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Rudy Rules!


by Rudolph W. Giuliani, with Ken Kurson
Miramax, 407 pp., $25.95

When the time came to let William Bratton know that he had overplayed his part as the city’s top cop, unnamed members of Rudolph Giuliani’s inner circle put on worried faces and confided to reporters that the corpora-tion counsel needed to check out the $300,000 book contract the police commissioner had just signed in order to make sure it complied with the city’s rigorous ethical standards. The plain implication was that there might be something troubling about a public official finding time to cash in on his performance in a job he had not left.

What was really troubling, it soon became clear, was less the theoretical possibility of a conflict of interest in the line of duty than the self-promotion of a striver: Bratton was obviously not going to be content to let his boss claim full credit for the stunning drop in violent crime he had helped to engineer. Before the corporation counsel got around to ruling on his book deal, Bratton got the message and stepped down. (When his book finally appeared, Bratton had been in the wilderness for two years, crime rates had continued to drop, and Giuliani had been reelected, so the challenge implicit in its chest-thumping subtitle, How America’s Top Cop Reversed the Crime Epidemic, hardly registered.) But we now know what the corporation counsel concluded: on September 11, 2001, as the hijacked airliners headed for Lower Manhattan, both the mayor and the last of his three police commissioners had been under contract for books for half a year, in routine communion with their muses and hired writers.

Inevitably, what happened in the next few hours and days redefined their lives, careers, and the stories they were to tell. The topless towers had burned and they were now characters in an epic with the mayor cast as hero. Suddenly the Giuliani story for which Tina Brown and Harvey Weinstein had put up nearly $3 million in a two-book contract earlier in the year had a new emotional center. No longer would it pivot on his cascading and very public epiphanies in the spring of 2000 when, facing prostate cancer and the danger of banishment to a one-hundred-member legislative chamber in another city, he discovered his mortality and true love. Now, tempered by those experiences or rising above them, he had stepped beyond his own story to find the words of grief and steadfastness that his assaulted city needed to hear. He seemed, in those days, omnipresent and tireless, focused and noble, an exemplary public man (until, overcome by exertion and praise, he relapsed into self-centeredness and broke the spell by proposing that his term be extended beyond its statutory end).

Imagine the urgent sense of opportunity the publishers and hired writers felt when they were able again to consider their projects and realized that, somehow, September 11 had to be grafted onto outlines and manuscripts that had been conceived before anyone could have foreseen the huge, flaming finale of the Giuliani years.

The first of the two books to which the mayor had committed himself was to have been a manual on leadership, the kind of book that basketball coaches and baseball managers have been known to write as a ticket to lucrative off-season earnings for speaking to conferences of corporate managers. It is a genre that includes such titles as The Winner Within by Pat Riley, late of the Knicks, now of the Miami Heat; Success Is a Choice: Ten Steps to Overachieving in Business and Life, by Rick Pitino, formerly of the Boston Celtics; Leading with the Heart: Coach K’s Successful Strategies for Basketball, Business, and Life by Duke University’s Mike Krzyzewski; and Joe Torre’s Ground Rules for Winners by the Yankees’ manager. Rudolph Giuliani’s Leadership shows every sign of having been constructed with the same purpose, that of providing a platform for a dependable income from speeches before anyone had imagined that he could command the $100,000 an appearance that he has reportedly received in the aftermath of September 11. To this end the mayor teamed up not with a political writer but with a sharp, young personal finance commentator, Ken Kurson, the author of a “how to” book for investors described on its cover as “A No B.S. Money Book for Your Twenties and Thirties.”

Bernard Kerik, the last of Giuliani’s three police commissioners, made his book deal just six months after he was elevated to the job and only a few weeks after the mayor had made his. He had had an unusual career as a soldier, a bodyguard to Saudi royalty, an undercover narcotics detective, and a prisons commissioner under the mayor he loyally served, but this seemed the stuff of a rĂŠsumĂŠ rather than a memoir. After consulting with his publisher, Judith Regan, he resolved to build his book around an excruciating and unexplored part of a difficult childhood, the violent death of his wayward mother in Ohio in 1964, five years after she had vanished from her son’s life. Whatever it would do in the way of a catharsis for Kerik personally, it would supply his narrative with an emotional frame that it otherwise lacked.

So, ordering up what he called an investigation into a thirty-seven-year-old homicide that had apparently never been investigated, he sent two New York officers to Ohio, supposedly on their own time. (After leaving office, Kerik paid a relatively lenient fine of $2,500 levied by the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board, acknowledging that the officers had made five trips to Ohio to do research for his book, that some of their work was done on city time, and that it had been a conflict of interest for him to ask them to perform this proxy excavation into his past.) Kerik himself made only one trip to Ohio, in August 2001, just a few weeks before the manuscript was completed. He doesn’t tell us whether Jess Walter, his hired writer (the author of Over Tumbled Graves, a mystery), went along. But he does say he finished reading the last chapter in the early hours of September 11.

