides, which outnumbered slayings in the larger cities of New York and Los Angeles last year, are down 34 percent from the same period in 2012. As of Sunday night, 146 people had been killed in Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city — 76 fewer than in the same stretch in 2012 and 16 fewer than in 2011, a year that was among the lowest for homicides during the same period in 50 years.

In recent months, as many as 400 officers a day, working overtime, have been dispatched to just 20 small zones deemed the city’s most dangerous. The police say they are tamping down retaliatory shootings between gang factions by using a comprehensive analysis of the city’s tens of thousands of suspected gang members, the turf they claim and their rivalries. The police also are focusing on more than 400 people they have identified as having associations that make them the most likely to be involved in a murder, as a victim or an offender.

And where did this policing transformation come from? As Time magazine noted in its cover story on Emanuel’s mayoralty:

On taking office, Emanuel moved quickly to hire a new superintendent of police. He picked Newark, N.J., police commissioner Garry McCarthy, a Bronx-born veteran of the New York City police and a disciple of the law-enforcement guru William Bratton. As the officer in charge of New York’s CompStat system of data-driven policing for seven years, McCarthy was revolutionary to the core, but with the streetwise demeanor of a beat cop.

Emanuel imported the training, strategy, and even attitude that worked to such effect in New York. Emanuel doesn’t like to highlight the fact that what works contradicts his typically obnoxious grandstanding on gun bans and his support for the very gun restrictions that failed so miserably in his own city. But it’s a start.

It’s also important to note that the jury is still out on whether Chicago can maintain these positive trends. The increased police patrols are expensive–the Times says the city is already closing in on its annual budget outlays for police overtime. Some worry that the bad weather has kept people off the streets and that upon their return crime will join them. Others object that last year’s crime numbers were too high to use as a fair baseline for comparison.

Additionally, the city still needs expanded emergency medical care facilities in areas close enough to violent neighborhoods to save lives. But the numbers don’t lie: there is a notable improvement that can’t be explained away by the weather. (It rained last year too.) And the fact that the program is still in its early stages is reason to be optimistic about further improvement. And there’s another metric: Emanuel was approached by a mother who said she was beginning to feel comfortable letting her child walk to school. Emanuel told the Times: “That to me is the biggest, most important, most significant measure — that a mother feels comfortable and confident enough where she didn’t in past years to have her child walk to school.”

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Thatcher: A Leader Vindicated by History

It is a common conceit of age to imagine that giants roamed the earth in one’s youth while today the political scene is populated by pygmies. But I still cling to that view, for my formative years occurred while Ronald Reagan was president and Margaret Thatcher was prime minister. Naturally, as an American, I was more focused on Reagan. But Thatcher, whose exploits were covered in the newspapers and magazines that I read (the Los Angeles Times, National Review, Newsweek), was an inspiration too. That is why I am sad to learn of her death, although it was hardly unexpected–she had been terribly debilitated by strokes in recent years.

What Reagan and Thatcher showed–and it is a lesson that may seem at odds with the conservative impulse that the private sector is the most significant–is what a difference political leadership can make. (Later Rudolph Giuliani showed the same thing–he was for urban policy what Reagan and Thatcher were for national policy.) They both inherited a mess: In Thatcher’s case she took over in 1979 following the “Winter of Discontent” when Britain was paralyzed by multiple strikes and high unemployment. As the Conservative advertising slogan had it, “Labour isn’t working.” Reagan, of course, took over from Jimmy Carter in the wake of the failed hostage-rescue mission and in the midst of a severe recession characterized by “stagflation.” Worst of all was a widespread loss of confidence in the future–both in Britain and America it was fashionable back then to imagine that the “the West” was finished and that the Soviet Union was ascendant.

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It is a common conceit of age to imagine that giants roamed the earth in one’s youth while today the political scene is populated by pygmies. But I still cling to that view, for my formative years occurred while Ronald Reagan was president and Margaret Thatcher was prime minister. Naturally, as an American, I was more focused on Reagan. But Thatcher, whose exploits were covered in the newspapers and magazines that I read (the Los Angeles Times, National Review, Newsweek), was an inspiration too. That is why I am sad to learn of her death, although it was hardly unexpected–she had been terribly debilitated by strokes in recent years.

What Reagan and Thatcher showed–and it is a lesson that may seem at odds with the conservative impulse that the private sector is the most significant–is what a difference political leadership can make. (Later Rudolph Giuliani showed the same thing–he was for urban policy what Reagan and Thatcher were for national policy.) They both inherited a mess: In Thatcher’s case she took over in 1979 following the “Winter of Discontent” when Britain was paralyzed by multiple strikes and high unemployment. As the Conservative advertising slogan had it, “Labour isn’t working.” Reagan, of course, took over from Jimmy Carter in the wake of the failed hostage-rescue mission and in the midst of a severe recession characterized by “stagflation.” Worst of all was a widespread loss of confidence in the future–both in Britain and America it was fashionable back then to imagine that the “the West” was finished and that the Soviet Union was ascendant.

Reagan and Thatcher would have none of it. Both were firmly outside the political and intellectual mainstream, and both were derided as simpletons for imagining that they could reverse the course of history. But that is precisely what they did–Reagan with his tax cuts (helped by Fed chairman Paul Volcker’s anti-inflationary policy) and defense spending increases which, respectively, revived the economy and restored our military power; Thatcher with her income-tax cuts, budget cuts, interest-rate hikes and her willingness to stand up to the unions, all of which revived the British economy, and her willingness to fight Argentina for the Falkland Islands, which restored British confidence.

It was a bravura performance, all the more so because both Thatcher and Reagan had to overcome personal doubts about their ability to govern, doubts exacerbated, in her case, by her gender (she was the first and so far only female prime minister in Britain) and, in his case, by his former profession (he was the first and so far only actor to become president). Thatcher’s challenge was all the greater given that so much of the Conservative Party remained “wet”–i.e., skeptical of her conservative principles. Eventually it was not the political opposition but her own party which toppled her, leading to a long period of Conservative wandering in the wilderness, punctuated by uninspiring rule first by John Major and now by David Cameron, neither of whom will ever be mentioned in the same breath as the Iron Lady.

