SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Bad luck, but experienced
Scripps Howard News Service


July 12, 2007

Rudolph Giuliani has been bad luck personified lately, not unlike Joe Btfsplk, the character in Al Capp's "Li'l Abner" cartoon strip that would walk around with a dark cloud hovering overhead. Get near old Joe and wham: You'd be hurt, he'd be embarrassed and you'd know ever after to avoid him.

The latest wham for Giuliani is the news that his Southern campaign chairman, David Vitter, the first Louisiana Republican elected to the Senate in something like 130 years, is also among the first to have his name revealed as having done business with the so-called "D.C. Madam." This is a woman accused of running a Washington prostitution ring. She has a long list of clientele phone numbers, and Vitter's is one of them.

Vitter says he is sorry, and I am sure he is, and I am sure Giuliani wishes he had never tabbed him for the tough political task of vote-getting below the Mason-Dixon Line. An earlier wham: The Giuliani campaign chairman in the primary state of South Carolina was indicted on a drug charge. That can't help Giuliani's run for the presidency, and neither can these two whams: A priest employed at his security consulting firm is accused of having molested children, and a friend who was New York police commissioner is involved in a variety of scandals.

These associations and details surrounding them may damage his presidential prospects, though, as he says about the Vitter case, he has made thousands of appointments, the vast majority of them unquestionable. The thing is that campaigns sometimes get derailed because of such issues. If that happened to Giuliani's push for the GOP nomination, this would be sad news for the nation, seeing as how he is, in one vital respect, the most qualified candidate in either party.

Quite simply, he was an unbelievably successful administrator in an unbelievably difficult job: mayor of New York City. Unlike Michael Bloomberg who came after him and is making noises as someone who may run for president as an independent, Giuliani did not inherit a city that was already in solid shape in most ways. He became mayor when many thought the situation hopeless, and then did the impossible.

In a ceaselessly exacting political environment, Giuliani cut crime dramatically, cut taxes repeatedly, reduced welfare by hundreds of thousands and created hundreds of thousands of jobs. The city regained its economic vitality, its optimism and something else: Giuliani helped restore it to greatness. While there were factors besides his leadership, the evidence is overwhelming that his leadership was vital. He could not have done as much without special gifts of character and mind, and he came away from those years in office with knowledge and skills you can't acquire except by doing comparable work as a public executive.

All of this matters because we really ought to skip having an amateur as the next president. This person will have to deal with an entitlement mess that could sink the budget if not confronted at long last, endlessly complicated economic issues and an ongoing terrorist threat. All of this is just for starters, and what will be required are large capacities in negotiating, delegating, communicating, directing others and making tough, smart decisions under enough pressure to flatten those who haven't been there.

The only announced candidates who come even remotely close to Giuliani's kind of experience in either party are Republicans Mitt Romney and Tommy Thompson and Democrat Bill Richardson, all of whom know what it is to run a state as governor in addition to other achievements. Hillary Rodham Clinton does not deserve mention in the category, despite polls in which many applaud her experience. No disinterested observer testifies to her close involvement in any important initiative of the Clinton administration that did not turn out disastrously. Hanging around the White House with occasional calamitous advice does not attest to administrative competence anymore than sitting in a front-row seat at ball games equips you to be a coach.

It's true that the demonstration of administrative abilities is not all that counts in picking presidents, and it's also true that Giuliani has his faults. But one of his faults is not that his Southern campaign manager has now confessed to adultery or that he has an extensive record of making bad choices in friends and associates, and one of his positive and significant attributes -- his administrative proficiency -- is unmatched.


Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.
He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)

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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska