Jewish World Review Oct. 14, 2002/ 8 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Leaders don't change; followers do | Manhattanites waited in line for 4 hours for former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani's signature on his new book, " Leadership." Those of us who have been Giuliani fans since his U.S. Attorney days when he put Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky behind bars recall times when the Dutch isle inhabitants would have waited 24 hours for a chance to pop Hizzonor a good one.

When Giuliani took office in 1993, the papers mocked his pursuit of squeegee guys, those hooligans near the Holland Tunnel and other congested spots who emerged with Windex to clean windshields for tips. Calling it a "quality of life issue," Rudy pledged, "These guys will never walk the streets of New York again." They haven't.

Rudy nailed the subway turnstile jumpers, rogues who board mass transit without paying their "fare" share. He rid Time Square of topless bars, porn shops, and even the homeless parked on sidewalk grates. He arrested the homeless who refused shelter.

Artists called Giuliani an "enemy of art" for cutting off public funding for the Brooklyn Museum of Art because the artistes there displayed what was an affront to art, let alone Catholics and the Virgin Mary, defaced and debased in one painting.

When New Yorkers protested police shootings, Giuliani released criminal records to show bleeding hearts what officers faced. During Giuliani's tenure, the city's murder rate dropped from 2245 per year to 700. He cut taxes and welfare rolls and slapped time limits on long-term homeless shelter residents who refused to work.

He did all of this amidst whining sufficiently intense to peel Gracie Mansion's paint. Rudy was, ""Mussolini on the Hudson," "the weakest link," "Adolf Crueliani," "authoritarian," "aggressive," "possessed of moral certitude," "compulsive," and "evil."

Saturday Night Live parodied him at least once each season. Despite two terms, reduced crime, a cleaner city and increased tourism, few New Yorkers confessed to being Giuliani voters. Giuliani was motivated by an unrequited love for the Big Apple.

Then came 9/11/01. Within 3 months, Rudy was Time magazine's person of the year. This new Rudy, the pundits all exclaimed, finally understood how to lead and govern. The Daily News moaned, "I'd give anything for this not to be happening, but I'm developing feelings for Rudy Giuliani. Rudy has been letting his inner human out."

Rudy hasn't changed. The people did. Giuliani has black and white standards. Equivocation has never met him. When the planes struck, New Yorkers needed his focus and certainty of purpose, qualities they had derided for 8 years.

Rudy remained classic Rudy. During his post-9/11 days, he rejected a $10,000,000 donation to the New York Relief Fund by the Saudi Crown Prince who mouthed off about the attack on the World Trade Center being somehow justified.

Ah, but New Yorkers said, Rudy has compassion now. He always had compassion; New Yorkers mistook tough love for insensitivity. Rudy said he would help a relative find a job rather than sentence them to a life on handouts. He did the same for New York's homeless and welfare roll victims.

His brusque manner remained. A reporter asked him as he headed toward Ground Zero that day, "Are you afraid?" Giuliani, calling it a "moronic question," responded, "I wouldn't be here if I were afraid."

His magnificent use of symbolism was now needed. Eliminating squeegee guys and turnstile jumpers didn't solve the city's problems. But their absence was visual proof of order and change. His use of symbolism post-9-11, with the omnipresent Yankee cap and jacket, now moved New Yorkers for its symbolic defiance.

Rudy's popularity is not a function of his transformation, but citizens' realizations. Rock musician Huey Lewis was asked at the time of his first big hit what he had done differently for success to come after so many years. He said, "We're the same. People finally heard us."

Leaders don't change; followers are born or emerge. Barry Goldwater was deemed "a kook" when he ran against Johnson in 1964. People "winced at his bluntness." At the time of his 1998 death, he was still blunt, but beloved as throngs embraced his failed campaign's slogan, "In your heart, you know he's right." Ronald Reagan lost the presidential nomination in 1976 because he was "too conservative." In 1980, and again in 1984, the country embraced him. Reagan never changed; people did.

George W. Bush always had the qualities that pundits said emerged as we went to war last year. Ideological opposition had blinded them; 9-11 brought them around.

Mayor Rudy hasn't changed. New Yorkers, Time magazine, and liberals finally saw the leader who had been dragging them, kicking and screaming, to good things. Through a crisis they came to embrace Rudy's qualities, capabilities, and, Leadership.

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JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


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© 2002, Marianne M. Jennings