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Giuliani blows a traditional horn of the Zurich Fire Department.  

This afternoon, the windows of Giuliani Partners offer a prime panorama of fury. Down on Broadway, 10,000 cops and firefighters are raging about their lousy pay. And many of the angriest signs and most profane chants are directed at Rudy Giuliani, whom they blame for not giving them a raise before Wall Street went bust. Kerik, descending by elevator for a lunch appointment, dons a pair of sunglasses and hustles warily down the sidewalk.

Prosaic disputes over wages and budgets are Mayor Michael Bloomberg's problem now. Giuliani has strenuously avoided any public criticism of the successor he installed with a single blockbuster TV ad. Yet the old Giuliani, who wasn't satisfied with anything less than total victory, has begun to resurface. Even though Giuliani's call for a "soaring memorial" had defined the terms of the debate for redevelopment at the Trade Center site, he's renewing his demand that the entire site be sanctified, pushing a confrontation with Bloomberg. And the size of the memorial is just the beginning of the squabbling: Privately, Giuliani is extremely critical of what he thinks are Bloomberg-administration blunders, on everything from a too-generous teachers' pay hike to the elimination of the Police Department's Street Crime Unit.

Giuliani's favorite historical allusion since September 11 has been to Winston Churchill and the tenacity of Londoners during the World War II blitz -- a comparison that reflects flatteringly on Giuliani. Yet Bill Cunningham, the longtime political consultant who is Bloomberg's director of communications, knows some history, too. "I'm not enough of an expert in national Republican politics to say what his future is, but once you start to run on your own, there's always somebody else who wants the same job. And you're right back into the maw of politics, the cut and thrust of it," Cunningham says. "And when the public in England was preparing for a peacetime, they got rid of Churchill. Didn't even look back."

When it comes to Giuliani, the rest of the world doesn't care about such intramural squabbles. Frank Luntz worked for both of Giuliani's mayoral campaigns but stresses his most recent polling was done without Giuliani's knowledge. "I've done dial testing and thrown questions on national surveys," Luntz says, "and what comes back is that not only was this Rudy Giuliani's finest moment, but Americans feel this is one of the finest moments in politics. Ever. His national popularity is incredible; his favorability is in the eighties. I want to emphasize one thing here: It was Rudy Giuliani who went on television first to calm the nation. Not New Yorkers, but the nation. Even in the ugliest, darkest moments of a future campaign, nobody will forget September 11."

Ed Hayes, the street-savvy New York trial lawyer, is a confidant of Governor George Pataki, Giuliani's sometime rival, and Hayes himself has occasionally clashed with Rudy, most recently when the former mayor was slow to disburse the proceeds of the Twin Towers Fund. "There's lots of things about him I didn't like," Hayes says, "but in one year, he had to deal with his father being a gangster, which is the one thing he's always been tormented about; he had to deal with cancer; he had to deal with the very unpleasant breakup with his wife, which had to cause all sorts of problems with his children; falling in love, which he seems to have legitimately done; and the World Trade Center. I can't imagine a greater combination of personal and public concerns. He has proven himself under very difficult circumstances and deserves immense credit for it."

Hayes sees few limits on Giuliani's political future. "The born-agains will question his marriages, his girlfriend, but he can say honestly that he has had a rigorous testing as a man and he's come to terms with his life," Hayes says. "The one obstacle he has to get over is that part of his pride that forbids him from ever saying, 'I've made mistakes in my life, I've learned from them, I want to go forward.' "

Rudy Giuliani doesn't have to be here, standing in the sun in a church parking lot on a sweltering August morning, waiting quietly an hour past a funeral's scheduled starting time with hundreds of firefighters in dress blues. But here he is, in Seaford, Long Island, as he has been in dozens of other suburbs and neighborhoods whenever possible, to pay his respects to yet another fallen hero, Lieutenant Patrick Lyons of Squad 252 in Bushwick.

Inside Maria Regina Church, the mourning is standing-room-only, with 1,200 people crammed into the pews. Above the altar, two beautiful, abstract stained-glass windows glow in the sunlight. Beside the altar is Lyons's framed red-and-white No. 10 jersey, the one he wore leading his beloved FDNY football team. Some of the eulogies are slick (the pastor, who admits he didn't know Lyons very well), some are achingly raw (firefighter Pat Alfarone, who opens his mouth to speak but stands mute and sobbing). Only Giuliani receives an ovation on the way to the podium.

He has presided over hundreds of these terrible commemorations since September 11. He isn't a grand orator, but his humble phrases carry genuine gravity. "When I first realized on the morning of September 11 how many people were going to be lost, had died, in the attack, particularly how many of our firefighters, police officers, rescue workers, I kept trying to calculate how many, because I knew I would have to answer," Giuliani says in a low, steady voice. "And the number was just impossible to even think about. I knew then that we would feel this pain, that it would just ripple out all over this city, all over the state, all over the country, and all over the world. But you don't realize until you deal with an individual's family, the firefighters, all of the impact it has, what a horrible thing they did to us . . . " His voice trails off, and Giuliani seems to be back walking in the rubble again for an instant.

"So, uh, I don't just want to offer my condolences to this family," he says, the stone returning to his demeanor. "I want to thank you as an American for the incredible man you gave us. The bravery that Patrick demonstrated on that day, each one of them did, each one singularly and alone, they are the reason that the spirit of the United States withstood that attack."

He briefly leavens the mood with a joke about Lyons's sports allegiances -- "A Dolphin fan? A Met fan? Well, no one's perfect, I'm not perfect" -- but his conclusion is a stunner. The firefighter's widow gave birth to their first child, a son, on October 7, less than a month after the World Trade Center took her husband. It is to little Patrick that Giuliani directs his final words. "When he gets older, just keep telling him he didn't lose his dad," Giuliani says. "There is nobody, absolutely no one -- no terrorist, no murderer -- no one can take your father from you. It can't be done. Your father is inside you. He's part of you. He's part of what you inherit. And he has inside him all those wonderful qualities we've heard about today."

Weeping echoes through the church. "So he hasn't lost his dad," Giuliani says. "In the most important sense, he has his dad right inside him. And I would like you to know how we feel about his dad. I think we should conclude by standing and giving Patrick a standing ovation, so his son knows what we feel about his father."

The crowd is instantly on its feet, and for a full, cathartic 60 seconds, palms bang out a loud tribute. As the ovation crescendos, the former mayor, also clapping, leaves the pulpit and walks back to his pew. It is a canny gesture, one he has used at funerals before: In that moment he is selfless, merely one of the appreciative citizenry, surrendering the spotlight to the true hero. But Rudy Giuliani is riding that applause, too.


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