Like Reagan, Thatcher was vindicated by history–and just as Reagan was praised by Bill Clinton, so she was praised by Tony Blair. She will be remembered as the greatest female ruler since Queen Elizabeth I and the greatest British prime minister since Winston Churchill.

Her example, and Reagan’s, is worth remembering today at a time when there is widespread pessimism in both Britain and America about our ability to solve our long-term problems–pessimism created in no small part because of the anemic economies presided over by David Cameron and Barack Obama. The problem now, as in 1979, is not with the underlying American or British society. The problem is with our political leadership. Reagan and Thatcher showed what inspired leadership can achieve. Imagine what we could do if giants like them were to walk the earth again. That may seem unlikely, but we can take heart from the fact that the worse a crisis is, the higher the prospects that a great leader will emerge out of the political muck.

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Bloomberg’s Quest for a Celebrity Successor

In December, I wrote about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempts to find a big-name successor, which focused on Hillary Clinton. Clinton is at the very least keeping her options open for a possible 2016 presidential run, which would have to start far too early to take on a responsibility like running New York City. But according to a report in the New York Times today, Bloomberg has been a one-man search committee, floating not just Clinton but also Ed Rendell, Mortimer Zuckerman, Chuck Schumer, and former Bloomberg deputy Edward Skyler.

That’s quite a list, and says much about how Bloomberg views the job. New York City is the media capital of the world, the front lines of 21st century homeland security, and a powerhouse when it comes to urban policymaking, especially with regard to fighting crime. There’s a reason that, as Rendell put it to the Times, he often hears it described as “the second most difficult job in the country.” There’s no doubt Bloomberg believes this–after all, he’s been in office three terms and still hasn’t gotten it right. But Bloomberg’s opinion of what it takes to run the city diverges both with precedent and the judgment of New Yorkers.

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In December, I wrote about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempts to find a big-name successor, which focused on Hillary Clinton. Clinton is at the very least keeping her options open for a possible 2016 presidential run, which would have to start far too early to take on a responsibility like running New York City. But according to a report in the New York Times today, Bloomberg has been a one-man search committee, floating not just Clinton but also Ed Rendell, Mortimer Zuckerman, Chuck Schumer, and former Bloomberg deputy Edward Skyler.

That’s quite a list, and says much about how Bloomberg views the job. New York City is the media capital of the world, the front lines of 21st century homeland security, and a powerhouse when it comes to urban policymaking, especially with regard to fighting crime. There’s a reason that, as Rendell put it to the Times, he often hears it described as “the second most difficult job in the country.” There’s no doubt Bloomberg believes this–after all, he’s been in office three terms and still hasn’t gotten it right. But Bloomberg’s opinion of what it takes to run the city diverges both with precedent and the judgment of New Yorkers.

Of that list of five names, Rendell is the most interesting, because he is in some ways both the most and least logical of that list. He was born and raised in New York City. And he was also a (successful) big-city mayor in the Northeast, having run Philadelphia quite competently beginning in 1992, just two years before Rudy Giuliani would begin his first term in New York. But he is also far removed from his New York days, and has a keen understanding of why he would also be a poor choice to run New York City. “I’m not sure how many times I’ve stepped foot in Brooklyn,” he told the Times. “I have no understanding of Queens and no understanding of the Bronx.”

New York City is far more than just Manhattan, a fact which explains why the current crop of mayoral candidates is so underwhelming. The perceived Democratic frontrunner is City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Manhattanite. There is no viable candidate with strong roots in the outer boroughs. Like it or not, this is what would have made Anthony Weiner the putative frontrunner, had he not stumbled over a sex scandal.

Although Bloomberg has taken Quinn under his wing, these stories are fairly insulting to Quinn, since Bloomberg appears desperate to prevent her succession. And if a Manhattanite barely has the New York street cred to be mayor, a Philadelphia transplant most certainly has even less. Chuck Schumer wouldn’t have this problem, but he’s staying put in the Senate, having a clear shot at the Democrats’ top Senate leadership spot if Harry Reid retires (or is defeated) in 2016.

That leaves, of the five, Skyler and Zuckerman. Skyler is a relative unknown, and it’s far from clear that even with Bloomberg’s backing he could overtake Quinn. That leaves Zuckerman, the controversial billionaire publisher of the New York Daily News. He, too, is flattered by the suggestion but will be passing on the race:

“I would love to be in that job,” said Mr. Zuckerman, a student of policy who has no party affiliation and weighed running for the Senate a few years ago.

He insisted that Mr. Bloomberg’s suggestion had an informal “teasing” feel, even as he acknowledged a longstanding call to public service in New York.

“If I could be appointed, I’d probably be serious about it,” he added, wryly.

This whole quest is a classically Bloombergian love letter to the city. Bloomberg thinks highly of New York, and even more highly of himself. So he wants someone with the star power to keep New York at the top of the map. But New York doesn’t need his help to do so, and all signs point to Bloomberg’s legacy being a failed technocratic experiment anyway.

Bloomberg should notice something about the other candidates who are either running or considering it. In addition to Quinn and other Democrats, former Giuliani aide Joe Lhota is seriously exploring a run. Lhota is leaving his post as a well-respected head of the city’s transportation authority. And Republicans are apparently still trying to get Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to run. Kelly is popular and has obvious real experience running an essential part of city governance. The street-level experience, the granular knowledge of life in New York, and the years spent paying their dues by working to craft city policy are all things they have in common.

If Bloomberg’s time in office has demonstrated anything, it’s that the city would be ill served by a celebrity figurehead. Bloomberg may love New York, but he needs to have more faith in New Yorkers.

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New York GOP: Victim of its Own Success?

It was one of the great ironies of the 1992 presidential election that talk of a “peace dividend” contributed to Bill Clinton’s victory over George H.W. Bush by portraying Bush not as a failure, but as a success. As vice president and then as president, Bush presided over the American victory in the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union and its peaceful passage of power from Gorbachev to Yeltsin. Americans could attempt to fully turn their attention away from foreign policy, and thus away from the need to reelect Bush.

