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Rating Rudy, Part One

#1323 GIULIANI, Pt. 1
FEED DATE: September 1, 2005
Fred Siegel

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WATTENBERG: Hello I’m Ben Wattenberg. In the awful days after September
11th, Americans were inspired by the bold leadership of the mayor of New
York, Rudolph Giuliani. But prior to 9/11 he was both loved and hated,
even though New York had experienced a renaissance under his
administration. What was the secret to his success? What were his
mistakes? What can we learn that might help other American cities?
To find out, Think Tank is joined by Fred Siegel, professor at the
Cooper Union and author of 'Prince of the City, Giuliani, New York and
the Genius of American Life.' The topic before the house: rating Rudy,
part one, this week on Think Tank.

WATTENBERG: Fred Siegel, welcome. Welcome back to Think Tank.

SIEGEL: Thanks for having me, Ben.

WATTENBERG: Delighted to have you. I think it’s a terrific book. The title is 'Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of
American Life'. Let’s begin – maybe you could give me a brief bio.
Who are you?

SIEGEL: I live in Brooklyn with Jan Rosenberg, who’s a woman
who’s revived our neighborhood in Flatbush. My sons – one son is a
writer, the other son is a lieutenant in Army intelligence.

WATTENBERG: Your son helped you write...

SIEGEL: My oldest son, Harry was the second author on the
book. My young son – my younger son, Jake, gave the book its title.
I’m Professor at the Cooper Union for Science and Art in New York; a
very small institution of a thousand kids...

WATTENBERG: Tell me about Cooper Union.

SIEGEL: It’s an extraordinary place. It’s one of the two or
three most seletive colleges in the United States. Everyone is on
full scholarship and only a thousand kids. Art, architecture and
engineering and I teach history ’cause people have to get a general
degree, but you have an extraordinary group or talented kids chosen
solely on the basis of merit.

WATTENBERG: I guess for a short while you actually worked for Giuliani.
Is that right?

SIEGEL: Yes. I ran policy seminars for Giuliani in ’92/’93.
At the same time I was the editor of the City Journal. And what was
going on in New York in the early ’90s was – it was intellectual
ferment beneath the surface. On the surface all was pessimism. People
were giving up on the city. But there was a kind of ginger group in
New York and another one here in Washington, people talking about
policy reforms; how to make government work; how to solve problems.

WATTENBERG: I love that phrase, 'ginger group'. You know, I use it
sometimes when I talk about this whole coalition for democratic

SIEGEL: Exactly.

WATTENBERG: ... and people look at me as if I’m crazy. It’s sort of an

SIEGEL: It’s something that effervesces...

WATTENBERG: Yes, right.

SIEGEL: ...that sends off sparks. And many of the people I
was involved with in this ginger group, the new paradigm society, ended
up being part of the Clinton team. Others ended up influencing
As in the case of welfare reform nationally, as in the case policing
reform in New York, there really were changes, significant changes.
Part of what was encouraging by the early 1990s, as opposed to today,
is that the recession produced new thinking, fresh approach, a less
partisan approach to the politics.

WATTENBERG: Give me a little background, brief, on Giuliani’s
background in government and politics before he became Mayor. I know
he got a lot of adverse criticism for – as a federal prosecutor, I
guess, going after financial corruption, making them do what they call
'the perp walk'. Perpetrator. Why don’t you explain that?

SIEGEL: Giuliani’s – probably the most significant case is he
brought down Michael Milken, the junk bond giant. Giuliani went after
what he saw as fast and loose tactics on Wall Street that hurt the
small investor. And he was a hero to many people across the political
spectrum for taking on the big guys.
He also prosecuted the Wedtech case, a corruption case involving
friends of President Reagan. So he was seen as a republican. He was a
fearless republican willing to take on anyone and anything.

WATTENBERG: But the case was made that by showboating these people and
making them take this public walk when they were only indicted, not

SIEGEL: That’s right.

WATTENBERG: ... that – and they call him a fascist and everything else.
There was a lot of criticism about it.

SIEGEL: There was a lot of criticism. Some of it justified.
He did tend to be a showboat. But he made his mark by being someone
who seemed to be not narrowly political; by seeming to be someone above
politics willing to prosecute anyone who – including the big guys – who
stepped across the line.

WATTENBERG: You say in the book that he had done some preliminary work
and planning on the issue of terrorism, and perhaps you could explain

SIEGEL: Giuliani first gets involved in terrorism in 1985.
In 1985 there’s the Achille Lauro affair. A cruise ship is in the
Mediterranean with Americans on it. A Jewish New Yorker named Leon
Klinghoffer is pushed overboard by Palestinian terrorists. They’re
eventually caught and brought to Italy. They’re supposed to be
extradited to the United States; a left wing judge frees them. Had
they been brought to the United States, Giuliani would have prosecuted
the case.
So fairly early on he’s involved in the issue of terror. He
understands the issues. In 1989 when extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane is
gunned down by a Palestinian gunman named Sayyid Nosair, the FBI, which
is always behind the curve on these things, insists that he was a lone
gunman. The NYPD knows better. There are fifty boxes of documents
taken from Nosair’s apartment. They are not translated by the FBI
until after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. They talk about the
plans for the 1993 World Trade Center attack. Giulinai knows early on
that this is a disaster; that terrible things are coming.
When he becomes Mayor in January of 1994, the first speech he
gives, pride of place goes not to all the jobs lost in the recession;
not to crime and fear; it goes to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
It’s very close to his worldview.
He has a sophisticated sense of foreign policy and terrorism.
Even is a mayor early on in his administration.

WATTENBERG: He’s known best for his approach to cutting down the rate
of violent criminality. Why don’t you explain it to me? Give me those
buzz words, Broken Windows and community policing and et cetera.

SIEGEL: What he doesn’t do, and this is important, is
community policing. Community policing and Broken Windows are
sometimes confused. They’re not the same thing. Chicago does
community policing. Chicago, with one third of New York’s population,
has more murders. Community policing is bringing the police out into
communities, establishing good relations...

WATTENBERG: Getting them out of the patrol cars and back on the foot
beat. Is that the idea?

SIEGEL: It’s good for how people feel about crime and has
very little effect on crime.
Broken Windows involves policing small crimes. It says that when
someone jumps a subway turnstile it’s not a minor matter, they ought to
be arrested. And the reason they ought to be arrested is it turns out
of one out of every seven persons who jumped the subway turnstile was
wanted on an outstanding felony warrant. In other words, the theory of
Broken Windows policing, developed by George Kelling and James Q.
Wilson, is that people create – who commit the big crimes are the same
people who do the small crimes. The guy who breaks a bottle on your
street corner is likely to break into your house a couple days later.

WATTENBERG: And if you see a neighborhood with a lot of broken windows
and the people haven’t been tried for it or at least indicted for it,
they’ll say, 'Hey, I can get away with anything.'

SIEGEL: It says this is a place ripe for the picking. So,
Broken Windows policing was the first thing. And that was tried out on
the subways by a guy named Bill Bratton who was the commissioner of the
transit police in the early ’90s. Giuliani brings Bratton as a police
commissioner and Broken Windows is brought to New York City policing.
And it begins to have an affect.
But the dramatic change occurs when Broken Windows is combined
with something called COMSTAT. That’s the statistical mapping of
crime. Used to be that police departments looked at crime statistics
three months, six months after the fact. You looked back. What
happened with COMSTAT - and this comes from a guy named Jack Maple who
simply began putting pins on a map. And Maple is a guy out of a Damon
Runyon play. The guy wore a homburg, a cravat, white spats. He was a
street cop who fancied himself a dandy. And he hung out with Bratton
and he mapped. He mapped every -- So when people said, if you’re
hitting – putting the pins on the map and you’re seeing where the
crimes are, why not put this in the computer? And what that allowed to
do was the following: if you found out that there was a lot of crime in
Avenue A on Monday, well, make sure on Tuesday that you’re ready; not
only on Avenue A, but Avenue B and C incase there’s spillover.
Used to be when tactical sweeps would come into a neighborhood
you’d hit Avenue A and the crime would just move over a few blocks.
With COMSTAT, not only did you hit Avenue A, you hit the surrounding
area. The effect of this was to dramatically reduce crime.
Now crime reduction in New York, unlike other parts of the
country, did not come because of increased imprisonment. The
extraordinary thing about New York is the prisons didn’t expand. Crime
was reduced.

WATTENBERG: In 1993 it was said – and by the way, a mayor in New York
can only serve two terms by law.

SIEGEL: That’s right. It’s term limited.

WATTENBERG: Okay. So we know that. It was said that the city – the
phrase was, 'New York is ungovernable'. What were - what was going on
– and they said it’s ungovernable and getting worse. What was going

SIEGEL: Well in New York in 1993 sixty percent of the adult
population wanted to head for the exits. There was a sense that the
city was finished. The city is three percent of the national
population; it lost twenty-five percent of the jobs in the early 1990s
Crime and fear were out of control. There’s a wonderful moment –
wonderful in a certain sense - when the Parks Commissioner was standing
in Central Park in front of the lake and giving a talk about changes
and improvements in Central Park, and as she’s talking the cameras are
rolling and a dead body bobs to the surface of the lake.

WATTENBERG: (Chuckle) I don’t mean to laugh, but...

SIEGEL: These were the days when people would put 'no radio'
signs in their car, saying, steal the other guy’s. In other words,
people had a sense that the city had been lost. The underclass in a
sense had won. If you wanted to live in New York and you weren’t very
wealthy, you simply had to put up with the underclass dominating the
streets of the city.
In other words, what Broken Windows policing did, by tracking
crime, it shut down the hot spots. What would happen in New York is
drug deals would take over a corner. You have an open-air drug market.
Bratton’s police would come in; they shut them down. They move two
blocks away; they shut them down again. And what happened eventually
is the number of drug deals were reduced and some of the drug dealing
that remained was driven indoors. But the public streets of the city
were no longer run by lowlifes.

WATTENBERG: Let me ask you - Giuliani, probably more than any man in
public life than I can think of, and probably principally through his
relationship with the Manhattan Institute, which I guess you would call
neo-conservative in its orientation, really followed the literature and
had a playbook and relied - whether it was on yourself or the people
from Manhattan Institute or AEI, a lot of people wrote about these
things that are big problems - but he really paid attention to
scholarship. Is that accurate?

SIEGEL: Yes. You know, Clinton and Giuliani are much more
alike than people realize. They’re both policy wonks.

WATTENBERG: Bill Clinton.

SIEGEL: Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton and Giuliani reinforced
each other and they were more similar than people realized despite
their enormous difference of personality. They were both guys who
could come into a room with a group of experts, grasp what they experts
were saying and talk to them on their own terms and draw on
So what was going on in the early ’90s was extraordinary. There
was this tremendous ferment. People were thinking anew about
government. What had gone wrong with government? How do you make
government work? And what’s interesting about this is both the neo-
conservatives and liberals had given up. Liberals said, this is the
way it is; unless Washington decides to pour – waste even more money on
the cities, nothing can be done. That’s Mayor David Dinkins,
Giuliani’s predecessor.

WATTENBERG: Right. Right.

SIEGEL: Giuliani’s predecessor.

WATTENBERG: Who he had run against once and lost.

SIEGEL: And Dinkins’ idea was I can do nothing. I can’t be
held accountable for the problems in Washington. Even though
Washington was pouring billions of dollars into the city, it would
never be enough.
So what – people were arguing was no, this is a mistake. If the
cities are merely places of dependency; if cities are dependent on
Washington and filled with dependents - people on welfare - they’re
objects of pity. But they’re not centers of life, of commerce, of
thought. They’re inevitably going to decline and decay.
So what Giuliani argued was that cities had to give up this
dependency: give up dependency on Washington; give up dependency on
welfare. And so instead of selling our poverty to Washington, we had
to create a lively effective economy that drew people into the city.

WATTENBERG: So this, in one way at least, gives, at least for us
(unintelligible) of scholars, he gets very high marks. I mean, he pays
attention to the literature and what he thinks can work.


WATTENBERG: He puts it into practice.

SIEGEL: He puts it into practice. Yes.

WATTENBERG: And – I mean, James Q. Wilson – I don’t know Kelling but
James Q. Wilson is one of the great... He was former Chairman of the
Political Science Department at Harvard and I guess he would be
considered a neo-conservative. But he’s one of the great minds in – I
mean, so lucid and so clear.

SIEGEL: But Ben, the interesting thing is here neo-
conservatives as a group had given up on cities. They bought into the
argument of Charles Murray that cities were simply centers of
pathology. They bought the arguments of the great Daniel Patrick
Moynihan that the out of wedlock birthrate meant that the cities had
absolutely no future. Virtually everyone had given up.
The interesting thing about the Manhattan Institute at that
moment and the Democratic Leadership Council here in Washington is they
didn’t fall into those traps. They accepted neither the notion that
Washington was a solution to problems, nor the notion that cities were
hopeless. What they both said is you can craft practical solutions to
real problems and they went about laying out arguments on how to do it.
Giuliani and Clinton were paying attention. Most people weren’t.

WATTENBERG: So – and we’ll come – if you have some data in a moment,
but the biggest single issue - and the issue again that got a lot of
attention with this Broken Windows things, was the squeegee men; people
who would come up to your car and really extort money from you by
allegedly cleaning your...

SIEGEL: By smearing your window.

WATTENBERG: (Laughing) By smearing your window. You write in your book
that the root of a lot of this is race. And you make a point, which is
a controversial one, if you look at Jamaican immigrants who are black,
or sub-Saharan recent black immigrants, their rates of social pathology
- crime and all that - are much less than American blacks.

