Giuliani is given the Presidential Suite. Two security guards perch in the entryway. The main room is dim, with the curtains drawn and the lights off. A changing retinue of aides from the ex-mayor’s corporate consulting firm, Giuliani Partners, travels with him to political events. Today former City Hall aides Denny Young and Tony Carbonetti sit off to the sides in the shadows, along with several other silent men. Giuliani, in shirtsleeves, is on a gray central couch, an enormous cheese-and-cracker plate in front of him, untouched. When he’s standing, Giuliani is often hunched. Seated, his posture is even odder: He’s so short-waisted that his large head appears perched just above his navel.
The television is tuned to CNN. Giuliani laughs at senators Orrin Hatch and Chris Dodd. “Look at Hatch’s tie!” he says, pointing at a particularly garish combination of orange, gold, and blue. The aides in the shadows laugh, too.
Giuliani is slightly hoarse. He’d been at Yankee Stadium the night before, staying until the very end as the Yankees beat the Twins in twelve innings. “Kerry lost his voice campaigning,” Giuliani says. “I lose my voice cheering for the Yankees.” Not that he isn’t having fun campaigning. Giuliani says that as he makes his way around the country, he’s trying to do as much listening as talking. “Polls can tell you percentages, but they can’t tell you enthusiasm,” he says. “What being with people can tell you is what they’re really passionate about. The overriding thing that is on people’s minds is terror. The war in Iraq, the war on terrorism. Not just the war in Iraq, but where is it all going? What’s gonna happen next? How are we gonna deal with this? How do we get ourselves from this period of time to a period of time when things are safer?”
In New York, of course, one related issue is the shabby allocation of anti-terrorism funding. It’s easy to imagine Giuliani’s reaction if he were still mayor: Not matter who was president, Rudy would no doubt rail about the fool in the White House abandoning the city that’s suffered the most and remains the fattest terrorist target. Now, though, Giuliani hardly even sounds like a New York civilian. He meekly lays all the blame on congressional funding formulas. “The same thing happens with Medicaid, the same thing happens with welfare formulas, the same thing happens with all the distributions,” he says with a shrug. “I believe that the president should implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, so that you make one exception, and that is to distribute money based on risk.”
Fine—but why has it taken Bush three years and the prodding of the 9/11 Commission to say he’ll do what’s right? “I think that’s something they’re gonna have to debate out in Congress,” he says. Giuliani wrote a best-seller called Leadership; why doesn’t he expect Bush to lead on this issue? “The administration has delivered a tremendous amount of money the city had never gotten before. Is it as much as we would like? Is it as much as we would want? No. It never is. Every one of these formulas that you’re complaining about are formulas that the Clinton administration had in place. This is more the Democratic way in which people in the city look at life. During a Republican administration, they’ll complain about this, and during a Democratic administration, they’ll forget it.” And besides, Giuliani claims, New Yorkers dismayed by his embrace of the faith-based president need to realize that Bush’s overseas offensive protects the city better than Kerry ever would.
Giuliani says he speaks regularly with Bush, offering both tactical and stylistic advice. “I talked to the president about ten minutes before the first debate. I spent about a half-hour with him, with my wife, with Tommy Franks and his wife and Mrs. Bush. I told him that he should do on the debate what he had done on The O’Reilly Factor—that he should be relaxed and personable.” Which would have been better than the halting, frowning Bush who showed up that night.
The possibility of a Cabinet job—Homeland Security, say, or attorney general—in a second Bush administration hasn’t come up, yet. “Of course I’d consider it,” Giuliani says. “I think it’s very presumptuous to say—first of all, the president hasn’t offered me a job. If he did, I’d consider it, but I don’t know that I’d do it.”
“Lots of people got to know me after September 11, and they feel like they have a personal relationship with me,” Giuliani says. “And I think they realize I care about them.”
Ask Giuliani if he feels at home in the South, and the outlines of a campaign rationale are visible in his answer. “Even though I’m from New York and they’re from South Carolina, or Georgia, there are things we have in common, that we can talk about. Maybe I’ve learned that being mayor of New York City. It’s such a diverse city. You have almost the same wide range of different people in New York as you do between New York and Georgia. There are common themes that exist, whether it’s national security or the war on terror or the economy and how to handle it. There’s a way of kind of uniting people that way.”
And ask him if he envisions a day in the near future when a pro-choice, pro-immigration, pro-gay-rights Republican presidential candidate is able to win Sun Belt primaries, and Giuliani answers instantly. “Sure, it’s conceivable,” he says. “Sure. It depends on what the issues are at the time. What the overriding issues are. Is national security and the economy more important at that time? Are those the things that move people?”
Giuliani is so obviously, profoundly thrilled by his status as an icon and a millionaire that he may never want to risk stepping off the pedestal and into the cheapening scrum of running for office. Can he at least rule out a 2006 race for governor of New York (a task inevitably made harder by his current political maneuvering)? “I never rule out anything,” he says. “When the decision comes up to decide it, then I’ll decide. But this is not the right time to decide it. I’m happy where I am. I’m happy in business.”
Maybe so. It is, however, equally hard to imagine the lifelong man of action not wanting to test himself back in the arena. “Most jobs I’ve done in my life, I’ve done for about four or five years,” Giuliani says. “Mayor was the longest job I ever held. So I expect that at some point in the future, I’m gonna want to do something else. But that’s in the future.” He’s been out of public office since January 1, 2002, however. By Giuliani’s own calculations, he’s nearly due for a job change.
Giuliani’s rightward passage began at a glacial pace. He spent the sixties as a Robert Kennedy Democrat, but switched parties not long after voting for George McGovern for president in 1972. Yet despite stints working as a top Justice Department boss under Ronald Reagan and as a zealous mob-busting federal prosecutor, Giuliani’s relations with the national Republican Party have long been fraught. Some of the complications have come from trying to win elective office in a city that’s deeper blue than any mere Democratic state; some have come from Giuliani’s penchant for unpredictable, independent-minded behavior—like when he endorsed Cuomo over George Pataki for governor in 1994, or as recently as 2000, when he encouraged John McCain in the New York Republican primary before eventually joining up with the Bush campaign.
By hauling in money and free media for the GOP, Giuliani has gone a long way toward erasing the skepticism. Since 9/11, Bush and the party have needed Giuliani as much as he’s needed them. Which can create its own tensions: At times, Giuliani’s celebrity grates on Bush’s aides. He doesn’t just show up wherever the campaign asks him to go. “He makes those decisions,” says Ken Mehlman, the campaign manager for Bush-Cheney ’04, with evident annoyance. Then Mehlman is back on message. “He’s been a tremendous help to us.”
Marc Racicot, the chairman of the Bush campaign, takes a deep breath when asked if the GOP’s Evangelical base would seriously consider Giuliani for president. “I don’t know how to answer that,” Racicot says coolly. “It’s a challenge getting through primaries when you differ with the party platform.” And on issue after issue, Giuliani is on the far-left bank of the Republican mainstream. Perhaps that’s why, in Macon, Giuliani mocked the New York Times and those West Side liberals who voted for him twice.