Along those lines, Charles Lane at the Washington Post had a very perceptive column last month arguing that when it came to crime, Republicans were victims of their own success. Lane wrote:

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It was one of the great ironies of the 1992 presidential election that talk of a “peace dividend” contributed to Bill Clinton’s victory over George H.W. Bush by portraying Bush not as a failure, but as a success. As vice president and then as president, Bush presided over the American victory in the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union and its peaceful passage of power from Gorbachev to Yeltsin. Americans could attempt to fully turn their attention away from foreign policy, and thus away from the need to reelect Bush.

Along those lines, Charles Lane at the Washington Post had a very perceptive column last month arguing that when it came to crime, Republicans were victims of their own success. Lane wrote:

It is a GOP triumph, because the enormous decline in crime over the past two decades coincided with the widespread adoption of such conservative ideas as “broken windows” policing and mandatory minimum sentences….

We’ll never know whether 2012 would have played out the same way if crime had staged a comeback during the recession, as many expected. Certainly in the past, crime was as important to the Republican brand as abortion and gay rights, if not more important.

Safer streets, though, have blunted what was once a sharp wedge issue, and, perhaps, freed the electorate to consider social and moral issues in a different light.

In fact, in recent times no place has been more important to the GOP’s image as successful crime fighters than New York City, where many of those policies were tested and proved their worth. Lane wrote that Democrats cannot afford politically to stray far from the GOP’s stance on crime because voters believe it is the GOP’s approach that reduced crime.

This, too, is an ongoing phenomenon in New York. And both factors may very well influence New York’s next mayoral race the way Lane believes they influenced the 2012 presidential election. With no prominent Republican in the mayoral race, Joe Lhota, the city’s transportation authority chief, stepped down to explore a run for mayor. Lhota is a well respected alumnus of Rudy Giuliani’s administration, and as the New York Times reports, Giuliani’s success has changed the city’s self-perception in ways that may hinder Lhota’s run:

One of Mr. Lhota’s earliest challenges could be determining how to characterize his ties to Mr. Giuliani, a polarizing figure who was an influential mayor.

Kathryn S. Wylde, the president of the Partnership for New York City, the city’s premier business association, said in an interview that a Lhota campaign would provide an opportunity to “remind us of what New York City was like 25 years ago” — before Republican administrations seized control of Gracie Mansion.

“So many current residents don’t remember,” she said. “It will be a good education for many young or new New Yorkers, who take for granted that New York has always been as vibrant and safe and livable a city as it is today.”

Lhota, essentially, may have too good a record to run on. To be sure, there are other marks against Lhota, the primary one being a fare hike Lhota helped bring about. Others include starting off with relatively weak poll numbers and the usual low Republican voter registration. But the fare hike is another irony: voters may concentrate on having to pay more for a subway ride, but may gloss over the speed with which Lhota’s MTA got the city’s transportation system back up and running after Hurricane Sandy.

New Yorkers may take their subways for granted. I don’t remember fully appreciating the New York transportation system until experiencing the Washington, D.C. metro–known for its constant delays, derailing trains, ever-broken escalators, doors that open when the train is in motion but not when they trap an infant without its mother, train schedules that will get you to a Nationals baseball game but may not be running trains when the game is over, and of course the occasional bird of prey joining morning commuters or even, on special occasions, getting its own train.

So Lhota has his work cut out for him. But the New York GOP can take some solace in the fact that if Democrats take the mayor’s office for the first time in two decades, they won’t have done it without 20 years of Republican success in the interim.

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Big Names Still Passing on NYC Mayor’s Race

In a 2009 story about the succession of the Dalai Lama, the New York Times reported that the “search for the present Dalai Lama commenced in earnest in 1935 when the embalmed head of his deceased predecessor is said to have wheeled around and pointed toward northeastern Tibet.” The Times continued: “Then, the story goes, a giant, star-shaped fungus grew overnight on the east side of the tomb. An auspicious cloud bank formed and a regent saw a vision of letters floating in a mystical lake, one of which — Ah — he took to refer to the northeast province of Amdo,” where a young child was found and determined to be the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.

Though not quite so fanciful and dramatic, the search for the next mayor of New York City, after two very high-profile mayors who became national figures, sometimes attracts a disproportionate amount of intrigue and suspense. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is alive and well, but he, too, turned his head in an attempt to guide his people to their next leader–and apparently fixed his gaze on Foggy Bottom. The Times reports today:

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In a 2009 story about the succession of the Dalai Lama, the New York Times reported that the “search for the present Dalai Lama commenced in earnest in 1935 when the embalmed head of his deceased predecessor is said to have wheeled around and pointed toward northeastern Tibet.” The Times continued: “Then, the story goes, a giant, star-shaped fungus grew overnight on the east side of the tomb. An auspicious cloud bank formed and a regent saw a vision of letters floating in a mystical lake, one of which — Ah — he took to refer to the northeast province of Amdo,” where a young child was found and determined to be the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.

Though not quite so fanciful and dramatic, the search for the next mayor of New York City, after two very high-profile mayors who became national figures, sometimes attracts a disproportionate amount of intrigue and suspense. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is alive and well, but he, too, turned his head in an attempt to guide his people to their next leader–and apparently fixed his gaze on Foggy Bottom. The Times reports today:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has long struggled to imagine a successor with the combination of star power, experience and grit to fill his shoes.

But not long ago, he was struck by an inspiration: Hillary Rodham Clinton, the retiring secretary of state.

In a phone call confirmed by three people, Mr. Bloomberg encouraged Mrs. Clinton to consider entering the 2013 mayor’s race, trading international diplomacy for municipal management on the grandest scale. She would, he suggested, be a perfect fit.

Much about the call, which occurred some months ago, remains shrouded in mystery. But Mr. Bloomberg’s overture to the former first lady highlights the level of his anxiety about the current crop of candidates, his eagerness to recruit a replacement who can rival his stature and his determination to become a kingmaker in the political arena he will soon exit.

