I’d like to prefix this review by stating (1) I lived in New York City when Rudolph Giuliani was its mayor, (2) I voted for Giuliani in two of his three mayoral campaigns, and (3) I am a registered Republican. I need to clarify these points to avoid any suspicions that my commentary here is either misinformed, partisan or cloaked in some sort of angry agenda.
That being stated, on with the show.
Anyone who thinks Rudolph Giuliani would make a great president needs to see Kevin Keating’s documentary “Giuliani Time.” Although the film omits several key facts from the Giuliani story, it nonetheless presents a chilling record of a politician whose modus operandi includes incessant lying that borders on a pathological disorder, the miserable habit of taking credit for other peoples’ achievements, blatant racism, imperious governing that cannot tolerate contradiction, and a shocking disregard for the most vulnerable members of society.
Most people only know Giuliani for his so-called “America’s Mayor” standing in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Indeed, he deserves kudo for being at Ground Zero at a time when President Bush was hiding in a military bunker. Had it not been for 9/11, Giuliani would’ve easily disappeared from the American political radar.
As “Giuliani Time” shows, Giuliani spent a career obfuscating facts in a brazen and frequently pathetic manner. His first spin the national spotlight came in Congressional testimony during an early career stint as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, when he was responsible for barring Haitian refugees from receiving American asylum. The film asserts Giuliani offered perjured testimony to Congress, stating the Papal Nuncio in Haiti assured him there was no repression in that Caribbean nation (the Papal Nuncio, upon hearing this, issued a statement declaring he made no such statement to Giuliani).
As New York’s Mayor, Giuliani took endless bows for the city’s plummeting crime rates and booming economy during the 1990s. However, the film clearly points out that crime was falling and the economy was rising long before Giuliani ever showed up at City Hall. What Giuliani refused to take credit for, however, was the darker aspects of his record. The decrease in crime was mirrored with a nauseating increase in complaints of police brutality; even Amnesty International chimed in with a report detailing blatant examples of police misconduct, much of it racially motivated. Giuliani dismissed Amnesty International’s findings as “anecdotal.”
The film also shows the widening economic disparity that took root in Giuliani’s New York. While Giuliani literally shoveled excessive tax benefits on the city’s major corporations (many of whom were ready to relocate to less expensive locations), he offered little but sneering to the city’s poor. His much ballyhooed “workfare” program was just a statistical numbers game for moving the poor off the welfare rolls without actually securing genuine employment for them.
Then there’s the issue of Giuliani’s approach to civil liberties. His endless crackdowns on street artists and his announcement of pulling funds from the Brooklyn Museum following a controversial art exhibit made him look ridiculous, especially when repeated court decisions ruled that his policies violated the First Amendment.
For someone who enjoyed a PR image of being a tough guy, Giuliani literally ran away from a fight in 2000 when he abruptly aborted his campaign for the U.S. Senate because of a sudden diagnosis of prostate cancer. He claimed he wasn’t healthy enough to campaign against Hillary Clinton (who, of course, won that race) – though, oddly, he was healthy enough to remain as mayor. And he was healthy enough to hold a press conference announcing that he was divorcing his second wife, Donna Hanover. That was news to everyone, including Hanover, who only learned about his decision from watching his televised press conference.
Giuliani, not surprisingly, is never interviewed in this film. However, many of his critics and more than a few of his supporters weigh in. Some of the observations are diplomatic, particularly from his first Police Commissioner, William Bratton (who charitably describes that “we didn’t get along”). Other commentary is more pointed, especially Rev. Al Sharpton’s calling Giuliani a “kook.” The film is not a Michael Moore-style slam, by any definition. Instead, it tries to weigh the good and the bad, and there are several areas where Giuliani deserves credit (giving the impression that New York was safer under his leadership, being a credible spokesman for the city as a viable business and tourism destination, and his unexpected talent for drag comedy).
Strangely, “Giuliani Time” omits several key controversies of his life and career. His first marriage (1968-1976) to Regina Peruggi, which was annulled under the excuse that Giuliani was unaware they were second cousins, is never mentioned here. Likewise, his spotty career as U.S. Attorney, which included the bungled prosecutions of several high-profile cases, is barely acknowledged. Contrary to the film’s assertions of his private life, reports of Giuliani’s infidelities while in office appeared as early as 1997, with a Vanity Fair article reported Giuliani’s relationship with his communications director, Cristyne Lategano (both Giuliani and Lategano fervently denied it, though Hanover confirmed it).
The film also forgets Giuliani’s bizarre mania with stadium building (he saddled the city with the bill for two money-losing minor league baseball parks), his petulant boycotting of the U.S. Open because it was played in a stadium approved by his predecessor David Dinkins, his debt to Liberal Party boss Raymond Harding for getting elected (which he repaid by appointing two Harding sons to positions they were not qualified to hold), his astonishing endorsement of Democrat Mario Cuomo in the 1994 governor’s race (Republican George Pataki won that race and his attitude to Giuliani and the city was decidedly frosty for years), his refusal to host one-on-one interviews with American media, and his repeated refusal to meet with the city’s black and Hispanic elected officials.
Also absent is Giuliani’s miserable handling of the police killing of Patrick Dorismond in a racial profiling case. When it became obvious that Dorismond, a security guard, was fatally shot in a botched entrapment snare, Giuliani illegally released Dorismond’s long-sealed juvenile delinquency record in a vain attempt to smear the law-abiding adult Dorismond. For the record, the cop who killed Dorismond, Anthony Vasquez, actually had a criminal record while he was part of the NYPD (another problem in the Giuliani years: hiring standards for the NYPD evaporated).
And one key accomplishment is ignored: Giuliani lowered New York’s hotel tax, which helped bring more conventions and conferences back to the city.
Even with those omissions, “Giuliani Time” nonetheless offers a gruesome preview of what a Giuliani presidency could be like. Remember, you’ve been warned!