The problem of how to build accounts of the events of that day into two expository artifacts that were already somewhat rickety is handled most expediently in Kerik’s book with a thirty-six-page epilogue thickened with another thirty-two pages of glossy photographs from Ground Zero. The commissioner (now in private life with Giuliani Partners, the former mayor’s consulting group) tells where he went hour by headlong hour, what he saw through billowing gray ash, and what he thought when he had a chance to reflect on the turmoil of those days. The epilogue provides a serviceable account of remarkable events and the publisher got the book into the shops in less than three months, an early entry in the September 11 sweepstakes even though it was mostly about something else. So Kerik didn’t have to wait to be a former commissioner to promote his book. By the time the Giuliani team left office at the year’s end, it had already had its four weeks on the New York Times Best-Seller List.*

Retrofitting the Giuliani book shaped up as a bigger problem and, clearly, a much bigger opportunity. A management handbook is not the obvious vehicle for conveying something as rare as true grace under cataclysmic pressure. And Giuliani, it must be said, is not the best witness to what Giuliani accomplished. So nearly complete is his identification with his city that he comes close to imagining in the first frenzied hours that it is the Giuliani administration and family that might be under attack rather than the citadels of American power in the world. Considering City Hall “a likely target,” he had put his command center at 7 World Trade Center, on the twenty-third floor, ignoring the fact that the adjacent World Trade Center had been shown to be a target for Islamic terrorists in the 1993 bombing. Now, with 7 World Trade Center tottering, he ruled out Police Headquarters as a replacement command center. It was also “a potential target.” Gracie Mansion was “a possible target.” His estranged wife and his children might be targets and therefore needed to be evacuated to New Jersey. He ordered extra security for Judith Nathan, the woman in his life for more than a year. “I thought those attacking our city might go after her,” he says.

Wild thoughts and fears for loved ones were rushing through millions of minds in these same awful moments. Yet even before Giuliani had located a command center nondescript enough in his judgment to be unlikely as a target, even before he had settled his own racing imagination, he acted on the need to assert that “the leaders of the city were alive and in control.” He first spoke to the city before the second tower collapsed; he was on the air again within half an hour. He emphasized only what he knew: the scale and horror of the loss, the need to head north and evacuate Lower Manhattan, the need for calm. He did not give voice to his private fears that hostages might be taken, that Manhattan’s tunnels and bridges might be next on the list of targets, that the United Nations or Statue of Liberty might be hit, that “individual bombings” (presumably, he means suicide bombings by individuals) were now to be expected. He did not dwell on his own close scrapes in the area of the disaster or the many people he personally knew who had perished. (“There was no time to spend actually experiencing an emotion,” he tells us.) He spoke for the larger community, mourning its loss, and he came across as appalled yet measured, shaken yet brave.

He would have us believe that he was able to do all this because he had been working on this book for months and, therefore, his hard-won principles of leadership were clear in his mind. For this he credits the divinity, not Miramax. “It was as if God had provided an opportunity to design a course in leadership just when I needed it most,” he says. If that is not an expression of faith, it’s at least a literary conceit that helps connect September 11 to the manual. The chapter on the attack starts the book; another chapter on the recovery ends it. In between are fourteen chapters organized around Giuliani’s “rules” of leadership, which are illustrated by seemingly random reminiscences of incidents in his life and career that supposedly shaped his precepts.

There is no time line but references to September 11 have been basted into the manuscript at regular intervals. They come across not as a leitmotif so much as a tolling gong, reminding us that narrow issues of New York governance took on national significance and gave us a leader who now feels himself to be ready for any challenge. The Giuliani leadership manual bears some resemblance to Richard Nixon’s Six Crises. It’s part of a continuing campaign, and while the road ahead is anything but clear for a Republican who is pro-choice and favors gay rights, who endorsed Mario Cuomo and failed to run against Hillary Clinton, the fact that this disjointed and patchy book zoomed to the top of the best-seller list and became a fixture there suggests that there is an audience beyond his city that is prepared to accept him at his own estimate.

  1. *

    Another recruit to Giuliani Partners, the former fire commissioner Thomas Von Essen, has also produced a memoir: Strong of Heart: Life and Death in the Fire Department of New York (ReganBooks). Meanwhile, Commissioner Bratton, who entertained the idea of running for mayor in New York and then backed Democrat Mark Green in 2001 in hopes of being restored to his old office, has recently taken command of the Los Angeles police.

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