According to CNN, the same U.S. Attorney’s Office that Rudy Giuliani once famously led is now investigating his role in a scandal that produced two indictments yesterday and could ultimately bring down a president.
Giuliani may or may not be in criminal jeopardy – we will learn that soon enough in this rapidly-unfolding story. But his public downfall has begun.
Having squandered most of his stature and dignity for power and apparently money, the Giuliani who helped ignite the White House Ukraine scandal seems cornered; he's lashing out as his political demise plays out before a national audience. A good ending for Giuliani at this point would be to escape prison.
The decline of Rudy Giuliani is a subject that historians will spend a good deal of time sorting through in the years to come. But why wait for that? As the former mayor self-destructs in public, a roiling debate is already taking place in real time over the genesis of his behavior. Was he always this malevolent, and we just didn’t realize it? Or was he a successful, transformative mayor and prosecutor who changed (or went crazy?).
“The Rudy we see today, with his showstopping mix of conviction and incoherence, is the same Rudy we've always had. The only thing new is his predicament,"
documentary maker John Philp on CNN.com last week.
“Giuliani's antics, while striking most decent people as utterly insane, will feel sadly familiar to anybody who's watched his career closely. Giuliani, an opera buff, has made his time on the public stage an endless aria of political pettiness, braying self-aggrandizement and ethical and personal turmoil. Only the settings change.”
Matthew Yglesias in
. “While nothing about his tenure as mayor suggests an abiding interest in Ukrainian security issues,” he granted, “during that period he did pioneer a style of politics that is recognizably Trumpy: featuring an extremely high ratio of spectacle and cultural grievance to interest in policy specifics, and a strand of authoritarianism that elevates law and order over the rule of law.”
Ken Frydman, Giuliani’s 1993 press secretary, cited a more positive consistency in a
op-ed back in May 2018. “The Rudy Giuliani you've seen, heard and read about the past week is the same Rudy Giuliani I worked for in 1992-1993 as mayoral campaign spokesman. He just got older,” Frydman wrote. “Rudy will be 74 on May 28. He's not about to start playing softball now.”
But on Monday, Frydman had a
change of heart
. “The man I worked for in 1993 is not the man who now lies for Donald Trump,” the headline over his
New York Times
op-ed read. “Watching and reading Rudy’s ferocious lying for Mr. Trump, whether on Fox or CNN, forced me to re-examine his last 25 years, especially the profiteering from Sept. 11
. But Ukraine was the coup de grâce.”
Perhaps the change in Giuliani was sparked by the death of former Deputy Mayor Peter Powers, Giuliani’s best friend, Frydman said. Or perhaps it was his marriage to Judith Nathan (Giuliani’s aides have long complained that her materialism warped his values).
The debate continued yesterday. “It’s good that Ken Frydman has finally washed the star-crossed cobwebs from his eyes and sees Rudy Giuliani for what he is,”
Douglas Lasdon of the Urban Justice Center. “But to those of us representing the poor and marginalized in New York City, Mr. Giuliani is simply revealing what he has always been: a bully, a liar and a single-minded seeker of fame, fortune and power.”
At stake is Giuliani’s legacy, as well as the policies he employed that subsequently gained enormous popularity across the nation, such as quality of life enforcement, Broken Windows policing and welfare reform. Delegitimize the mayor and the rest will follow.
Which bring us to the
Over the years the paper has grown increasingly disdainful of the Giuliani mayoralty. “The real Mr. Giuliani, whom many New Yorkers came to know and mistrust, is a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man who saw no need to limit police power,” it editorialized during the 2008 presidential race. “Racial polarization was as much a legacy of his tenure as the rebirth of Times Square.”
“Crime is down dramatically,” its endorsement read. “New jobs have been created in the private sector. The welfare rolls are smaller. Most residents have an increased sense of control over their neighborhoods.
“Mr. Giuliani's combative temperament is a bit like nuclear fission,” the paper stated. “Harnessed in the right way, it is a tool for progress, drilling through previously impervious bureaucratic and political barriers.”
Now Rudy Giuliani is being seen in a different light, along with all of his accomplishments. And it’s his own fault.