Thursday, August 09, 2007

If You're Thinking About Voting For Rudy ...

Click the link for yet another take on why that might be a mistake, this one by Josh Johnson of the Rocky Mountain News. It's a decent rundown of what most New Yorkers already know about their former jefe. But, like many other websites lately, it offers a chilling quotation, in which Giuliani says that "freedom is the willlingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority."

Like most of the other sites that quote it, Johnson doesn't give much context. It was a 1994 speech on crime -- early in Rudy's tenure as mayor, long before 9/11. (The Times offers a meatier excerpt at : But there is a whole section that merits a look for anybody who wants to see how Giuliani's mind works:

"We constantly present the false impression that government can solve problems that government in America was designed not to solve. Families are significantly less important in the development of children today than they were 30 or 40 years ago. Religion has less influence than it did 30 or 40 years ago. Communities don't mean what they meant 30 or 40 years ago.

"As Americans, we're not sure we share values. We're sometimes even afraid to use the word values. We talk about teaching ethics in schools -- people say, "What ethics? Whose ethics? Maybe we can't." And they confuse that with teaching of religion. And we are afraid to reaffirm the basics upon which a lawful and a decent society are based. We're almost embarrassed by it.

"We look upon authority too often and focus over and over again, for 30 or 40 or 50 years, as if there is something wrong with authority. We see only the oppressive side of authority. Maybe it comes out of our history and our background. What we don't see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.

"[ Interruption by someone in the audience. ]

"You have free speech so I can be heard."

He goes on to say that government isn't the solution to the decay of society, stronger families are. Taken as a whole, the speech is a weird melange of conservative ideas. Each idea by itself might appeal to some part of the Republican tent, but I'm not sure that they work together very well. The emphasis on personal responsibility and the limitations of government squares poorly with the emphasis upon lawful authority, for example. Still, the ideas aren't bad or even wrong, so far as they do. But did you catch the kicker?

Make no mistake: Giulliani is an authoritarian bastard. There is a lot of trash-talk about NYC lately, at least in Sullivan's blog, calling in a "nanny state" under the present mayor. This is nonsense. it was Giuliani who erected steel barriers along the avenues so that pedestrians were no longer free to choose which intersection they used -- a stupid idea which Bloomberg quickly jettisoned. Throw in the Diallou shooting, the Louima torture and a series of excessive force cases in the NYPD, and it was obvious to most of us living there that New York wasn't a nanny state during "Giuliani time." It was a police state.

And he's also a narcissistic freak of nature. What else could explain the serial humiliation of serial wives?

These two lovely character traits -- authoritarianism and narcissism -- come together in a single lapidary remark, improvised in response to a heckler: "You have free speech so I can be heard."

And this guy is his party's front-runner? Yeesh.

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