The Corner

Flip-Flopping on Rudy

The New York Times’s snide and haughty Republican endorsement editorial today is annoying in countless ways. But especially striking, of course, are the harsh words the Times reserved for Rudy Giuliani. While the mayor’s not my choice this year, these ludicrous charges should offend anyone who was paying attention in the 1990s. They sent me in search of a rather different editorial I remembered reading once about Mayor Giuliani. That other one, which the Internet turned up soon enough, said:

Helping New York survive Sept. 11 was a mission that actually occupied only a few months of Mr. Giuliani’s eight years in office, but it seems as if he had been in training for it all along. He always ran the city like a warrior king. His greatest successes were not the times he fought hardest, since this mayor always fought as if he were single-handedly protecting a room full of babies from a fire-breathing dragon. His finest victories came when he chose a target worthy of his implacable passion.

… He made New Yorkers believe it was possible for New York to be secure and clean and under control, and he made the rest of the world believe it, too. The economic boom was a national phenomenon, but for New York, the surge in the tourism industry owed a great deal to Mr. Giuliani’s determination to create a new and unfamiliar spirit of civility. … It would be easy to go on about the things Mr. Giuliani failed to do — New York City has so many problems and crises and needs that all mayors leave office with far more losses than wins. The most its residents can expect of a mayor is that he — or someday she — accomplish one big thing, as Mayor Koch did in restoring the city’s financial health. If that one achievement is important enough, it will come to stand for everything. When measured in that way, Mr. Giuliani more than did the job.

Where did these words of adoration appear, you ask? Why, in the New York Times, of course, in a December 2001 editorial, as Giuliani was preparing to leave office. So which editorial is right? Given the source, I’m guessing neither one.

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.

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