Bloomberg was famously unwilling to “soon exit” when his term-limited time in office drew to a close, so he had the rules changed to allow him to stay in office. The people needed him, and no one had yet banned large sodas. And it is something of a testament to this unwillingness to let go that Bloomberg wants to choose his successor. But it is also a reasonable concern: the current crop of candidates is surprisingly underwhelming on the Democratic side, and almost literally empty on the Republican side.

New York City Republicans have apparently failed to convince Police Commissioner Ray Kelly–the city’s most popular major figure, and for good reason–to run on the GOP ticket (or run at all). The old Nixon aide Roger Stone used the opening to push conservative commentator and Daily News columnist S.E. Cupp to run. Cupp, like Hillary on the Democratic side, politely but firmly declined. Another GOP possibility is Joe Lhota, who served under Rudy Giuliani and is currently head of the city’s transportation authority, though he lags in early polls to the Democrats, as does former Bronx borough president Adolfo Carrion, a former Democrat who served in the Obama administration who is working to make the party switch to run on the GOP ticket.

Hillary Clinton seems to be laying the groundwork early for a 2016 presidential run, which would preclude her from simultaneously running New York City–a mayoralty that is more akin to running a state with a dash of national security frontline policymaking. The job is a tall order, and Clinton seems to have her heart set on the White House for now. But Bloomberg’s choice of Clinton is revealing; though perhaps Hillary would make a good mayor, Bloomberg chose her for all the wrong reasons. The Times continues: “In Mrs. Clinton, it seems, a mayor known for his sometimes unsparing critiques of those in public life sees a globe-trotting problem solver like himself.”

New Yorkers would no doubt cringe at that sentence. When Bloomberg considers himself a globe-trotting problem solver, what he means is someone who spends a lot of time talking about problems that need solving. In fact, Bloomberg’s biggest weakness as a mayor is that he is not a problem solver. As I wrote in the days after superstorm Sandy, Bloomberg had been warning that inclement weather would cause near-unprecedented storm surges. Yet instead of securing the city’s infrastructure or pushing plans to build storm surge barriers, Bloomberg was content to just be a prophet of doom.

The city of New York thrives when in the hands of real problem solvers–like Giuliani, or Ray Kelly at the NYPD. Giuliani was the embodiment of hardheaded practicality, a seeming contradiction but one that explains what it takes to be mayor of New York. Bloomberg’s legacy is already shaky; the last thing he should be doing is trying to find a Davos schmoozer to fill his shoes.

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Does Obama’s FEMA Deserve Applause?

As I wrote earlier today, there is little doubt that part of the reason why President Obama got a bounce of some sort from Hurricane Sandy is the perception that his administration did a much better job dealing with the emergency than President Bush did during Hurricane Katrina. This was largely the result of a complacent media that was content to portray the president as the hero of the occasion after his fly through New Jersey and the seal of approval he got from Governor Chris Christie. But Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, someone who knows a thing or two about what happens in a crisis, isn’t buying it.

Giuliani is frustrated not so much by the political spin of this story as by the spectacle of the citizens of his beloved New York City being left in need while the rest of the country “moves on” from the hurricane. As far as Giuliani is concerned, the actions of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) don’t deserve the laurels they have received from the media and for which the president is given credit. As Politico reports:

“The response since the time the president got all this praise and credit and press ops has been abysmal,” Giuliani said on Fox News Channel’s “America’s Newsroom.” “FEMA is as much a failure now as at the time of Katrina.”

Giuliani, a 2008 presidential candidate, said that he did not “understand” why New York was facing water, generators and gas shortages.

“It’s quite obvious they didn’t pre-plan for water, they didn’t pre-plan for the generators, they didn’t pre-plan for the gasoline,” he said.

He bashed Obama for losing “focus” on the subject.

“The president getting all this credit so early, maybe the first day or two he was paying attention, but the minute he got his credit, the minute he got his pat on his back, we had the same situation as we had in Benghazi,” Giuliani said. “He loses focus. He goes back to being campaigner-in-chief rather than commander-in-chief.”

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As I wrote earlier today, there is little doubt that part of the reason why President Obama got a bounce of some sort from Hurricane Sandy is the perception that his administration did a much better job dealing with the emergency than President Bush did during Hurricane Katrina. This was largely the result of a complacent media that was content to portray the president as the hero of the occasion after his fly through New Jersey and the seal of approval he got from Governor Chris Christie. But Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, someone who knows a thing or two about what happens in a crisis, isn’t buying it.

Giuliani is frustrated not so much by the political spin of this story as by the spectacle of the citizens of his beloved New York City being left in need while the rest of the country “moves on” from the hurricane. As far as Giuliani is concerned, the actions of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) don’t deserve the laurels they have received from the media and for which the president is given credit. As Politico reports:

“The response since the time the president got all this praise and credit and press ops has been abysmal,” Giuliani said on Fox News Channel’s “America’s Newsroom.” “FEMA is as much a failure now as at the time of Katrina.”

Giuliani, a 2008 presidential candidate, said that he did not “understand” why New York was facing water, generators and gas shortages.

“It’s quite obvious they didn’t pre-plan for water, they didn’t pre-plan for the generators, they didn’t pre-plan for the gasoline,” he said.

He bashed Obama for losing “focus” on the subject.

“The president getting all this credit so early, maybe the first day or two he was paying attention, but the minute he got his credit, the minute he got his pat on his back, we had the same situation as we had in Benghazi,” Giuliani said. “He loses focus. He goes back to being campaigner-in-chief rather than commander-in-chief.”

The push back against the narrative of Obama’s brilliant emergency response may be coming too late to alter the public’s view of events. But if it is coming late it is because, unlike the Democrats in 2005 during Katrina, Republicans have been reluctant to inject politics into a natural disaster. But if the plight of the people of New Orleans was all the fault of George W. Bush — even though most of the problems there were more the result of the complete collapse of state and local authority and the abandonment of their posts by first responders, then it is not inappropriate to ask why Obama gets a pass as residents of New York and New Jersey cope with a crisis that is far from under control.

No president deserves to be blamed for bad weather. But the ability of Obama to avoid responsibility for what remains a terrible mess can be directly attributed to his cheerleaders in the news media.