SIEGEL: I think that’s true, but here’s the problem with
that: the problem is that over time what was happening is that those
newer populations were being socialized downward; not upward into
American life at large. They were being socialized downward into the

WATTENBERG: Was that Moynihan’s defining deviancy downwards?

SIEGEL: Absolutely. That’s Moynihan’s...

WATTENBERG: That famous article.

SIEGEL: Yes. Defining deviancy down. What Giuliani brings
to the city - and this is the notion the genius of American life – he
brings to the notion that poverty should not be an industry; that
poverty should be a weigh station to a better life. But Giuliani’s
notion, when he talks about the genius of American life, is the chance
his grandparents had to rise in life. He wants that opportunity for
Politics in New York were organized in part on the idea of
selling poverty to Washington. That – and you had people, liberal
commentators arguing that poverty was to New York what oil was to
Texas. It’s the way we made our money. Federal matching money would
come in for welfare; therefore this was a good thing. These were what
Jane Jacobs called transactions of decline.

WATTENBERG: But it was matching money – the cities had to put up some

SIEGEL: Cities had – the city – when Giuliani comes into
office, New York is bankrupt. The state financial control ward wants
to take over. The city can’t pay its bills. I talk about this for the
first time in the book because this – none of this is known. Giuliani
never talked about the crisis. Giuliani never asked for more money.
He never gave the federal government a chance to say no to New York
because what he wanted to say is, Washington is a bad deal for us. He
understood that for every dollar we sent to Washington, we got back .79
cents. The way it works, the reason this is built into New York
politics, you say New Yorkers are so smart, the rest of the country are
rubes; well, why are New Yorkers donating .21 cents on every dollar
they send to Washington then?
It’s because the interest groups that drive politics in New York
fed off this. The general public was hurt by it, but the interest
groups, the people for instance who serviced poverty, the poverty
industry, the public sector unions all lived off of this.

WATTENBERG: Well, tell me about the racial situation in New York then
and now and...

SIEGEL: There’s a small incident that...

WATTENBERG: I mean, you’re very blunt and forthcoming in the book and
say things that a lot of people wouldn’t say, so feel free to...

SIEGEL: I live – well, first of all I live in Flatbush. I
live in Brooklyn; I live in the heart of Brooklyn. And about six
blocks from where I live is a place called Church Avenue. And in 1990,
the first year David Dinkins is mayor...

WATTENBERG: Who was black.

SIEGEL: Who’s an Afri- the first African-American mayor, and
an integrationist and a decent man. But an ineffectual one. And that
first year a thug named Sonny Carson, the mentor to Al Sharpton, you
all know, from the Presidential run, tries to shake down a Korean deli.
There’s an incident between a customer and the grocery owner. He turns
it into a racial incident. For months and months thugs are outside
screaming, 'We’re gonna get you, yellow monkey', screaming racist
slogans. Dinkins refuses to act. A judge issues court orders; Dinkins
won’t act on it.
This was the beginning of the end of the Dinkins administration.
What follows, besides extraordinary crime levels, is a beeper boy drug-
runners riot in Washington Heights, in which Dinkins takes the side of
a drug dealer in a confrontation with a cop. He gives the drug dealer
a city funeral in great honors. And then the pogrom - and it really is
a pogrom - in Crown Heights in Brooklyn where black rioters attack
orthodox Jews, killing one of them.
The city is – there’s a sense in the city that the city is

WATTENBERG: But, for the most part, African-Americans in New York City
came to hate Giuliani.

SIEGEL: Well, they didn’t come to hate Giuliani; they hated
Giuliani from day one because Giuliani was the guy running against the
first African-American mayor. And even before Giuliani took office, he
was demonized. Giuliani wins, it was argued, he’ll bring fascism to
New York. Giuliani’s a racist; Giuliani’s this...

WATTENBERG: That’s a word they tossed around all the time –

SIEGEL: And if you were an African-American preacher, like a
man named John Brandon who had a congregation in Harlem, and you
supported Giuliani, you were thrown out of your congregation.
Giuliani’s first trip as mayor is up to Harlem. The problem is
this: the way the game works in New York is it’s a shakedown game. If
you’re not – if group A doesn’t get what it wants it threatens trouble.
And by and large mayors would cave into that trouble, so the great fear
when Giuliani was elected...

WATTENBERG: Did this include cops?

SIEGEL: This included cops. This includes every organized
interest group.

WATTENBERG: And it included New York City...

SIEGEL: Teachers, public sector, unions, everyone.

