On Topic: Rudy Giuliani

Harold Giuliani was a boxing fan. In fact, he was a boxer himself, but poor eyesight blunted his abilities. He was not, however, initially a believer in the greatness of Muhammad Ali, claiming he was a purely defensive boxer who had never been tested and, therefore, had never been forced to show his true mettle.

That changed the night of March 8, 1971, when Giuliani took his son, then-25-year-old Rudy Giuliani, to Madison Square Garden to see the first of the three epic bouts between reigning heavyweight champion Joe Frazier and then-top-challenger Ali. Late in the 14th round, Frazier landed a left hook that sent Ali to the canvas for only the third time in his career.

What impressed the older Giuliani was that Ali, who substantially trailed on all three scorecards at that point, returned to his feet, struggled through the remainder of the round and fought valiantly in the 15th and final round. Frazier won what is known as the Fight of the Century by unanimous decision.

Appropriately donning a green tie striped in gold, Rudy Giuliani--the former mayor of New York City--reminisced about the post-fight discussion he had with his father during the final moments of his visit with Baylor University President and Chancellor Ken Starr in late September's On Topic at Waco Hall.

"The way he got hit, and the way he got up, the way he fought back in the 15th round of a fight he knew he'd lost, tells me he has the heart of a champion," Giuliani said, quoting his father from that night. "My father's theory was: In life, you get knocked down; the real question is what do you do when you get up?"

This was Giuliani's response when asked for the best advice he has ever received. He used it to conclude a 90-minute discussion with Starr during which time the two attorneys discussed a wide range of topics, including the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Giuliani's time as a federal prosecutor, leadership and lessons from Giuliani's political career.

Giuliani, a Brooklyn native, studied political science with a philosophy minor at Manhattan College. He considered becoming a priest but instead pursued a juris doctor at New York University School of Law; he made law review and graduated cum laude in 1968. Giuliani clerked for U.S. District Judge Lloyd Francis MacMahon, who made a name for himself in the 1950s by successfully prosecuting Mafia boss Frank Costello and again in the 1960s when he presided over the convictions of Bonanno crime family boss Carmine Galante and other defendants in a drug-trafficking case.

MacMahon's influence was evident in 1983 when President Ronald Reagan appointed Giuliani as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, a position he held for nearly six years. In that time, he successfully prosecuted crime boss John Gotti thanks in part to a deal Giuliani brokered with Gambino crime family underboss Sammy "The Bull" Gravano. He also developed a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) case against several of then-New York City Mayor Ed Koch's closest allies.

"I'll tell you what convinced me to run for mayor," Giuliani told Starr. "I'm sitting at my office one day, and the head of my corruption unit walks in and said, 'The FBI in Chicago has just notified the FBI in New York that in Chicago they want to start a kickback scheme like we have at our transportation department.'"

The corruption, which centered on contracts for collecting overdue parking tickets, involved numerous high-ranking officials. Giuliani's team spent two years building the case, and it eventually went to trial in New Haven, Conn.

It was during that trial when Giuliani first had the thought to run for mayor--a thought he found preposterous. Governor? Maybe. Senator? Maybe. But not mayor. The prevailing thought at the time was that New York City was ungovernable, something Giuliani saw as an excuse for incompetence and ineptitude.

When Giuliani won the case, he became a household name in New York City. A trip to the Thanksgiving Day Parade with his son brought with it throngs of autograph seekers. Two years later, he decided to run for mayor.

Election Lessons

"Half my friends and advisors thought I was crazy," Giuliani said. "That I couldn't win, and the worst thing that could happen to me would be if I won."

Giuliani, who affiliated with the Democratic Party until his late 20s and as an independent until the early 1980s, ran on the Republican ticket in 1989. He lost to Democratic nominee David Dinkins in the closest mayoral election in the city's history.

"I learned more from the elections that I lost than the elections that I won," Giuliani told the Waco Hall audience. "I learned more from the cases that I lost than the cases that I won. If I won a case, I always thought I did everything right. I probably didn't. I probably got lucky a few times. If I didn't win a case, I thought I did everything wrong. I'd go back over it and try to figure out what I did wrong."