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Storm Exposes the Magnitude of Bloomberg’s Failure to Govern

Questions surrounding any public crisis hew closely to the schedule of the crisis itself. So when Hurricane Sandy was approaching the East Coast last week, everyone wanted to know whether the affected areas were adequately prepared. During the storm itself, people wondered what the damage was going to be. And in the wake of the storm, all attention is paid to reaction and recovery efforts. Since those efforts now appear to have hit some unexpected problems, it’s natural that the earlier questions have receded to the background.

But they shouldn’t be forgotten. Because for all the comparisons of Michael Bloomberg to Rudy Giuliani, who led New York—and the nation—through the early hours after 9/11, it’s worth recalling that a big part of the reason Giuliani responded so well was because he was intent on getting the city and its employees ready for anything. When that “anything” struck, as it did a couple of times in Giuliani’s tenure, America’s Mayor struck back. It is here, too, where Bloomberg fails spectacularly to fill the shoes of Rudy Giuliani.

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Questions surrounding any public crisis hew closely to the schedule of the crisis itself. So when Hurricane Sandy was approaching the East Coast last week, everyone wanted to know whether the affected areas were adequately prepared. During the storm itself, people wondered what the damage was going to be. And in the wake of the storm, all attention is paid to reaction and recovery efforts. Since those efforts now appear to have hit some unexpected problems, it’s natural that the earlier questions have receded to the background.

But they shouldn’t be forgotten. Because for all the comparisons of Michael Bloomberg to Rudy Giuliani, who led New York—and the nation—through the early hours after 9/11, it’s worth recalling that a big part of the reason Giuliani responded so well was because he was intent on getting the city and its employees ready for anything. When that “anything” struck, as it did a couple of times in Giuliani’s tenure, America’s Mayor struck back. It is here, too, where Bloomberg fails spectacularly to fill the shoes of Rudy Giuliani.

As Fred Siegel writes in his book on the Giuliani years, the mayor “had been talking and thinking about the problem of terrorism—something to which most New Yorkers were oblivious—from literally his first day in office. The city’s largely successful response to 9/11 was the product of years of preparation.”

And it wasn’t just preparation for terrorism. Siegel writes of the behind-the-scenes work that readied the city for just about any anything conceivable. In 1999, a heat wave led to power outages in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan that totaled about 300,000. Giuliani took action to prevent the power outages from taking out Brooklyn as well, and then rallied the city to the Heights. Rather than the looting that had taken place in New York in the past, the city remained under control with Giuliani working around the clock and winning the cooperation of the residents of the Heights.

The city’s Department of Health developed a “syndromic surveillance system” to prepare for chemical or biological attacks. When West Nile virus hit the city (also in 1999), the response was immediate and helped contain the virus. New York’s response, as in other cases, was praised as a model as other cities battled West Nile that year.

Leading up to the Y2K scare, the city, led by Giuliani, Jerry Hauer, the director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management, and Deputy Mayor Joe Lhota (who now heads the city’s MTA), prepared for several possible terrorist attacks and other emergencies on New Year’s, including a gas attack at the World Trade Center that assumed 1,000 injured. Lhota said they practiced and prepared like a football team. “If any city was ready for trouble,” Siegel writes, “it was New York.”

On New Year’s Eve, while Giuliani was overseeing events in Times Square, Siegel writes:

Hauer and Deputy Mayor Joe Lhota were in the World Trade Center command post accompanied by three hundred crisis managers from city departments, Con Edison, Verizon, the Red Cross, the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the FBI, and the National Guard. And although the public didn’t know it, the National Guard had been quietly pre-positioning in Brooklyn as part of an emergency plan for evacuating Manhattan.

Nothing happened that night. But Giuliani’s team and the city “had passed the test,” Siegel writes. “Gotham was ready for a future emergency.”

So while it’s true that Bloomberg’s response pales in comparison to that of Giuliani, it’s not just the ability to inspire and the natural instincts of a leader that separate the two men. Stories like this one in the New York Times, which discuss the warnings that the city was vulnerable to a storm like Sandy long before this year’s hurricane hit radar screens, will likely follow Bloomberg as well. And the lack of preparation will be especially inexcusable for Bloomberg, who has stomped around claiming that the storm was a result of the very climate change he has been warning about for years. If he was so sure about coming climate change storms, why wasn’t he ready for this one?

This is the most damning paragraph from that story:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is known worldwide for his broad environmental vision. But one former official said it had been difficult to move from theoretical planning to concrete actions, and it was hoped that the storm this week would change that.

Bloomberg knew the dangers, according to this official, and spent years talking about it in the abstract. But he didn’t take any concrete action, instead satisfied to wag his finger at others.

So yes, Bloomberg is an underwhelming leader in the city’s time of need. But if these reports are true, he has failed this city on a much deeper, and much more consequential, level. Though Bloomberg obviously didn’t learn from his predecessor’s successes, New Yorkers can only hope that the next mayor learns from Bloomberg’s failures.

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A Marathon During a Humanitarian Disaster? Yes, Says Bloomberg

For New Yorkers, the suffering of Sandy is everywhere and is still far from over. The election is four days away and the national media has largely shifted its concern from the heartache on the East Coast to the presidential race. The horror stories are growing, and at the same time, growing more silent because of a distracted press.

Yesterday, while Mayor Mike Bloomberg, was promoting his endorsement of President Obama, his city within a city, trapped in darkness, dissolved further into darkness. Residents of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island have been battered. They have no power, no gas to run their cars or generators (if they have them, most do not), no cell phone power to contact their families, almost no access to public transportation and very tenuous access to clean water and food. Many are watching the situation devolve into a Katrina-like scenario, but on a wider scale.

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For New Yorkers, the suffering of Sandy is everywhere and is still far from over. The election is four days away and the national media has largely shifted its concern from the heartache on the East Coast to the presidential race. The horror stories are growing, and at the same time, growing more silent because of a distracted press.

