Politics & Policy

America Needs Rudy

The cases of Libby and Diallou.

I don’t think Rudy Giuliani’s high poll numbers are a fluke or solely a result of his stellar performance in New York on 9/11. I don’t think they’ll drop and stay down when more conservatives learn more about his past marriages or his position on abortion, despite the importance of those issues. I think many Bush supporters, former Bush supporters, and others are drawn to Rudy by a powerful intuitive feeling that he has something America needs badly, something they can’t quite articulate yet, but feel strongly about. I think this feeling has its seedbed in a growing sense of unease and disappointment, not with George Bush as a man, or with his positions, but with his performance as a chief executive, and a gut-level sense that Rudy is a strong executive in precisely the ways in which Bush has, too often, proved to be a dishearteningly weak one. It is a sense that Rudy’s kind of executive leadership is what a nation at war needs most at the moment, and will continue to need most in the tough years many of us see ahead.

I think this popular intuition is on target, and the best way to see why is to take a close look at two actual situations — call them two crises of legitimacy, one for Bush and one for Giuliani — and the very different ways in which each man responded to them: the ongoing Libby case in Washington and the 1999 Diallou case in New York. Obvious surface differences notwithstanding, the two cases are strikingly similar. In each, powerful forces bitterly opposed to the chief executive’s most critical and defining policies — Bush’s offensive against Islamofascist terror abroad, Giuliani’s offensive against rampant crime at home — seized on what appeared to be a terrible crime committed by men implementing those policies. In each case, the opponents claimed that such crimes were the natural, inevitable result of fundamentally misbegotten policies, insisting that if the chief executive were to retain any legitimacy at all, he must loudly condemn them and take aggressive action to unmask and punish the perpetrators. In each case, a hostile press echoed and amplified the charges relentlessly, pounding away at the outrageous nature of the crimes and the need for immediate executive action to repudiate them.

The Libby Case & Bush’s Handling of It

The Scooter Libby case is an ongoing human tragedy, a travesty of justice, and a huge setback for all executive-branch officials who are committed to protecting this nation by defeating those who are waging war against us. Call them the hawks, if you like — I call them American eagles, and they are an endangered species in the Bush administration because of this president’s failure to back them up when they are unjustly attacked. They are endangered, equally, by his nearly complete failure to rid his administration of their opposites: executive branch officials who actively work against his policies because they are committed to the Eurabian view of the world, namely, that there would be no war but for American aggression, and that appeasement is the answer.

Lewis Libby is an American eagle. He was the right hand man of Vice President Dick Cheney, the most powerful remaining eagle in the Bush administration, after the president stripped him of his strongest Cabinet ally, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a fellow eagle the president dumped to appease a hostile press in November. Gunning for Cheney too, the press accused him of being the man behind a criminal conspiracy to punish Valerie Plame, a secret agent who disagreed with his hawkish views, by outing her to the press. They failed to make this charge stick, against Cheney or anyone else, because Plame was not a brave secret agent, risking her life to protect ours; she was just a hostile, clueless, ideologically-blinded bureaucrat of the sort that the CIA and the State and Justice Departments are riddled with; revealing her name was no crime. But, with the help of another hostile, clueless bureaucrat — special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald — they did succeed in convicting Scooter Libby of perjury for allegedly lying to cover up this non-existent crime. Thus, Libby ended up a convicted felon, and Cheney was stripped of his most valuable war-fighting aide, not to mention that he was left with what the Eurabians at Time, gleefully echoing Fitzgerald, called “a cloud” over his head. All in all, it was another major defeat for the eagles, another major victory for Eurabian appeasers.

To understand why it happened, we need to look, first, at how what we now call the Libby case evolved, and then at the larger picture of executive failure of which that case is a part. The case began with a politically motivated charge: the claim that someone in the Bush administration had broken the law and endangered American security by leaking the name of a specially protected CIA agent to the press. The charge was false, and the CIA knew it was false from the get-go. Valerie Plame was their employee; they knew she was not a classified agent because she was not covert and had not worked abroad for more than five years. A strong chief executive would have determined that essential fact at the outset by first demanding the truth about her status from his CIA director, and then instructing him to make a statement to that effect to the press. George Bush failed to uncover that essential fact, and his CIA didn’t enlighten him or us. Instead, the CIA referred this nonexistent crime to the Justice Department for a full investigation.

