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The Indecider

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The Many Moods of Rudy: From mob-busting federal prosecutor (December 1984); to take-no-prisoners mayor (1994)...   

But in Kingston, Giuliani was coy. He hardly seemed prepared to commit to saving New Yorkers from their dire fiscal fate. That much was clear when, just before his speech, Giuliani fielded questions. “I’m here to help,” he explained. “I’m not here to dip my toe in the water.” So when would he make up his mind? “I’ll turn my attention to that after the elections are over and figure it out,” he said. “There’s still plenty of time.”

Hoping to learn more, I met with Giuliani last month in the sleek and modern offices of Bracewell & Giuliani, the Houston-based law firm where he has been a partner since 2005 and where he spends about half his time. Rudy was running late. It was September 8, the week of the sacred anniversary, and Giuliani was observing it this year with, among other things, a pretaped guest appearance with his wife, Judith Giuliani, on The View. Seated on a canary-yellow couch, he explained to Barbara Walters how seeing someone jump from the burning towers changed him forever. Walters was dazzled. “Should he run for president?” she cooed to Judith.

Judith smiled and dodged the question. But when Rudy marched into a Bracewell conference room—“Let’s eat!” he said, going bulgy-eyed at the catered sandwich plates—he sounded like someone who thinks more about being president than about being governor. He opined on health care (no big government), Afghanistan (send more troops), and Iran (be wary of meddling in their politics) on the way to rendering his verdict on Obama: “I thought we would get more of a moderate,” he said. “I was expecting more like Clinton than more like Jimmy Carter.”

In this context, the subject of running for governor seemed less inspiring to him. He gave the distinct impression of a man for whom the state job may not be quite enough. Friends and foes alike say they wonder whether Giuliani, who obviously considers himself fit to lead the United States of America, could really want to relocate to the state capital and play ringmaster of the Albany circus. “It is a valid question,” he told me. “Can a governor make a difference, and how much of a difference? I believe the politics of the state—this is not a partisan judgment at all, because both parties bear equal responsibility for it—can in the nicest way be described as dysfunctional. And I guess that whole dispute with the Senate is the perfect example.”

Would a man like Giuliani really want to become ringmaster of the Albany circus? “It is a valid question,” he tells me. “Can a governor make a difference? And how much of a difference?”

Even Rudy’s closest advisers concede the limited allure. “It’s not an easy job,” says his longtime aide and confidant Tony Carbonetti. “You gotta trek up to Albany, you gotta fight with the State Senate, you gotta fight with the Assembly. It’s a daily grind.” (On a more personal front, Giuliani said he’d have no problem with Albany. “They’ve got a lot of good golf courses right around there,” he says.)

As mayor, Rudy actually had a decent relationship with a heavily Democratic City Council. “Having Peter Vallone as the speaker was very valuable,” he says. “He was somebody I could work with.” But Rudy understands that Albany can grind down even the most determined governor. “I thought Eliot Spitzer had the right strategy,” Giuliani says. “For obvious other reasons, he never had a chance to execute it correctly—which was that you cannot do this ‘three men in a room’ thing. A governor has to be able to develop coalitions in the Legislature, as opposed to just convincing, you know, the majority leader or the speaker. Whether a governor can accomplish that or not, given how this has become so entrenched, I don’t know.”

The elephant in the room is Sheldon Silver. During his City Hall years, Giuliani clashed repeatedly with Silver. (In late 2001, for instance, Giuliani’s spokeswoman said Silver would “go down in history as the speaker who cost the city the most money.” Silver later said that Giuliani’s 9/11 heroism had been exaggerated.) “The most powerful man in Albany is Shelly,” says former Giuliani adviser and Manhattan Institute fellow Fred Siegel, who still occasionally talks to Rudy. “He may have no vision whatsoever, but he is wily. Does Rudy really want to spend eight years butting heads with Shelly Silver?”

“Having the ability to set the revenues [as mayor] ultimately meant I was able to straighten out the budget and get the tax reductions I wanted,” Giuliani says. “If I wasn’t able to set the revenues”—he shrugs—“I’m not sure.”

It was less than a ringing declaration of his intentions. And more than a few New York politicos have the same impression. “I’m not trying to rain on his parade, but I don’t see any parade,” says Mike Long, the Conservative Party chairman. “I can’t find a Republican statewide who says, ‘I spoke to Rudy, and he said he’s gonna do this.’ There are a lot of Republicans who would like him to run, but I don’t see any evidence.”


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