Former New York City mayor and current full-time Trump-booster Rudolph Giuliani is now a top contender to be secretary of state in the new administration, Trump campaign officials told the New York Times on Tuesday.
The account noted that Giuliani has invoked his moment of glory in the aftermath of 9-11, and his former work as a federal prosecutor, to give him credibility as a representative of the United States on the world stage. During his own abortive presidential run in 2008, he boasted at a Republican primary debate in New Hampshire: “I am the only one here who actually has had to face an Islamic terrorist attack. With regard to foreign policy, I’ve negotiated with governments when I was in the Justice Department. I worked on a task force on terrorism in the 1970s.”
The report also noted that after leaving City Hall, Giuliani opened a security-consulting firm (modestly named Giuliani Partners), which has won contracts in several countries around the world.
National Public Radio last week did a retrospective on Giuliani’s career as a mayor and his supposed success fighting crime—through aggressive application of the controversial “broken windows” theory. Now, running the State Department is a far cry from running New York City, but this look back sheds a harsh light on Giuliani’s fundamental approach to reality.
It started immediately after he won the New York City mayoral election in 1993 on a promise to clean up the town.
“Police ramped up misdemeanor arrests for things like smoking marijuana in public, spraying graffiti and selling loose cigarettes. And almost instantly, they were able to trumpet their success,” the report reads. “Crime was falling. The murder rate plummeted. It seemed like a miracle. The media loved the story, and Giuliani cruised to re-election in 1997…By 2001, broken windows had become one of Giuliani’s greatest accomplishments. In his farewell address, he emphasized the beautiful and simple idea behind the success.”
That idea, Giuliani said, was that low-level street offenses “underlie the problems of crime that you have in your society.”
But did logic really sustain this “beautiful” narrative?
“Crime was starting to go down in New York prior to the Giuliani election and prior to the implementation of broken windows policing,” Columbia University law professor Bernard Harcourt told NPR. “And of course what we witnessed from that period, basically from about 1991, was…a remarkable drop in violent crime in this country.”
Crime was dropping not only in New York, but in many cities where no “broken windows” policing was in place—even in places were the police department was mired in scandal and effectively dysfunctional, such as Los Angeles.
“Los Angeles is really interesting because Los Angeles was wracked with terrible policing problems during the whole time, and crime drops as much in Los Angeles as it does in New York,” said Harcourt.
There were other theories to explain the nationwide crime drop—the growing economy and end of the crack epidemic are obvious factors. NPR also cited harsher sentencing guidelines. Harcourt spoke of a “reversion to the mean.” He told NPR: “It’s something that a lot of investment bankers and investors know about because it’s well-known and in the stock market. Basically, the idea is if something goes up a lot, it tends to go down a lot.”
And Harcourt pointed to another big problem with “broken windows” policing.
“We immediately saw a sharp increase in complaints of police misconduct,” he said. “Starting in 1993, what you’re going to see is a tremendous amount of disorder that erupts as a result of broken windows policing, with complaints skyrocketing, with settlements of police misconduct cases skyrocketing, and of course with incidents, brutal incidents, all of a sudden happening at a faster and faster clip.”
NPR recalled: “If broken windows meant arresting people for misdemeanors in hopes of preventing more serious crimes, ‘stop and frisk’ said, why even wait for the misdemeanor? Why not go ahead and stop, question and search anyone who looked suspicious? There were high-profile cases where misdemeanor arrests or stopping and questioning did lead to information that helped solve much more serious crimes, even homicides. But there were many more cases where police stops turned up nothing. In 2008, police made nearly 250,000 stops in New York for what they called furtive movements. Only one-fifteenth of one percent of those turned up a gun.”
The stop-and-frisk policy was finally struck down by a federal court as unconstitutional.
In 2014, New York’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, dropped the city’s appeal of the case, ostensibly putting an end to the practice. But “broken windows” and stop-and-frisk both conspired to make New York the cannabis-bust capital of the U.S. Pot busts in the city peaked in 2000, when Giuliani oversaw some 51,267 arrests for marijuana violations.
There has been some progress in reducing pot busts under de Blasio’s more tolerant policy—but also some backsliding, thanks to the aggressive policing of recently departed police commissioner Bill Bratton. He had been Giuliani’s first “broken windows” police commissioner and was ironically re-appointed to the post by the liberal de Blasio.
Since leaving office, however, Giuliani has been exporting his policing policies globally.
The Daily News recalls that in 2003, after transitioning to the private security biz, Giuliani visited Mexico City at the invitation of multi-billionaire Carlos Slim and the city’s then-mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Slim and López Obrador wanted Giuliani to school local officials in his “zero tolerance” policing methods—with a multimillion dollar price tag. But there was dissent.
“They’re spending $4 million on this fancy study,” Mario Vargas, a 15-year veteran Mexico City cop, told the Daily News at the time. “Why don’t they use that money to create more jobs so that the kids have something better to do than cause trouble?”
And what is all this likely to say about how Giuliani would perform as secretary of state? Well, his statements already betray the same fetish for aggressive action and contempt for legality.
Speaking on ABC’s This Week in September, Giuliani echoed Trump’s call for U.S. ground forces to remain in the Middle East to seize the region’s oil, ostensibly as a means of undercutting ISIS (almost certainly illegal under international law). Host George Stephanopoulos questioned him on the legality of the idea.
Giuliani answered: “Of course it’s legal. It’s a war. Until the war is over, anything is legal. That oil becomes a very critical issue. First of all, if that oil wasn’t there, we wouldn’t have the Islamic State… That oil is what makes the Islamic State so rich.”
Then there are numerous forgotten ugly incidents in Giulaini’s past that ominously prefigure the current fascistic zeitgeist. For instance, there was the 1986 arrest of Simon Berger, a Jewish Long Island lock manufacturer and Nazi concentration camp survivor, by Rudy’s staff as U.S. Attorney for Manhattan. As Berger, a mail fraud suspect, was being held at Giulaini’s offices at the New York City federal building, some of Rudy’s agents seated him facing a blackboard, Berger later told investigators. Written on the blackboard, Berger said, were the German words “ARBEIT MACHT FREI,” the slogan that adorned the entrance to the Auschwitz death camp. Berger was acquitted of all charges.
Also conveniently forgotten are the charges of anti-Semitism that were leveled against Giuliani in his high-profile crackdown on Wall Street insider trading as U.S. Attorney in the 1980s—in which every one of the brokers he ordered arrested and marched out of their offices in handcuffs happened to be Jewish.
Finally, it is also apparently forgotten that Giuliani at one time ran his own concentration camp.
In 1981, as number-three man in the Reagan Justice Department, Giuliani headed the program of forcibly detaining thousands of Haitian refugees behind barbed wire at Camp Krome, a Florida military base, where overcrowding and appalling conditions quickly drew protest from human rights organizations. When the refugees launched suit in federal court to overturn the internment policy, Giuliani became the policy’s top legal defender, asking a U.S. appeals court to strike down a lower court order that 1,800 refugees be released.
Thirty-three Haitian women at the camp went on hunger strike to demand their freedom during the case and had to be fed intravenously. But Giuliani insisted the refugees were economic migrants and were not fleeing persecution in Haiti—even making a trip to Haiti to be personally assured by brutal dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier that there was no human rights crisis on the island.
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