WATTENBERG: ... inspectors to get permits and stuff like that.

SIEGEL: Everyone played this game. If you don’t give me what
I want, I’m going to cause trouble. I’m going to bring the wheels of
the city to a halt.
When Giuliani comes into office and decides he’s going to try to
revive Harlem economically, he has to fight the established black
leadership. Charlie Rangel is a major character in the book. Rangel
controls Harlem through the Harlem Urban Development Corporation. If
you want to do business in Harlem, you have to go through Charlie; you
have to pay off Charlie’s friends.
Private sector business wants to come into Harlem; it can’t get
in. Charlie likes it this way. There are no – there are no
alternative forces to him in Harlem.
Giuliani - and here he gets help from Governor George Pataki and
a guy named Peter Vallone, the City Council Speaker. Giuliani takes
back Harlem. Well, in doing this he becomes an object of hatred. And
as Giuliani’s beginning to revive Harlem - and there are two stories I
want to tell on this - he does the following: he sends an African-
American Deputy Mayor, the toughest guy in the administration of tough
guys, named Rudy Washington, up to 125th Street. That’s the main street
of Harlem. In those days, 125th Street is covered with peddlers,
vagrants, rats, feces. The merchants are dying. People don’t want to
shop there. It’s a terrible strip. The merchants – these peddlers are
organized by one of Al Sharpton’s lieutenants, an escaped mental
patient with a long history of violence named Morris Powell. Giuliani
takes him down. He brings in the police. Rudy Washington and a guy
named Wilbur Chapman clear the streets; Harlem’s merchants can revive.
But in order to do this, he has to make sure; he has to get promissory
notes, essentially, from Harlem’s politicians, they won’t demagogue.
At the same time the city owns an enormous of housing in Harlem.
The city is broke. The top people in the administration want to sell
the housing to the highest bidder to pay off the city’s bills. But a
woman in the administration, a woman named Deborah Wright, who comes
out of the – an African-American woman who comes out of the Dinkins
administration, says, 'I have a better idea. Instead of just selling
it to anyone, let’s sell it to local African-American landlords who we
vest into the community.'

WATTENBERG: She said that, even though some outside person or
corporation would offer more money.

SIEGEL: Exactly. She said the key here is to revive Harlem.
Giuliani was convinced by her arguments and he sells - and the city
owned properties, and they’re massive, are sold to local landlords.
Harlem is beginning to revive. 125th Street’s cleared; new housing is
coming online, being rehabilitated. Thanks to Debbie Wright, Rudy
Washington, the Giuliani administration, it’s put back on track. And
what’s happened since then is you have a tremendous revival of retail
on 125th Street. People are probably aware, President Clinton when he
retired established an office on 125th Street. Harlem is back.

WATTENBERG: Let me go on. The argument is made that Rudy Giuliani is a
hothead. He’s too thin-skinned for his own good. There was a review
of your book in the – was it the front page review of the New York
Times Book Review by a guy named James Traub?

SIEGEL: Right.

WATTENBERG: And he sort of infers that Rudy Giuliani – and it’s a very
favorable review in my judgment – but that Rudy Giuliani is a little
bit nutsy and a little bit wacko, just personally. You buy that?

SIEGEL: Yes and no. Giuliani has a volcanic temper. But
mostly it’s used tactically. If you’re governing against the grain of
every major interest group in the city, people better be afraid of your
temper; they better be worried about you. And there are moments when
Giuliani used his temper to enormous tactical advantages, as when he
threw Yasser Arafat out of Lincoln Center. Or as when he told the
Saudi Prince to take his money and go shove it after 9/11.
The trouble is that Giuliani tends to capsize calm waters, that
his oversized personality is at its best in a crisis. When he comes
into New York, New York is dying; it’s in a crisis. He rises to the
challenge. On 9/11 he rises to the challenge. He’s at his weakest
when he doesn’t have a challenge to match his personality.

WATTENBERG: Okay. On that note Fred Siegel, thank you for joining us
on Think Tank. And thank you. Please, remember to join us for a
future episode where we will continue our discussion of Rudy Giuliani’s
New York. Also, please send us your comments via email. We think it
makes our program better. For Think Tank, I’m Ben Wattenberg.

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Funding for Think Tank is provided by...

(Pfizer) At Pfizer, we’re spending over five billion dollars looking
for the cures of the future. We have 12,000 scientists and health
experts who firmly believe the only thing incurable is our passion.
Pfizer, life is our life’s work.

Additional funding is provided by the Bernard and Irene Schwartz
Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the Lynde and Harry
Bradley Foundation.

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