Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and frontrunner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, worked in the Reagan administration as associate attorney general, the number three position in the Justice Department. At the time, Giuliani was the youngest associate attorney general in
American history. Today, as he criss-crosses the country,
speaking to Republican primary voters from Florida
to Iowa to South Dakota to California, Giuliani is keen
to emphasize his association with Reagan. He praises
Reagan's "optimistic leadership." He emulates Reagan's
toughness. He advocates so-called "Reaganomics."
And yet it would be a stretch to say that Giuliani is
an adherent to the set of political ideas known as Reaganism.
Giuliani adheres to Giuliani-ism. Where Reagan
emphasized the enduring possibilities of freedom,
Giuliani emphasizes the duties freedom imposes on
citizens--the most important of which, in his opinion,
is the duty of citizens to respect the law. Where Reagan
set strategic goals, delegated authority (sometimes
too broadly), and allowed room for his agency heads to
innovate, Giuliani is a top-down executive known for
micromanagement and for employing every possible
legal authority to achieve his ends.
He also happens to have been one of the most effective
chief executives in modern American history. Some
view his doggedness, his maximalist position on every
issue and the tactics he adopts, as a form of "authoritarianism,"
but that term is intended to insult rather
than describe. It would be more accurate to call him a
legalistic disciplinarian. And, indeed, one of the striking
aspects of Giuliani's career is that, while he has tacked
right in his quest for the 2008 nomination, his worldview
seems to have remained consistent at least since
his prosecutorial days. And one word best describes it: grim.
Giuliani recalls one of his first meetings with
Reagan. It was early in 1981, shortly after Reagan
had been inaugurated as the nation's 40th
president. Reagan had invited the 36-year-old former
assistant United States attorney, along with an assortment
of other would-be deputies and undersecretaries,
to the White House for breakfast. There were between 20
and 25 people there in all, Giuliani remembers, and the
conversation between the ambitious functionaries and
the president was lighthearted. Mostly they talked baseball.
Reagan reminisced about his days as a sportscaster
in Iowa. Toward the end of the breakfast the appointees
shook hands and had their picture taken with the president.
Giuliani gave his photo to his mother.
Giuliani had joined the GOP only a few months prior
to meeting Reagan for breakfast. The story of how he
came to join the party is interesting, not only for what
it tells us about Giuliani's partisan evolution, but also
for what it suggests about his character, and the character
of his political thought. A liberal who had penned
columns in his college paper extolling John Kennedy's
virtues, Giuliani opposed the Vietnam war and voted for
George McGovern in the 1972 presidential election. "I
had traditionally been a Democrat," Giuliani told me
in a recent interview in Las Vegas. "It was almost like
a refl ex mode. I actually remember saying to myself, 'If
I was a person really deciding who should be president
right now, I'd probably vote for Nixon, because I think
the country would be safer with Nixon.' My concern was
the Soviets, foreign policy, strong military." Whatever
his concern, it was not enough to make Giuliani pull the
lever for a Republican.
Shortly after McGovern lost, however, Giuliani's
politics began to change. Sometime in 1973, during an
investigation into public corruption in New York City,
Assistant U.S. Attorney Giuliani had a revelation. "I was
just sitting in my office one day thinking, I don't agree
with the Democrats at all on foreign policy," he says. "And I
don't agree with them anymore on social policy. I think
these welfare programs, which were well-intended, are
disasters, and the corruption is rampant." Giuliani went
to the Board of Elections to change his registration. "I
said, 'Can I change registration?' and they said, 'Sure.'
So they gave me a new card to fill out. There were a
whole bunch of choices of party. I was considering putting
down Republican, but I thought, No, I don't know
what I am right now. So I thought, I'm a U.S. attorney,
maybe it's better if I'm an independent." And that is what