Giuliani for president?

September 02, 1998|By Stanley Crouch

AS NEW YORK Mayor Rudy Giuliani puts his tootsies into the presidential waters to see whether they promise frostbite, his office -- and the helmsman of New York himself -- both say there is nothing to any rumors that he is thinking about national office.

There is, nevertheless, a lot of dire talk from political pundits about how a mayor always runs the risk of losing his base when the campaign trail keeps him away from home. This puts a mayor in the same situation as the traveling salesman whose line of work can lead to the wrecking of his happy home because his family begins to feel consistently neglected.

Of course, those who hate Mr. Giuliani, or make exaggerated comparisons of him to totalitarian types, will tell you the mayor does not have a happy home in New York. That might well be true, but only because this town is so contentious that it is difficult to get credit, even when the job everybody says needs to be done is done just short of a fare-thee-well.

One example of what I mean is a black doctor who works in a Brooklyn clinic who recently made it clear to me that he doesn't like Mr. Giuliani. The doctor considered his manner too abrasive, and he wasn't sure whether the mayor likes black people and thinks their concerns are important.

He then went on to say that before Mr. Giuliani, older black people were afraid to wait for their prescriptions if the sun was going down. They were terrified of what might happen as they traveled home in the early evening hours. Now, he said, they aren't afraid to wait around, and, "You have to give Giuliani that."

There is, too, what Mr. Giuliani has done about the Mafia in the Fulton Fish Market and the carting industry, essentially smacking them out of both places. This was considered an impossible dual task. Well, it wasn't impossible.

A clean sweep

Now the pornography shops are making their last stand. And the city seems cleaner -- literally -- which is probably a result of the extra people provided by workfare.

But how do these things translate into a national political agenda? Do the majority of Americans want a leader with the spirit of a sheriff come to clean up Dodge City -- and one who is also a notorious micromanager?

They probably want a bit of both. And on the ethnic front, Mr. Giuliani might be able to say to black people that he did an enormous amount about the quality of life in New York, even though he could easily be attacked for so few black appointments.

This is equally true of his stand on immigration, which might initially endear him to Hispanic voters -- until they hear about his handful of Latino appointments.

Gay rights supporter

Then there is the fact that Mr. Giuliani has been strong on homosexual rights, which parachutes him out of conventional Republican sexual attitudes.

It also seems to me that if Mr. Giuliani actually were to pull off a serious bid for the presidency, he would have to be able to do some things very new for him, like get a truly serious grip on his temper. The Sam Donaldsons of the world would roast him on that one.

He also needs to do something revolutionary in the structuring of the police department, a set of changes in community relations that would have national applications.

The mayor would do well to find a model public school in our city that could be used as an illustration of his innovative ideas about public education.

Finally, the mayor has to put together a political, economic and military foreign policy.

That's a lot of work for a guy who has to avoid falling asleep at the wheel of New York. While he could hardly smash this town, he could surely total his political career. As they say in the streets, and I would offer it as advice to the mayor: Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Stanley Crouch is a columnist for the New York Daily News.

Pub Date: 9/02/98

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