Tuesday, August 14, 2007


I just finished "Mayberry Man," Peter Boyer's article on Rudolph Giuliani in this week's New Yorker. I have to admit I was expecting a bit more from an article with this subtitle:

Is what New York never liked about Rudy Giuliani exactly what the heartland loves?

I think there are a few ways in which that's true, and Boyer touches on one of them, but he backs away from the others.

Boyer does seem to think -- it's the point of his article's title -- that Giuliani may be succeeding in part because his opinion of New York jibes with America's:

It is also possible that the rest of the country knows all it wishes to know about Giuliani. It was Giuliani who was depicted in the Times as imposing "the mores of Mayberry" on the city. Stephen DiBrienza, the former City Councilman, says, "All the things that a lot of New Yorkers, myself included, hate about this guy are the things that are actually fuelling his campaign."

But the fact that he made New York more like Mayberry isn't enough to make a pro-choice cross-dresser from Sodom the #1 guy in the GOP, even with 9/11 thrown in. So what else is there? Well, how about this?

When Giuliani's tenure as mayor ended, in 2002, he left behind a city that was ... more than a little relieved to see him go.... it had felt like an eight-year fistfight. Giuliani had fought with teachers and with Yasir Arafat, with the Brooklyn Museum and with Fidel Castro, with squeegee men, tennis fans, street venders, taxi-drivers, his own police chief, and, of course, his wife. He had repeatedly chastised New Yorkers for their incorrigible jaywalking and careless bicycling. ("All of these things are part of making the city safer. There's been a lot of ridicule about it, which is unfortunate.")

Boyer adds,

Many Manhattanites felt that when the rest of the country experienced the Rudy Giuliani they knew -- the flashes of pique, the slashing remark -- the celebrity glow would quickly fade.

Not this Manhattanite. I thought this was exactly what Republicans, at least, would love about him. And as far as I can tell, it is. I've said it before and I'll say it again: He hates. A lot of people can tell he hates. He's a bully who's barely in control of his anger. They find that rather thrilling.

And there's one other item New York (or at least some New Yorkers) never liked about Giuliani that's surely helping him as well -- and I'm surprised Boyer shies away from it, given the first sentences of his lead paragraph:

The South Carolina State House, a grand, copper-domed structure in downtown Columbia, is a showplace for the state's long history of hellbent defiance. The most prominent feature on the grounds is a monument to fallen Confederate soldiers, whose virtues "plead for just judgment of the cause in which they perished." Beside it, atop a thirty-foot pole, waves the Rebel flag, the object of fierce national debate a decade ago, when it flew above the capitol dome, and no less conspicuous now, in its new location. Among the nearby statuary stands a life-size likeness of Benjamin R. (Pitchfork Ben) Tillman, the four-term United States senator who led the movement that disenfranchised black voters in 1895 and instituted Jim Crow. Inside the building, cast-iron staircases rise to an elegant lobby, and portraits honor the men who shaped the state's querulous history, including John C. Calhoun, who contrived the rationale -- nullification -- for Southern secession, and Strom Thurmond, who led the South out of the Democratic Party.

OK, kids, let's make two lists and see if we can find some commonalities.

List #1:

* The Confederacy
* Jim Crow
* States' rights

List #2:

* Abner Louima
* Amadou Diallo
* Patrick Dorismond

Anyone see where I'm going here?

When heartlanders think about Giuliani changing the nature of New York City, aren't quite a few of them thinking of him wresting control of the city from ... well, you know: them? Think of the picture conjured up in the average American's mind by the word "criminal." Or the phrase "homeless person." Or "welfare recipient." These are the people Giuliani says he brought under control. Is it any surprise that he can walk into a statehouse festooned with Confederate flags and bring down the house?

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