Four years later, New York was mired in double-digit unemployment. Crime had begun to drop during Dinkins' term, but Giuliani believed more could be done. Two sets of riots lasting four days each fell upon the city. Murder was at an all-time high. He ran again, promising to clean up the city in more ways than one.

Giuliani defeated Dinkins by another narrow margin, thus becoming New York City's first Republican mayor in nearly three decades.

"My slogan the second time was, 'You can't do any worse,'" Giuliani said. "But the benefit that four years, especially the last two after I decided to run again, was the relentless preparation part."

Giuliani spent Monday nights during those two years leading up to the 1993 election with experts in his law office. They would discuss problems plaguing the city and what could be done to correct them. He hired newspaper columnist Richard Schwartz to chronicle the meetings.

"They would come in and talk to us about housing, the city budget, taxes. We had Democrats, Republicans; we got some very, very good people," Giuliani said. "I wouldn't have been as good a mayor if I had won the first time. We came in with a real plan and knew exactly what we were going to do."

Out of those meeting came much of Giuliani's strategy as mayor including CompStat, a statistical-analysis strategy for crime prevention. CompStat received the 1996 Innovations in Government Award from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Giuliani also implemented welfare restrictions that required recipients to work for the city at least 18 hours each week.

"I would explain to people: I do this because I love you," Giuliani said. "I don't want you to stay home. I want to keep your work ethic up. I want you to go to work, and I want you to do something in return for the money that you're getting to keep your self-respect."

Giuliani and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton also implemented an aggressive strategy to fight crime that was based upon political scientist James Q. Wilson's "Broken Windows" theory. The strategy involved cracking down on seemingly minor offenses such as aggressive panhandling, graffiti and minor drug possession. As Giuliani put it, not allowing criminals to believe they had free reign of the streets.

Although Wilson's theory had been tested in several places, Giuliani noted none of those areas had the population of New York City.

"The big question was how would it work in a city of 8 million people," he said. "It turned out to be enormously effective because a lot of those people we were arresting on the streets turned out to be actually very dangerous criminals with warrants for their arrest, people who were wanted for murder who ran away five years ago."

The 1997 election was not close. Giuliani defeated Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger by 18 percent, becoming New York City's first two-term Republican mayor since Fiorello H. LaGuardia in 1941.

9/11: The Response

While the 1987 RICO case made Giuliani a household name in New York, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the weeks that followed made him known worldwide. Giuliani spoke at length with Starr about the events of that day and what could have been done better.

"If I had it to do over again, I would have made our emergency response much bigger," he said. "It turns out that even if the emergency management center had survived, it would have been one-third the size that we needed. My 911 system was one-third what it should have been. The number of people we need to respond to the attack were not just my 41,000 police officers but more like 100,000."

Giuliani said what he did right that day was to remain calm and not become overwhelmed with the magnitude of event, as well as to not let his personal emotion cloud his judgment. In doing so, Giuliani was able to shepherd his city in an almost pastoral way.

The person who taught Giuliani how to care for other people--Father Mychal Judge, a Franciscan priest and New York City Fire Department chaplain--died in the lobby of the World Trade Center North Tower when he was struck by debris from the South Tower upon its collapse.

"He was an extraordinary man," Giuliani said. "He was my rock."

Giuliani was informed of Judge's death moments prior to a press conference that day. He said the news was a tough pill to swallow and that he felt alone. Guilani said it was important to control his emotions while showing that the attacks had affected him personally.

This was evident toward the end of his second press conference that day when a reporter informed him of the death of Barbara Olson--wife of Solicitor General Ted Olson and friend of Giuliani--in the Pentagon attack. Upon hearing the news, Giuliani simply asked for a moment.

"By that time, I was expecting to hear about my firefighters dying, including my friend, but I wasn't expecting out of left field somebody that shouldn't have been there," Giuliani said. "The hardest thing was keeping your focus."

