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Jewish World Review Dec. 2, 2002 / 27 Kislev, 5763

Roger Simon

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To pick a rising political star | Rudy Giuliani was doing his Marlon Brando imitation for the nation's Republican governors, and he was knocking them dead.

Adopting Brando's slow-paced and gravelly "Godfather" voice, Giuliani told the governors: "Nice of all youse guys to have me here, the families representing all the different states and territories."

The governors roared, and Giuliani went on: "This is like the scene from the 'Godfather' where they come together to make the peace. As U.S. attorney, I used to listen to so many tapes of men talking like that. The only part of 'The Sopranos' that makes me happy is that it begins with Tony Soprano driving to New Jersey. It gives me false pride that I sent him there."

Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, former "Time" person of the year and current Republican superstar, was a big, big hit with the governors at their annual meeting in California and was given the honor of delivering the lead-off speech.

Yet his appearance caused a little head-scratching.

Giuliani is not, after all, the governor of New York.

George Pataki is, having won election to a third term this month by a whopping 17-point victory margin over his Democratic opponent.

But Pataki did not show up at the meeting, and Giuliani's prominent appearance renewed rumors that he would run for governor in 2006. (Pataki is not term-limited, but few think he will run for a fourth term.)

Do politicians really plan four years in advance? Sure they do. Some plan six years in advance, to wit: Some thought Giuliani would replace Dick Cheney as President Bush's running mate in 2004. It would make sense. Cheney was placed on the ticket originally to lend "gravitas" and combat Bush's lightweight image.

But Bush no longer has a lightweight image, and though Cheney has been a helpful vice president, his home state of Wyoming brings only three electoral votes to the ticket.

Giuliani, on the other hand, would not only bring a little pizzazz to the ticket, but also the possibility of picking up New York's 33 electoral votes.

There is a problem with this scenario, however. If you pick a rising star for the vice presidency in 2004, he will want to run for president in 2008.

And in 2008, it is widely assumed, the Bush family will be backing Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida.

Therefore, President Bush is going to put nobody on the ticket who could pose a threat to Jeb. So Cheney stays on the ticket.

In any case, Giuliani is remaining high-profile, whether to run for governor or not. And his message to the governors was well-received.

"America is in no more danger today than it was two or four or five years ago," he said. The difference, he said, is that today we know we are in danger, while a few years ago we did not.

"I think we all know we're going to be attacked again," he told the governors, "but you have to be effective enough leaders to get people to relax.

"People are not most likely to be killed by terrorists. Every person in your state has a greater risk of being killed by a drunk driver than a terrorist, and they don't stop driving."

And, in the end, Giuliani said, terrorism cannot win.

"Terrorism can't capture us," he said. "And it can't take us over."

Only the fear of terrorism can do that.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate