Today in the Times, Adam Nagourney does a great job describing the awkward dance presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani performs around his supposed main achievement (other than looking good on 9/11): cleaning up New York. Rudy’s dilemma is that the scarier and dirtier the city sounds, the better he comes across for having “tamed” it. This tack has one obvious drawback — it’s insulting to people who actually live here — but it plays like gangbusters with the New York transplant crowd Giuliani is courting in Florida and elsewhere. Still, should he get the GOP nomination and keep up the NYC trash talk, we’re facing the bizarre possibility of a national back-and-forth on whether New York as inherited by Giuliani from Dinkins was as awful a cloaca as Rudy depicts it.
One answer is that, even back in 1994, many astute observers recognized that a lot of Giuliani’s quality-of-life talk was pure PR. The fortunes of New York rose with the national economy, and crime fell more or less at the same rate as it did in the rest of the U.S.“Those victories … will surely be trumpeted right on schedule,” wrote Eric Pooley in the January 17 issue of New York (with Salt-N-Pepa on the cover!), two weeks after Rudy took office. “Some of them will even be real.” He probably had no idea they’d still be trumpeted, on a larger-than-ever stage, thirteen years later.