"On that day, it was not giving into the emotion of wanting to cry over that," he said. "We thought we were going to be attacked five or six more times. So, at that time, the police commissioner and I were focusing on: Where were we going to get attacked next? The toughest thing was containing your emotions and telling yourself, 'I'll have time later to mourn over this.'"


Coincidentally, Guiliani was in the midst of writing a book when the events of Sept. 11 transpired. The book, titled Leadership, focused on lessons he had learned from other people that benefited his career.

"I became convinced that leadership is something you can teach," he said. "You can be born with certain qualities that will help you be a better leader, but it's not magic; there are certain things leaders do."

The book's nearly completed draft was sitting in Giuliani’s desk drawer the morning of Sept. 11. It was about to be edited and was on track to be published five months later. Instead, Giuliani did not revisit the book for five months; it was eventually published in October 2002.

"If that (original) book were printed, there would be a certain arrogance in that book that I knew everything," he said. "When I went back to it, I realized something. You’re never ready. There's always something worse that could happen; there's always something unanticipated that could happen. So, I rewrote it in light of some of the lessons I learned from Sept. 11."

Giuliani said it was beneficial that he had been writing the book, saying the guidelines of what a leader should do were fresh on his mind.

"A leader has to be strong," he said. "You have to think optimistically--get people to start thinking about how we're going to get through this. I had been through all that in the book."

Twelve of the book's 14 chapters are leadership guides, each detailing a specific leadership point. Starr asked Giuliani to share what he views to be the most important qualities in a leader.

"You have to have strong beliefs," Giuliani said. "No matter what you're in charge of, you have to know where you're going because no one can follow you if you don't know where you’re going. It's like the captain of a ship not being able to figure out the destination; the crew can't help you get to England if you don't tell them, 'We're going to England.' In modern-day politics and modern-day business, a lot of that is missing because a lot of times that said goal for a while becomes unpopular."

Giuliani pointed to President Ronald Reagan as a prime example of such, saying America's former chief executive had "simple but very important goals" and stuck to them, even when they became unpopular.

Relentless preparation is important, too. Giuliani said MacMahon taught him the value of exhaustive preparation.

"He used to say, 'For every one hour in court, four hours of preparation,'" Giuliani said. "'Cases are won in your office, not in the courtroom.'"

MacMahon also told Giuliani that in any complex case there always would be the unexpected, but that extensive preparation would make it possible to handle those situations.

"That helped on Sept. 11," Giuliani said. "Even though the unanticipated happened, by preparing for the anticipated, we were a lot better prepared than we would have been had we not done the preparation."

Lastly, Giuliani said communication is vitally important, saying the belief in something and the development of a plan to achieve that are meaningless without the ability to tell others how to implement it.

"Companies that I work with that are in trouble, a lot of them are in trouble because they don’t communicate with their workers," he said. "They don't give them enough feedback."

Memories of Yogi

Giuliani visited Baylor the day after the passing of legendary New York Yankee and Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra. A lifelong Yankee fan, Giuliani was asked to share his memories of Berra, and he shared quite a few, including Berra's penchant for clutch hits and his military service in World War II.

Once, Giuliani's uncle approached Berra and asked the Yankee great about his brothers, who also played baseball. "How many brothers do you have?" "Three brothers, including me," Berra replied.

Giuliani relayed Berra's account of his involvement in the Normandy invasion, something that did not come to public light until after Berra's playing days. Berra, a gunner on one of the boats during the landing, said the worst part was when he was knocked into the water twice and had to swim back through dead bodies.

Years later, when asked if he was scared, Berra said, "I was too young to be scared. Now, I’m scared."


Giuliani concluded the night with advice for the audience, especially for Baylor students in attendance.

"If you get knocked down a few times, just learn from it," Giuliani said. "That's what makes successful people. Successful people are people who are able to absorb failures, absorb mistakes, and then turn them around and use them as learning experiences."