Tuesday, July 24, 2007

In a Volatile City, a Stern Line on Race and Politics

Guiliani's not a racist -- he's just an insensitive, emotionally impaired, tone-deaf jackass.  The contrast between him and Bloomberg could not be greater...

With New York pitched into deep recession, its descent hastened by crack and racial disturbances, a campaign riven by race seemed inevitable. “There were people in his camp pushing him hard to tie race to crime,” said Fred Siegel, a historian at Cooper Union who once advised Mr. Giuliani. “I don’t know if this was moral or practical, but Giuliani was having none of it,” Mr. Siegal recalled. “He was insistent that crime was about behavior, not race.”

Still, Mr. Giuliani took a fateful step that would for years prompt questions about his racial sensitivities. In September 1992, he spoke to a rally of police officers protesting Mr. Dinkins’s proposal for a civilian board to review police misconduct.

It was a rowdy, often threatening, crowd. Hundreds of white off-duty officers drank heavily, and a few waved signs like “Dump the Washroom Attendant,” a reference to Mr. Dinkins. A block away from City Hall, Mr. Giuliani gave a fiery address, twice calling Mr. Dinkins’s proposal “bullshit.” The crowd cheered. Mr. Giuliani was jubilant.

“If you’re acculturated to like cops, you don’t necessarily see 10,000 white guys who don’t vote in the city, don’t write political checks and love you for the wrong reason,” an aide said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is working with the Giuliani presidential campaign.

Mr. Dinkins has not forgotten that sea of angry cops. “Rudy was out there inciting white cops to riot,” Mr. Dinkins said in a recent interview.

Mr. Giuliani said he never saw racist signs. “One of the reasons those police officers might have lost control is that we have a mayor who invites riots,” he said at the time. The Giuliani campaign later conducted a “vulnerability study” to identify their candidate’s weaknesses in 1993. This study, obtained by Wayne Barrett, author of “Rudy!” — an investigative biography — offers an unsparing critique: “Giuliani’s shrieking performance at the cop rally may be his greatest political liability this year. Giuliani has yet to admonish those who attacked the mayor with racist code words on signs and banners. Why not?”

The Long Run

In a Volatile City, a Stern Line on Race and Politics

Published: July 22, 2007

Those were grim days for race relations in New York City, the early 1990s. There were nearly 2,000 murders each year, blacks and whites died in high-profile racial killings, and a riot held a divided Brooklyn neighborhood in thrall for three dangerous nights.

On Jan. 9, 1994, another match landed in this tinderbox: a caller reported a burglary at a Harlem mosque. The police ran in, and Nation of Islam guards threw punches and broke an officer’s nose.

The mosque’s minister, accompanied by the Rev. Al Sharpton, drove downtown to register their outrage with the police commissioner, a street theater ritual grudgingly tolerated by past mayors.

Except the new mayor — Rudolph W. Giuliani, fresh off his November victory over the city’s first black mayor, David N. Dinkins — decreed that no one would meet with Mr. Sharpton. No more antics, no more provocations.

“I’ve taken a golden opportunity to act like a sensible mayor rather than a mayor who will be moved in any direction,” he said. “I’m an observer of the last 10 years of this city, and I hope to God we don’t continue in that direction.”

More than any other Republican running for president, Mr. Giuliani has confronted the question of race, that most torturous of American legacies.


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