On Fox News, Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes blamed another now-departed American eagle, Attorney General John Ashcroft, for the ensuing debacle, arguing that he never should have recused himself and allowed his deputy to appoint the special prosecutor who conducted the witch hunt that led to Scooter Libby’s conviction. My sense is that Ashcroft had little choice in the matter, after Bush took the sucker bait between his teeth and ran with it, proclaiming that he was ordering a full investigation and vowing to see to it that anyone in his administration who was guilty of this crime would be punished to the full extent of the law. At this point, announcing that there was no crime would have been tantamount to outing the president as a chump and the president’s CIA director as a knave. Even if Ashcroft wanted to do that, the odds that he would have been believed were vanishingly small, so he did what honorable men in untenable positions often do: washed his hands of the whole business by turning it over to his deputy, and resigning his office altogether soon after.

The Diallou Case & Giuliani’s Handling of It

The Diallou case was a terrible human tragedy too: An unarmed black man was shot 41 times by four New York City police officers, but it was not, in the end, a travesty of justice or a defeat for the forces of law and order, because the chief executive in this case, Mayor Giuliani, refused to condemn the crime before determining that there was one. It certainly looked as if a terrible crime had been committed, even to many of his supporters, and his opponents, echoed by the press, went ballistic. Forty-one bullets? What did the cops think the victim was, a target practice dummy? Of course the cops who were responsible for firing 41 times at a poor, unarmed black man had to be racist, fascist monsters, and, as a result of Rudy’s misbegotten war on crime, such men were totally out of control. There couldn’t possibly be any other explanation, could there?

There could be, and there was. The officers who mistakenly fired 41 bullets at Mr. Diallou were in a Bronx neighborhood on a dark, cold night in February, hunting for two dangerous black criminals, believed to be lurking in that area. One had murdered a local taxi driver; the other was an armed rapist, implicated in 51 assaults on area women. They saw a slim black man who fit the rapist’s description inside the darkened doorway of an apartment building. He was behaving suspiciously, pacing back and forth, so they asked him to come out where they could see him, with his hands raised. Instead, Diallou reached his hand into a pocket, making the police believe he was reaching for a gun. One officer on the steps outside fired, but tripped and fell as he did it. Other officers thought Diallou, who was still standing, had shot him, and, because the officer’s fire echoed in the dark hallway and was reflected back at them from a mirror at the far end of the hall, they thought they, too, were under attack, possibly from more than one man. So they fired back. All the shots were fired in less than ten seconds, and when it was over and Diallou was the only man down, they searched his body, certain they would find a gun. When they found only a wallet, they were all shocked; one of the officers broke down and cried. Diallou was an immigrant; apparently he misunderstood the police and was reaching for his wallet to show them his papers. It was a terrible tragedy, but it was not a crime or an act of racism, and it did not change the fact that Giuliani’s cops used deadly force much less often than police under the black mayor who preceded him, or that his anti-crime program had actually succeeded in making ordinary New Yorkers, especially in poor, black neighborhoods like the Bronx, much safer and freer than they had been in years.

Giuliani expressed the deep sorrow of all New Yorkers to Diallou’s family for their tragic loss, but, because he refused to desert his officers when they were under fire by joining the lynch mob accusing them of criminal behavior and malicious intent, his ideological enemies, in the community and in the press, focused more on him than on the officers involved, hammering him for months. Protests multiplied, and his poll numbers took a 20-point hit, but Giuliani stood his ground, defending his men and the policies they risked their lives to carry out with passion and conviction. The result was that although his popularity suffered temporarily, the policies and programs he put in place to restore his city to its former greatness remained fully in effect, and all the eagles and potential eagles in his police force, and in all the other city agencies answerable to him, were strengthened in their commitment to work for the positive changes he championed.