Yesterday, while Mayor Mike Bloomberg, was promoting his endorsement of President Obama, his city within a city, trapped in darkness, dissolved further into darkness. Residents of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island have been battered. They have no power, no gas to run their cars or generators (if they have them, most do not), no cell phone power to contact their families, almost no access to public transportation and very tenuous access to clean water and food. Many are watching the situation devolve into a Katrina-like scenario, but on a wider scale.

In the powerless neighborhoods of New York, especially in the public housing projects, life is beyond recognizable from a week ago. Elevators to high-rise buildings are inoperable, water and sewage is cut off, and there is for many, no end in sight. Yesterday the National Guard arrived to bring food and water for the first time. Residents waited in long lines for hours to claim it. Those who could not make it down flights of stairs to do so, the elderly and disabled, are especially vulnerable.

There is a massive reallocation of resources about to take place. Generators and food trucks are being disbursed this weekend in New York City. For Sandy survivors? No. For runners in the New York City Marathon. Mayor Bloomberg, in his infinite wisdom, has decided to divert desperately needed resources during an unprecedented tragedy to a marathon. The route these runners will take brings them through neighborhoods, past homes and apartments, that were destroyed a week prior. These runners currently have reservations for hotel rooms that are occupied by those displaced from their homes, many hotels are honoring these reservations, and if they are not, the hotels are forced to fight with marathon attendees to keep evacuees housed in their hotels. These runners will be protected by a police department that is already unable to protect homes and businesses from looting.

While Mayor Bloomberg might be happy to give his endorsement to President Obama, it may not be so wise for Obama to tout this endorsement. The outcry over Bloomberg’s handling of Sandy is steadily growing. Before she struck, experts were questioning his preparedness and seriousness about the storm. While he was busy promoting the president yesterday, the bodies of two toddlers in Staten Island were discovered in the marsh, swept out their mother’s arms during the storm. Instead of comforting the family of an off-duty NYPD officer who died protecting his family, prior to that officer’s funeral, Bloomberg was holding yet another press conference.

This weekend’s marathon is the last straw for a city stretched to its limits. Mayor Bloomberg, it’s time to take a lesson from your predecessor. After 9/11, Americans fell in love with Rudy Guliani. That kind of courage and leadership is something this city desperately needs. Through sheer force of will, New Yorkers are pulling through this test, and they will pass it. Mayor Bloomberg, on the other hand, has already failed.

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The Resilient City-Dwellers of New York

I would like to expand on the point that John Steele Gordon, my fellow resident of Westchester County, made in this post about the toughness of New Yorkers. It is a point I could not agree with more–and it is demonstrated not only by the response to superstorm Sandy but, even more magnificently, by the response to 9/11 which was far more devastating in terms of lives lost. Yet New Yorkers did not panic, at least not for long, and they did not flee the city in droves, as some had predicted would happen after the worst attack ever on American soil. Instead, more than a decade after 9/11 the city is more vibrant than ever–and there is no doubt that we will come back, and come back quickly, from the damage caused by this week’s storm.

All of this is, on some level, to state the obvious. But it actually runs counter to a long and important strain of American thought. From Thomas Jefferson in the eighteenth century to country and Western musicians in the present day, there has been a long line of people extolling the virtues of rural life and damning big cities, especially big Northeastern cities, as the cesspool of humanity. Many conservatives, especially in the South, Midwest, and mountain West, are especially prone to adopt the argument that small towns are the repositories of American strength, virtue, and piety while cities are dens of quasi-communism, free love, drugs, atheism, and everything else that’s wrong with humanity.

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I would like to expand on the point that John Steele Gordon, my fellow resident of Westchester County, made in this post about the toughness of New Yorkers. It is a point I could not agree with more–and it is demonstrated not only by the response to superstorm Sandy but, even more magnificently, by the response to 9/11 which was far more devastating in terms of lives lost. Yet New Yorkers did not panic, at least not for long, and they did not flee the city in droves, as some had predicted would happen after the worst attack ever on American soil. Instead, more than a decade after 9/11 the city is more vibrant than ever–and there is no doubt that we will come back, and come back quickly, from the damage caused by this week’s storm.

All of this is, on some level, to state the obvious. But it actually runs counter to a long and important strain of American thought. From Thomas Jefferson in the eighteenth century to country and Western musicians in the present day, there has been a long line of people extolling the virtues of rural life and damning big cities, especially big Northeastern cities, as the cesspool of humanity. Many conservatives, especially in the South, Midwest, and mountain West, are especially prone to adopt the argument that small towns are the repositories of American strength, virtue, and piety while cities are dens of quasi-communism, free love, drugs, atheism, and everything else that’s wrong with humanity.

This argument has a shred of truth to it, because there is no doubt that cities have generally been more tolerant of a variety of what would today be called alternative lifestyles, facilitating not only great artistic development but also brothels, drug dens, saloons, and other not-so-virtuous establishments. Those exist in small towns, too, but not in such great abundance. There is no doubt that there is a lot more sinning, if I may use that anachronistic term, in cities–but then there is a lot more of everything else too, including working out in gyms and working long hours in offices. 

Yet there is no evidence–at least none that I have found–that big city dwellers are any less virtuous on the whole, less patriotic, or less resilient than those who live on farms or in smaller communities. Indeed, just to get through their day, residents of New York have to weather all sorts of annoyances that would be unthinkable to those who live in rural areas–from having to shlep groceries home by cart or taxi to having to deal with aggressive panhandlers in the subways to having to deal with vast throngs on Fifth Avenue. Admittedly in the case of New York all those annoyances have decreased over the years, ever since Rudolph Giuliani sent crime plummeting to historic lows, and now new services like Freshdirect (for groceries) and Seamless (for restaurant delivery) have made apartment living exceedingly convenient.

Nevertheless, every day tourists are overwhelmed by the sheer scale of New York, by the number of people moving in all directions, by the endless day-and-night buzz of activity–and though most of them no doubt enjoy their New York vacations, many are also happy to go back to the less hectic pace of their lives elsewhere. There’s nothing wrong with preferring to liver in a smaller community–but let’s banish the mistaken idea that those who reside in a mega-city like New York are wimps or degenerates. The kind of toughness that New Yorkers need simply to get through daily life comes shining through in a crisis, whether 9/11 or Sandy.

