Rudy Giuliani's star turn as America's Mayor happened 15 years ago, and the further we get from it, the more it feels like some kind of huge collective dream or hallucination. Was the man who's spent the last few months telling us that black kids were dangerous; that Vladimir Putin seems like the kind of guy you can have a beer with; that Google would unlock the secrets of Hillary Clinton's poor health, really the guy who was such an important calming influence in the days following September 11th? There's no doubt he was a source of strength and comfort then, but it's been a long time since we've seen him, and though today, the New York Times wondered if Rudy's embrace of the Trump campaign could eventually tarnish his legacy, it's hard to know exactly what "legacy" they speak of.
To people who wouldn't let their kids come to New York without carrying a concealed weapon, Rudy Giuliani will always will be the man who saved Bad Old New York. He's the guy who personally chased the squeegee men out across the Holland Tunnel and made Times Square a safe space for the M&M store and Anti-Semitic Elmo. This is all at risk, according to the Times, which writes:
[H]is ardent support for Mr. Trump could, alternatively, come at a cost to his legacy, as it has put Mr. Giuliani starkly at odds with other right-of-center Republican figures who have described the nominee as a dangerous threat to the nation and have refused to support him.
This is a source of deep concern to a large cadre of former Giuliani aides, people who recall him as the steely, compassionate leader of post-9/11 New York, and as the mayor who presided over a historic reduction in crime in the decade before — a period when he also denounced the most extreme elements of the Republican Party, advocated stricter gun control and signed a landmark domestic partnerships bill.
But Giuliani wasn't a socially liberal bulwark against right-wing culture war nonsense. He was the man who went to war with the Brooklyn Museum over an exhibit. Giuliani is remembered by his friends as the man who brought order to the city, and not the man who egged on a police riot during his predecessor's term. Giuliani is remembered by those closest to him as a man who called for calm in the days after 9/11, but not as the man who failed to adequately take part in anti-terrorism briefings after the 1993 bombing of the WTC, and was accused, among other things, of failing to provide the World Trade Center's first responders with adequate equipment. He also cut the public school budget; saddled the city's economy with debt; and his administration was the subject of 26 civil liberty violation cases, 22 of which it lost. And never forget that it's been widely disputed that Giuliani's policies were solely responsible for a drastic reduction in crime.
If you're going to inquire about someone's legacy, you should be careful who you ask. Much like asking Howard Wolfson for quotes about "both sides" being bad, or asking someone from the Cuomo-created Women's Equality Party for quotes about how vulnerable Mayor Tall is to a primary challenge, asking Giuliani aides to talk about the kind of leader their boss was is an easy way to get self-serving quotes that feed into a mythology they want to build. If you resurrected some of James Buchanan's aides, they'd no doubt tell you that he isn't one of the worst presidents of all time.
If the legacy of Giuliani's time as America's Mayor has been tarnished or washed away, all the better. His legacy as the man who got into a shouting match with a ferret owner is the real one, and thanks to the Trump campaign, it will be preserved forever.