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40th Anniversary

The Day Everything Changed

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Or has it even learned it yet? Bloomberg learned it—and proved, by the by, that you don’t have to behave like an ogre to get results. That combination, success and civility, is why they tell me he’s probably on his way to getting the term limits undone, something Rudy could never do.

You noticed, recently, something else Rudy couldn’t do: get himself elected president. Long ago, A. J. Liebling wrote a wonderful book on Earl Long called The Earl of Louisiana. The first sentences of the book are pricelessly memorable: “Southern political personalities, like sweet corn, travel badly. They lose flavor with every hundred yards away from the patch.” Great stuff. But these days, the opposite is true: We’re up to our non-red necks in Southerners, God help us, and it’s the New Yorkers who don’t travel well. Giuliani trying to seem like a right-wing nut just didn’t fly. Watching him defend Wasilla, Alaska, in his convention speech was a hoot. This is a man who hates leaving the Upper East Side for more than a few hours at a time. That’s why this governor talk doesn’t really make any sense to me. He could barely drag himself to Westchester in 2000, let alone the Western Tier.

No—his great destiny was to be mayor, and mayor only. And I might even say: at that moment only, when the city needed someone like him. Remember how often people talked in 1992 and 1993 about giving up on the place. Within one short year, or even less, people weren’t saying that very much anymore. For all the Rudy- craziness that later ensued and that darkened his legacy—the bashing of police-shooting victims and Brooklyn Museum artists and ferret lovers and his second ex-wife and of course Hillary—it has to be acknowledged that he was the man for the moment. There probably won’t be a moment in New York quite that desperate again in our lifetimes. He helped make sure of it.


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