Monday, December 10, 2007

Rudy Watch: Batman Begins

Writing in today's NYT, Michael Powell lays out the crime fighting origins of Rudolph Giuliani's vision of power (read his article).

There are three founding stones in the public career of Rudolph Giuliani: His performance during the terror attacks of 9/11; his image as a crime-fighting mayor of New York; and his nearly five-year tenure as United States attorney. It was in this earliest incarnation that Mr. Giuliani is most plainly seen in the rawness of his promise and drive.

Giuliani's rise to be US Attorney in the media saturated Manhattan district took place after a decade of new laws designed to make it easier to go after organized crime leaders (especially the semi-eponymous RICO), mostly by reducing the act component of crime (the part that most of us really care about) and increasing the penalties for those accused of being involved in organized criminal efforts. Giuliani not only took advantage of these to go after relics of New York's crime families, he saw the opportunity to use these laws in unexpected ways to go after business and public corruption cases. According to Powell's reporting:

Those who worked with Mr. Giuliani came away impressed by his intuitive grasp of his new arsenal.

“Rudy was a sponge, willing to sop up any idea, any new strategy,” said G. Robert Blakey, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, who crafted the anti-racketeering law as a consultant for the Senate Judiciary Committee. “He was very creative about wielding power.”

Giuliani's success was not just technical however, and not just an artifact of Manhattan's media power. Clearly his own moral sensibilities fused with the power of the prosecutor as spokes person for the community's moral outrage about crime, to produce a compelling vision of leadership for an era in which crime had come to serve as the master metaphor for the problems afflicting society.

Mr. Giuliani married aggressiveness to moral absolutes, reflecting his steeping, he said, in the Catholic catechism. Asked about political corruption in 1987, he offered a wintry smile and said, “I don’t think there’s anybody much worse than a public official who sells his office, except maybe for a murderer.”

Combined with an overwhelming ambition, and incredibly good timing, Giuliani now contends for the White House at or near the top of the Republican field.

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