In the end, the Diallou case was what it had been from the start, a tragic accident, but it was not a victory for those who insist that there would be no crime, poverty, or tragic accidents but for American racism, rapacious capitalism, and police brutality. It was, rather, a victory for all New Yorkers, and for all Americans, who want safe streets, equal opportunity, and color-blind justice for all. A sad win, but a win nonetheless for Americans mature enough to understand the tragic truth that in civilian life as in military life, it is humanly impossible to eliminate all deaths from friendly fire.

Why America Needs Rudy

America needs a President Giuliani because, like it or not, recognize it or not, we are in a war that did not begin in Afghanistan or Iraq and will not end in either place. What we need to win this war — not just an occasional battle, but the larger war of which it is a part — is a strong, unconflicted chief executive who leads in a philosophically consistent way, based on a consistent set of ideas, convictions, and plans; an executive who can unify his department- and agency-heads behind his approach, and give them the steady backing they need to tame or replace those in the bureaucracies below them who are committed to making it fail; a leader who will defend his ideas, and the men and women who put them into practice, with conviction and clarity, no matter how fiercely opposition forces and a hostile press demand sacrificial scalps.

Whatever his other faults, Rudy Giuliani proved himself to be precisely that kind of chief executive in the domestic wars in New York, long before 9/11. Whatever his other virtues, George Bush has not demonstrated that kind of strength and consistency in the foreign-policy wars in Washington. For whatever it’s worth, I don’t think it’s because Bush is a weak man; I think it’s because he is a conflicted man, a man who sincerely believes in contradictory ideas and approaches, who thinks he can somehow endorse and employ both, and ends up, too often, alternating between them in ways that undercut both and unravel the gains he has made. Giuliani’s approach, at least when it comes to domestic policy, has been nothing if not consistent, not just when it comes to fighting crime, but to reducing welfare dependency and taxes, too. He did not appease his enemies, or give his allies reason to fear that he would abandon them when they are under fire through no fault of their own. As a result, he succeeded in reversing what almost everyone saw as the irreversible decline of one of America’s great cities. Of course, the clarity and consistency of his thinking about domestic policy is no proof that he would be equally clear and consistent about foreign policy, but the few signs we have are encouraging.

To put the matter in plain English, it is, by now, painfully clear that Bush, like his equally clueless British friend, Tony Blair, has been a perfect sucker, first for Yasser Arafat, now for Mahmoud Abbas, and all along for Saudi royals and other Middle Eastern dictators who promote the pernicious lie that all the deadly Islamofascist aggressors who are attacking us would become peaceful friends tomorrow, if only we abandoned our Israeli allies, as Jordan’s King Abdullah, playing his usual role as a Saudi messenger boy, urged a joint session of Congress last week.

Giuliani’s response, as Mayor of New York City, first to Yasser Arafat in October 1995, and then to Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal in October 2001, gives us reason to hope that he would not play the sucker in foreign affairs anymore than he did in domestic ones. In the first incident, Arafat came, uninvited, to a concert at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, after his thugs had murdered Leon Klinghoffer, a stroke-paralyzed New York hardware-store proprietor on a cruise ship that was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists. Arafat’s Palestinians shot Mr. Klinghoffer in his wheelchair, then tossed the helpless man overboard. Arafat was in New York, being feted at the U.N., but Giuliani had him evicted from Avery Fisher Hall. In the second incident, Prince Alwaleed offered ten million dollars to the stricken city shortly after it was attacked on 9/11, if only Giuliani would, in effect, embrace the prince’s claim that the Arab-Israeli conflict was the cause of the attack. Giuliani said that was a lie, that believing it increased the danger we are all in, and told the Saudi to keep his money.

Incidents like these provide a basis for hope that a President Giuliani would have the clarity of vision to focus steadily on defeating our enemies, not on the imaginary sins of our ancestors or our friends. That’s where we must focus if we are to win this war, and millions of Americans who sense that are hoping and praying that, whatever his other human faults and weaknesses, Rudy Giuliani has what it takes to lead this nation to victory.

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