Reader: Are you someone who is angry in an inchoate way at the Trump administration as an institution but who would prefer to focus your anger like a laser beam on specific individuals? We at The Baffler are here to help! As a wise man once told my father while trying to sell him a program at a Knicks game, “They’re just a bunch of tall guys in shorts, without a program”—and so, too, the various hangers-on in the Trump orbit may seem to be just a bunch of transparent grifters and/or terrifying ideologues in suits unless you have a clear guide for who the players are. We plan to bring you the key stats and career highlights of all the best people in the administration, as well as those who are “too hot” for government service and end up bounced out to the 2020 campaign, various 501c3 scams, or who just end up on the semi-consensual receiving end of those rambling “executive time” phone calls. This time around let’s get to know newly minted Trump legal adviser Rudy Giuliani, who used to be “America’s Mayor!” [NOTE: America does not have a mayor.]
That Rudy Giuliani, he sure screwed the pooch last week, huh? The “pooch” in this analogy is the previously consistent, if unbelievable, story out of the Trump camp that Trump didn’t know anything about any money that Michael Cohen sent to Stormy Daniels to prevent word of the president’s alleged affair with the star of Sex Door Neighbors from leaking to the press. Rudy went on live TV on the friendliest of venues and announced that no, actually, Trump had reimbursed Cohen for the money. Everyone lost their minds! It was a whole thing! Then Trump partially walked it back and Rudy had to “clarify” and we don’t know, guys, probably like eight more things will happen by the time this article goes online. Longtime Rudy-watchers seem to think he’s lost his edge, leading to headlines like “What the Hell Happened to Rudy Giuliani?“
It’s come to our attention that some of you are youths and don’t really remember the good old days of Rudy Giuliani, when he was at the peak of his game. Maybe you only remember immediate-post-9/11 Rudy, when America fell in love with his steady demeanor during a terrible crisis. (That was when he wanted to postpone the New York City mayoral election to extend his regime.) Maybe you only remember post-failed-2008-presidential-run Rudy, when those sweet, sweet speaking fees starting drying up and he had to take on increasingly dodgy legal clients. So this week we’re offering a special “Remember the ’90s?” flashback episode to bring you the high points of Rudy’s storied career as he rose to become New York’s mayor.
Rudy loves the perp walk! In a lot of countries, even ones where niceties like “the presumption of innocence” aren’t embedded into constitutional law, it’s illegal to make a public show of arresting someone who hasn’t been convicted. Not so in America, where Rudy Giuliani, then a federal prosecutor, made an art form out of it! Rudy loved parading big-shot white collar criminals in handcuffs–even if, as was sometimes the case, he didn’t have enough evidence to actually prosecute them.
Rudy was ideologically flexible, kind of! It was this sort of attitude toward actually rich evil-doers, along with tolerant positions on abortion and gay rights, that made him a “liberal-friendly” Republican for much of the ’90s. He started out his political life as a Democrat, and then edged steadily rightward, becoming first an independent and then a Republican as he took jobs with the Ford and Reagan administrations. His own mother said, “He only became a Republican after he began to get all these jobs from them. He’s definitely not a conservative Republican. He thinks he is, but he isn’t. He still feels very sorry for the poor.” (This woman was married to a mobster, so maybe take what she says with a grain of salt.)
Rudy led a riot! No, not the bad kind of riot: a riot of white police officers! They were protesting a plan by the first black Mayor of New York, David Dinkins, to give civilians some oversight powers over the police force, together with a proposed ban on semiautomatic pistols for cops. Rudy, who had lost the 1989 election to Dinkins, gave a speech where he called Dinkins’s policies “bullshit.” The cops got super drunk, charged at City Hall, yelled the n-word, and attacked cars. Then Rudy beat Dinkins the next year and became Mayor. The system works!
Rudy let the cops do whatever they wanted! “You gotta dance with the one that brung ya,” as the old folksy saying goes, and Rudy definitely thought that whatever the New York City police wanted to do was A-OK with him. Cool stuff the cops did under his watch included:
- Shot Amidou Diallo nineteen times (and missed him twenty-two times)[*] while he was standing on his own porch because they thought his wallet was a gun.
- While undercover, asked Patrick Dorismond[*] where they could buy some weed, and when the guy got upset over the presumption that he was a drug dealer and got in their face, got into a scuffle that ended with them shooting him, possibly without ever announcing they were cops. (Rudy promptly released Dorismond’s sealed juvenile criminal record to prove that, after all, this was no angel we were dealing with here.)
- Raped Abner Louima with a broomstick while he was handcuffed in a holding cell.
Gosh, it seems like Rudy used to love cops! Weird how now he thinks FBI agents are “stormtroopers?” Whatever could be the cause of this sudden reversal of attitude?
Rudy wanted to be a senator! Maybe one of the reasons Giuliani thinks so highly of Trump was that Trump managed to do what Rudy never could: beat Hillary Clinton! Rudy planned to run for Senate against Hillary in 2000, but that year, over a three-week period in April and May, he broke up with his wife (see infobox), announced he had prostate cancer, and then quit the race in a weird, rambling press conference where he promised to try to be a better person and mend fences with minorities. This was the beginning of the brief but over-remembered Nice Rudy Whom Everyone Liked Era.
Rudy won 9/11! As we all fondly recall, Rudy defeated terrorism on 9/11, in part by insisting that the city’s emergency command center be located in the building complex that had already been the site of a major terrorist attack, on top of 1,200 gallons of diesel fuel. Then he ran for president (and lost) and then he hoped to be Secretary of State (which even the Trump transition team realized was an absurd idea) and that pretty much brings us up to the present day! As part of Trump’s crack legal team, we’re going to be hearing a lot more about him from here on out, unless he gets fired.
[*] Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Patrick Dorismond, an unarmed black man killed by police while Rudy Giuliani was mayor of New York City, and misstated the number of times Amadou Diallo was shot at by NYPD officers; they fired forty-one shots, hitting him nineteen times and missing twenty-two times.