Rudy's Mayoral Rise And Fall Writer Describes Giuliani's Journey From Hero To Villain

Posted: August 30, 2000

Rudy Giuliani:

Emperor of the City

By Andrew Kirtzman

Morrow, 333 pages, $25

FOR A WHILE THERE, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was on a roll.

It was unusual enough for a Republican to be elected mayor of America's largest (and mostly Democratic) city, but then Giuliani went on to earn a national reputation for taking a city that, a decade ago, a Time Magazine cover story declared a hopeless mess and giving it new life.

Giuliani brought order to the usual chaos of city government, lowered the crime rate, replaced fear with hope and lured billions of dollars' worth of new development.

What a guy! He seemed unstoppable. When his party picked him as its candidate for the U.S. Senate this year, he seemed a sure thing to defeat the Democratic candidate, first lady Hillary Clinton.

Then, it all fell apart.

Giuliani was diagnosed with prostate cancer, his romance with a lady not his wife became public, several longtime allies parted company with him. He gave up on the Senate race, and the majority of New Yorkers gave up on him.

Andrew Kirtzman, a New York TV reporter who covered City Hall, explains "what happened" in a fascinating biography that is a cautionary tale for anyone who wonders what it takes to run a big city.

"This is the story of a defiant man whose strength, resolve, and vision helped bring a city back from. . .bedlam," writes Kirtzman.

But, he adds, it's also the story of a mayor who, by his second term, had become "a villain in the eyes of the black community, a fascist in the eyes of liberals, and a traitor to leaders of his own party."

He was called a "heartless bastard," a man "who wouldn't spit in your ear if your brains were on fire."

A key event in Giuliani's plunging popularity was the death of a Haitian immigrant named Patrick Dorismond at the hands of New York police.

The police had been ordered to crack down on drug offenses. An undercover officer approached Dorismond asking if he had any drugs to sell. Insulted, Dorismond shouted at this stranger. A tussle ensued that involved the undercover cop's backups and Dorismond's friends. Before it was over, Dorismond had been shot.

Giuliani first called upon the public "not to jump to any conclusions." But then he did exactly that himself.

He discovered - and revealed - that Dorismond had a criminal record. He even dug up an incident that happened when Dorismond was 13 years old.

According to Kirtzman, Giuliani, the former prosecutor, was doing what he'd always done: defend the police in their battle against bad guys. Aides advised him that in this instance, he should show some compassion for Dorismond's family, since, whatever his record, the man wasn't selling drugs and didn't know the stranger who'd accosted him was a cop.

But Giuliani only racheted up the offensive while the public increasingly withdrew approval and support.

You could argue that it takes a person as self-confident, driven, all-controlling and single-minded as Kirtzman reveals Giuliani to be to stay afloat in an urban whirlpool. But Kirtzman thinks it a tragedy that Giuliani's inability to see things from any other point of view than his own got in the way of even greater accomplishment.

This is a book filled with all the inside details that political junkies love.

Send e-mail to dewolfr@phillynews.com

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