America's Mayor Wants a Job

By Chafets, Zev | Newsweek, September 12, 2011 | Go to article overview
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America's Mayor Wants a Job

Chafets, Zev, Newsweek

Byline: Zev Chafets

Rudy Giuliani defined cool under fire that day. It's been a very tough act to follow.

On a steamy Tuesday afternoon in August, Rudy Giuliani and I met in the lounge of the Grand Havana Club, the private domain of some of the richest and most celebrated cigar aficionados in New York City.

Giuliani, accompanied by two aides, was on his way to Greenville, N.C., to deliver a motivational talk to an assembly of middle managers. Colin Powell would be there, too. I asked him what he got paid for his oratory these days. "I can't tell you that," he said with a loud laugh. "But it's a lot." His booking agency, the Washington Speakers Bureau, lists him in its "heroes" category, along with Congressional Medal of Honor recipients and astronauts. Some nations reward their favorite sons with knighthoods. In America, the prize is speaking fees.

In his long career, Rudy Giuliani has been a crime-busting prosecutor, a transformational mayor, and a failed candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. He's flirting with another run this year. The odds are heavily against it, but if he were to improbably get elected, he would be the first president since Eisenhower for whom reaching the White House would be an anticlimax. Nothing will ever top Giuliani's legendary leadership in the terrifying days and nights that followed 9/11.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the attack, and although time has dimmed visceral memories of that day, Giuliani remains an icon for many. There are still bars and restaurants, and not just in New York City, where people stand and applaud when he enters the room. The Grand Havana Club, however, is not one of them. When he walked in, a few members looked up from their newspapers or their conversations to nod a greeting, but no one called his name or came over to say hello. For two hours, the only interruptions were from the impassive server, who delivered Giuliani's standard lunch of Kobe beef sliders washed down with Diet Cokes, and a brief "Yes, dear. OK, dear. I'll take care of it, dear" phone call from home. No man, not even Rudy G., is a hero to his waiter or his wife.

Lately, Giuliani has made several exploratory campaign trips to New Hampshire, a state whose libertarian leanings theoretically fit his style and platform. "If he decides to go for it, he will run up there like he is running for governor of New Hampshire," says Jake Menges, one of Giuliani's closest political consultants. "It will be an all-out effort."

But sitting in the Grand Havana lounge puffing on a La Gloria Cubana, Giuliani didn't seem like a man prepared to go schlepping through the frozen hamlets of New Hampshire, grubbing for retail support. Like his boyhood idol, Joe DiMaggio, Rudy retired with the cheers of the crowd still ringing in his ears. But once out of office, he had nowhere to practice his art. All he could do was get rich, which he did, joining a Big Oil Texas law firm, starting his own security-consulting business, and tossing off six-figure inspirational speeches. By 2008, his net worth had reached $30 million--and presumably it has only grown since then.

Money isn't everything, though. People expected more from Rudy, and he expected more from himself. After 9/11, he appeared to have virtually limitless political potential. His leadership after the attacks smoothed some of the rough edges of his mayoralty, washed away memories of his messy personal life. But he hasn't capitalized on that potential.

He went into the 2008 presidential campaign as the odds-on favorite to win the nomination to succeed George W. Bush. Giuliani liked his odds, too. "I looked at the other candidates, and let's say I didn't see anyone better," he told me. But he ran a lackadaisical race in the New Hampshire primary and came in fourth. In Florida, putatively Giuliani territory, he blew past admiring crowds of transplanted Italian and Jewish New Yorkers without bothering to mingle or engage and fumbled the race.

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