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NYPD Responds to the Times’s False Attacks

Though New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg often appears to be leading the charge on some of modern liberalism’s pet governing projects, there is a line that he will absolutely not cross: the sentiment, expressed often by the New York Times, that the city should reverse its successful policing tactics. The most recent controversy centers on the New York Police Department’s so-called “stop and frisk,” in which police step up their search for weapons in high-crime neighborhoods by checking the persons of some residents of these neighborhoods when following leads.

The Times has declared war on the NYPD’s effective policies, but even a May editorial, in which the Times suggested New York follow Philadelphia’s lead, was too much for Bloomberg:

“Why would any rational person want to trade what we have here for situation in Philadelphia?” Bloomberg told NY 1. “More murders, higher crime. Is that what the Times wants?”

The controversy was back in the news yesterday. The Times has written a series of stories accusing the NYPD of racism because they stop minorities so often, and yesterday published the results of the paper’s own poll showing that respondents think the NYPD favors whites. But even within this poll, in which the Times seeks to make and shape news rather than just report it, there is some inconvenient information for opponents of effective policing and lower crime:

But Mr. Bloomberg and the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, received high marks on the crime issue: 57 percent of New Yorkers said they approved of the way the mayor was dealing with crime, and 61 percent said they approved of the way the commissioner was handling his job. Even 50 percent of the respondents who said they had been the target of a racially motivated police stop approved of Mr. Kelly’s management.

“I live in Brooklyn, in Coney Island, and everybody has guns; 3-year-old kids have guns! It’s outrageous,” said Johnny Rivera, 52, a former foreman at an aluminum company. As for the stop-and-frisk practice, he said, “the worst thing they could do is stop it.”

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Though New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg often appears to be leading the charge on some of modern liberalism’s pet governing projects, there is a line that he will absolutely not cross: the sentiment, expressed often by the New York Times, that the city should reverse its successful policing tactics. The most recent controversy centers on the New York Police Department’s so-called “stop and frisk,” in which police step up their search for weapons in high-crime neighborhoods by checking the persons of some residents of these neighborhoods when following leads.

The Times has declared war on the NYPD’s effective policies, but even a May editorial, in which the Times suggested New York follow Philadelphia’s lead, was too much for Bloomberg:

“Why would any rational person want to trade what we have here for situation in Philadelphia?” Bloomberg told NY 1. “More murders, higher crime. Is that what the Times wants?”

The controversy was back in the news yesterday. The Times has written a series of stories accusing the NYPD of racism because they stop minorities so often, and yesterday published the results of the paper’s own poll showing that respondents think the NYPD favors whites. But even within this poll, in which the Times seeks to make and shape news rather than just report it, there is some inconvenient information for opponents of effective policing and lower crime:

But Mr. Bloomberg and the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, received high marks on the crime issue: 57 percent of New Yorkers said they approved of the way the mayor was dealing with crime, and 61 percent said they approved of the way the commissioner was handling his job. Even 50 percent of the respondents who said they had been the target of a racially motivated police stop approved of Mr. Kelly’s management.

“I live in Brooklyn, in Coney Island, and everybody has guns; 3-year-old kids have guns! It’s outrageous,” said Johnny Rivera, 52, a former foreman at an aluminum company. As for the stop-and-frisk practice, he said, “the worst thing they could do is stop it.”

The NYPD has had enough of the ignorant abuse from the Times, and responded on its Facebook page to the charge: “During the first 10 years of the Bloomberg Administration there were 5,430 murders compared to 11,058 in the 10 years prior, a reduction of 51% or 5,628 lives saved. If history is a guide, the vast majority of those lives saved were young men of color.”

Indeed, history is just such a guide. As Steven Malanga noted in City Journal in 2007, Rudy Giuliani, whose mayoralty led the policing revolution that eventually made New York one of the safest cities in the country, was also accused of such bias. But contrary to those accusations, under Giuliani the NYPD reduced crime while also reducing shootings by police and claims of excessive force dramatically. And guess who benefited the most:

Moreover, Giuliani’s policing success was a boon to minority neighborhoods. For instance, in the city’s 34th Precinct, covering the largely Hispanic Washington Heights section of Manhattan, murders dropped from 76 in 1993, Dinkins’s last year, to only seven by Giuliani’s last year, a decline of more than 90 percent. Far from being the racist that activists claimed, Giuliani had delivered to the city’s minority neighborhoods a true form of equal protection under the law.

The NYPD goes where the danger is. For that, they should be praised—and usually are. The New York Times editorialists have been railing against policing that has saved thousands of lives in New York’s minority neighborhoods. The paper’s reporting has been so inaccurate and agenda-driven it has led Michael Bloomberg to wonder aloud if what the Times wants is more murder in the city. That may sound harsh, but the great breakthrough of Giuliani’s time in office was his realization that you cannot govern effectively unless you ignore the New York Times. Nowhere is that more important, or with higher stakes, than the effort to keep New Yorkers safe.

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Yes, Rudy Is Considering Another Presidential Run

Get ready to see America’s mayor back in action. The New York Post reported this morning that Rudy Giuliani is readying himself for another presidential run in 2012, and now it sounds like his plans have been in the works for several months. A source familiar with the issue tells me that Giuliani has been reaching out to people about launching another presidential bid since at least last summer.

The former mayor would obviously be a long shot in the race — especially after his disastrous campaign in 2008 — but it may be premature to discount him entirely. One of the problems that plagued his last run was his unwillingness to mount tough attacks against his close friend Sen. John McCain. There were also reports that several of Rudy’s opponents were sitting on treasure troves of damaging opposition research on him, but I’m told that time may have made that information less of a concern.

And according to the Post, Rudy could have other reasons to be confident. Sources told the paper that the former mayor “thinks the Republican race will be populated with far-right candidates like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, and there’s opportunity for a moderate candidate with a background in national security.”

Which really gets down to the brass tacks of why Giuliani is probably mounting this bid: he wants to ensure that his issues — primarily national security — play a prominent role in the election. Obviously his chances of winning are small, but at least by running he can keep a foot in the game and keep his policy interests in the spotlight.

