Opinion | Rudy Giuliani Is Alone


It has been 21 years since Rudy Giuliani led a terrified city through the deadliest attack in its history. As a reporter covering him from a few feet away that morning, I ran with him from the hurricane of ash and debris following the collapse of the World Trade Center’s North Tower, trekked a mile up a Manhattan avenue as he and his aides searched for safe harbor and watched his security detail break into a firehouse with a crowbar.

He gave orders to aides calmly and decisively, reassured a frightened police officer, shushed a cheering crowd and spoke to the world from a tiny office. Like countless others, I was grateful that someone had taken charge, undaunted by the madness of the situation.

These images often come to me when I try to reconcile that brilliant leader with the confused, widely ridiculed figure facing potential indictment for trying to subvert the 2020 election.

Mr. Giuliani is virtually alone at this desperate hour. Supporters have abandoned him; once-friendly news organizations have banished him from their airwaves; and few have helped him fend off bankruptcy from numerous lawsuits and investigations. At 78 years old, the man who helped to lead New York City and the nation out of some of our most horrible days is a shadow of his old self.

Mr. Giuliani finds himself in this situation not in spite of his actions on Sept. 11 but rather because of them. The choices he made to leverage his fame from that period — and his efforts to hold on to it when it started to slip away — have led to his troubles today.

Mr. Giuliani received overwhelming acclaim for his performance as mayor in the weeks following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. He was transformed from a term-limited politician to “America’s Mayor,” addressing the United Nations and receiving an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II. New Yorkers’ long love-hate relationship with him turned into something closer to hero worship. He was a warrior who had spent a career fighting battles as a mob-busting prosecutor and crusading mayor, and they had prepared him for the greatest battle of all, his effort to save a stricken city.

With his fame at its pinnacle following Sept. 11, every possible career door swung open. But instead of preserving his statesman’s role — a hero above mere politics — he chose to cash in.

His mercenary vehicle was Giuliani Partners, which was billed primarily as a management consulting firm, though neither he nor his group of former City Hall aides had management consulting experience. He was doubtlessly aware that it wasn’t his expertise his clients would pay for, but rather his name.

“We believe that government officials are more comfortable knowing that Giuliani is advising Purdue Pharma,” said the embattled pharmaceutical company’s chief attorney after it hired Mr. Giuliani in 2002, as Purdue was fending off almost 300 lawsuits for its role in helping to hook a generation of Americans on opioids. Many other clients followed, troubled companies seeking a seal of approval from the internationally beloved leader.

Giuliani Partners grossed an estimated $100 million in its first five years. A man who as mayor bought his suits off the rack at Bancroft for $299 grew addicted to luxury, ultimately purchasing six homes and 11 country club memberships.

He leveraged his Sept. 11 fame for power as well as money. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were as attracted to Mr. Giuliani’s brand as any scandal-ridden company was, finding him to be a powerful ally when their efforts in Iraq went sideways.

At the 2004 Republican National Convention, he bestowed his blessings upon the president. As Mr. Giuliani told an adoring crowd, after the first tower fell on Sept. 11, “I grabbed the arm of then-Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and I said to him, ‘Bernie, thank God George Bush is our president.’”

The alliance with Mr. Bush afforded him more client business as well as a launchpad for his ultimate goal, which was the presidency.

Kathy Livermore, Mr. Giuliani’s girlfriend in his college years, recalled to The New York Daily News in 1997 that he had vowed to someday become America’s first Italian-Catholic president. “Rudolph William Louis Giuliani III, the first Italian-Catholic president of the United States,” he’d tell her, enjoying the sound of it.

His 2008 presidential run is now remembered as a footnote, if it is remembered at all. Some people might recall it because of a gag from Joe Biden, running in the Democratic primary, who said, “There’s only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, a verb and 9/11.”

The collapse of his candidacy — he dropped out of the Republican primaries with just a single delegate — marked the end of his political dreams; he would never run for office again.

In the years that followed he seemed increasingly desperate to salvage both the financial benefits and political power that came with being “America’s Mayor,” accumulating a roster of shady foreign clients for his company and endorsing Donald Trump — whom he considered a “carnival barker” at the time, according to an aide — for president in 2016.

His reliance on Mr. Trump was a driving force behind his serial disasters supposedly in support of the administration: his bizarre efforts to frame Joe Biden in the Ukraine scandal, which resulted in the president’s first impeachment, and his catastrophic efforts to tamper with the 2020 presidential election, which could land him in jail.

The man of law and order, famed for his rectitude as United States attorney for the Southern District of New York in the 1980s, is a subject of investigations in Georgia and Washington, D.C. Both center on deeply cynical actions to upend the 2020 election results. They reveal a corruption of character, triggered by a succession of moral compromises over the years undertaken to maintain the power and money that he’d grown accustomed to after Sept. 11.

What would have become of Mr. Giuliani if the attack on the World Trade Center had never happened? At some point he might have run for senator or governor in New York, based upon his strong record as mayor, or perhaps landed the attorney general’s job in a Republican administration, based on his record as a trailblazing prosecutor.

He wouldn’t have accumulated as much cash or achieved worldwide fame. But then again his hero’s reputation is long gone. (“I am afraid it will be on my gravestone — ‘Rudy Giuliani: He lied for Trump,’” he told The New Yorker in 2019.) His political power has evaporated, and his riches have been almost exhausted — he’s been selling personalized video greetings for $325, and he dressed as a feathered jack-in-the-box for the Fox show “The Masked Singer” this spring. Even his accomplishments on the day the World Trade Center was attacked have been tarnished by numerous findings of disastrous mistakes he and his administration made.

History will pay Rudy Giuliani his due for leading New York through its darkest hour. But it will also record that his exploitation of his actions on Sept. 11 led him to the abyss.

Andrew Kirtzman, a former New York political reporter and the writer of books about Rudy Giuliani’s mayoralty and the Bernie Madoff scandal, is the author of “Giuliani: The Rise and Tragic Fall of America’s Mayor.”

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Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/10/opinion/rudy-giuliani-9-11-trump.html