The Prince Of The City: Giuliani, New York And The Genius Of American Life

Fred Siegel (former editor of City Journal) spoke to the Wednesday Morning Club August 3rd.

He describes himself as a Joe Lieberman-Democrat.

"I wrote this book because New York was dying. Before Giuliani, 60% of the adult population wanted to leave.

"One moment characterizes the early nineties... [A politician] was standing in front of the lake, and as he rose to speak, a dead body floated by."

Fred steps away from the mike and walks closer to us (there's about 60 people in the audience). He projects well.

Siegel worked with Clinton in 1992 and Giuliani in 1993. "They're similar in intellect. Giuliani understood where the levers [of government] were.

"Giuliani is now studying the federal government [for a 2008 run for president]."

Siegel describes former NYPD head William Bratton as brilliant. His broken-window policing said that people who committed small crimes also committed big crimes. Many of those who were jumping subway turnstiles were wanted on felony warrants.

"When I wrote an article about this [for the Manhattan Institute], two of my teenage sons were arrested for jumping turnstiles."

Giuliani cleaned up welfare by requiring recipients to come in and physically pick up their checks. In 1994, 1.1 million people were on welfare in New York.

He forced the Transit police to share info with the NYPD by threatening to bankrupt them if they didn't cooperate.

"San Francisco reminds me of New York in the early nineties with its aggressive panhandlers. Gavin Newsome gets good press but there's no substance there.

"Giuliani fired Bratton, a huge mistake. Giuliana and Bratton are the same person. They have the same executive style. They hold everyone accountable. But when they're in the same room together, there's not enough oxygen. Giuliani's problems in the second term are because of [the firing of Bratton].

"Giuliani is at his best at a time of crisis.

"Giuliani got involved early in [the fight against] terrorism [since 1985 case of the Palestinian murder of American Leon Klinghoffer]. If those wanted would've been brought to justice in the United States, Giuliani would've tried the case.

"His first speech as mayor was about what the 1993 World Trade Center bombing meant for New York.

"[Somebody] said that being a member of the Giuliani administration was being like a made man in the Mafia. It's a whole other identity. One guy pretended he was an Orthodox Jew so he didn't have to attend meetings Saturday morning.

"The best thing that can be said about Giuliani's personal life is that he is a serial monogamist. It will not play well in the Republican primaries."

Giuliani was married for 14-years to his second cousin Regina Peruggi. He had that marriage annulled by the Church, claiming he didn't know they were that closely related. He later divorced Donna Hanover.

Siegel stopped speaking after 20 minutes and took questions.

"Giuliani was soft on illegal immigration. This could come back to haunt him.

"Giuliani will bring great clarity to our foreign relations. He has no illusions about the Europeans. He understands that something fundamental has happened in Europe. They are not our allies.

"He'll be a serious candidate provided issues break his way.

"Giuliani did the most for the people in the poorest neighborhood.

"Charlie Rangel is a slick version of Al Sharpton. For years you couldn't do business in Harlem without paying off Charlie and his friends. Giuliani put an end to that.

"Will Giuliani be big enough for the national stage? His inability to live with Bratton doesn't speak well of that.

"Out of every dollar New York (or Los Angeles or other big cities) sends to Washington (federal government), they get back 79c. The only state that did worse than California in the latest transportation bill is New York. (Alaska and Wyoming got about $9 per person for transportation for every dollar California and New York got.) The federal system does not work for large urban areas.

"Public sector interests are involved in politics 24/7 365 days a year.

"On a typical night during the New York mayoral campaign, you'd get four or five hours of political news. You don't get five hours of political news in the whole Los Angeles mayoral campaign."

Is Giuliani good for the Jews?

"Yes. After the 1992 Crown Heights pogram, mayor David Dinkins waited three days to call out the police.

"Giuliani identifies with Israel. He has an instinctive sense of who our enemies are.

"Events are in the saddle. Let's suppose it is 2008 and a bomb goes off in Baltimore.

"The Wire is the best television show. It is about (drug, politics) corruption in Baltimore. If I was a terrorist, that's where I'd go. If this happens, Giuliani would jump to the top of the pack.

"There's only one scenario under which Giuliani would become vice-president, that's [under] John McCain. They have tremendous respect for each other.

"Giuliani made a speech that Virginia should be honored to take New York's garbage."

Siegel says Mike Savage is bad for conservatism. "He might be crazy or it might be shtick. More good will come from reading an issue of Commentary magazine than five years of listening to Mike Savage."