Get ready to see America’s mayor back in action. The New York Post reported this morning that Rudy Giuliani is readying himself for another presidential run in 2012, and now it sounds like his plans have been in the works for several months. A source familiar with the issue tells me that Giuliani has been reaching out to people about launching another presidential bid since at least last summer.

The former mayor would obviously be a long shot in the race — especially after his disastrous campaign in 2008 — but it may be premature to discount him entirely. One of the problems that plagued his last run was his unwillingness to mount tough attacks against his close friend Sen. John McCain. There were also reports that several of Rudy’s opponents were sitting on treasure troves of damaging opposition research on him, but I’m told that time may have made that information less of a concern.

And according to the Post, Rudy could have other reasons to be confident. Sources told the paper that the former mayor “thinks the Republican race will be populated with far-right candidates like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, and there’s opportunity for a moderate candidate with a background in national security.”

Which really gets down to the brass tacks of why Giuliani is probably mounting this bid: he wants to ensure that his issues — primarily national security — play a prominent role in the election. Obviously his chances of winning are small, but at least by running he can keep a foot in the game and keep his policy interests in the spotlight.

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Thinking Deeply About Government’s Purpose, Not Just Its Size

My Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague Yuval Levin, who is also editor of National Affairs, was interviewed by ConservativeHome’s Ryan Streeter. Yuval’s insights are typically wise and learned. I was particularly interested in his response to the question “If you could wave a wand and change one thing about the GOP, what would it be?” According to Yuval:

I would make it so that every time we are tempted to talk about the size of government we talk also (and more so) about the purpose of government. This would make us more focused on policy particulars than on vague abstractions, better able to offer an alternative to the left’s agenda rather than just slowing the pace of its implementation, and better able to speak to the aspirations of the larger public.

The out-of-control size and cost of government today are symptoms of the fact that we have lost sight of the question of what government is for. The answer to that question is not “nothing,” after all. But it is also not “everything.” A basic answer to that question, rather, is laid out pretty well in Article I, section 8 of the United States Constitution. Maybe modern life has piled some complexities and difficulties on us that require some additions to the list presented there, and of course the Constitution contains a mechanism for making such additions. But as long as we are obsessed with how much it all costs we are not able to focus on the more important question of how to make government more effective and energetic in those areas where we want it to act, and how to keep it from acting in those areas where we don’t (and where we therefore think that families, communities, and other mediating institutions should act instead).

This counsel is extremely wise. It is not as if the size of government is irrelevant; far from it. There are important fiscal and moral ramifications created by a “nanny state.” But to focus solely on the size of government rather than on its core purposes is a mistake, both philosophically and politically. God willed the state, as Edmund Burke put it; but what does He want the state to achieve? This is hardly a new question, but it is one that every serious student of politics needs to engage.

As a practical matter, take the issue of order. “Among the many objects to which a wise and free people find it necessary to direct their attention,” John Jay wrote in Federalist Paper No. 3, “that of providing for their safety seems to be the first.” The “tranquility of order” (the phrase comes from Augustine) is the first responsibility of government; without it, we can hardly expect things like justice, prosperity, or virtue to flourish. Order, in turn, cannot be achieved without government — and among the threats to domestic order, crime surely ranks high. Read More

My Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague Yuval Levin, who is also editor of National Affairs, was interviewed by ConservativeHome’s Ryan Streeter. Yuval’s insights are typically wise and learned. I was particularly interested in his response to the question “If you could wave a wand and change one thing about the GOP, what would it be?” According to Yuval:

I would make it so that every time we are tempted to talk about the size of government we talk also (and more so) about the purpose of government. This would make us more focused on policy particulars than on vague abstractions, better able to offer an alternative to the left’s agenda rather than just slowing the pace of its implementation, and better able to speak to the aspirations of the larger public.

The out-of-control size and cost of government today are symptoms of the fact that we have lost sight of the question of what government is for. The answer to that question is not “nothing,” after all. But it is also not “everything.” A basic answer to that question, rather, is laid out pretty well in Article I, section 8 of the United States Constitution. Maybe modern life has piled some complexities and difficulties on us that require some additions to the list presented there, and of course the Constitution contains a mechanism for making such additions. But as long as we are obsessed with how much it all costs we are not able to focus on the more important question of how to make government more effective and energetic in those areas where we want it to act, and how to keep it from acting in those areas where we don’t (and where we therefore think that families, communities, and other mediating institutions should act instead).

This counsel is extremely wise. It is not as if the size of government is irrelevant; far from it. There are important fiscal and moral ramifications created by a “nanny state.” But to focus solely on the size of government rather than on its core purposes is a mistake, both philosophically and politically. God willed the state, as Edmund Burke put it; but what does He want the state to achieve? This is hardly a new question, but it is one that every serious student of politics needs to engage.

As a practical matter, take the issue of order. “Among the many objects to which a wise and free people find it necessary to direct their attention,” John Jay wrote in Federalist Paper No. 3, “that of providing for their safety seems to be the first.” The “tranquility of order” (the phrase comes from Augustine) is the first responsibility of government; without it, we can hardly expect things like justice, prosperity, or virtue to flourish. Order, in turn, cannot be achieved without government — and among the threats to domestic order, crime surely ranks high.

This line of reasoning inevitably leads us to law-enforcement policies ranging from incarceration to policing strategies to the “broken windows” theory. (In the 1980s, Professors James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling argued that public disorder — as evidenced by unrepaired broken windows — is evidence of a permissive moral environment, a signal that no one cares, and therefore acts as a magnet to criminals.) And in looking at some of the great success stories in lowering crime, such as New York City in the 1990s, one finds that the key to success wasn’t the size or cost of government, but its efficacy. The question Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his police chief, William Bratton, asked wasn’t “How big should the police department be?” but rather “What should the police department be doing?”

The answer to that question led to a policy revolution in law enforcement.

The point is that fundamental questions about the role and purpose of the state aren’t academic ones; a public philosophy needs to be at the center of our debates about public policy, and we need public figures who themselves are able to think clearly and deeply about these matters.

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