“Giuliani: The Rise and Tragic Fall of America’s Mayor”

“Giuliani: The Rise and Tragic Fall of America’s Mayor”

By Andrew Kirtzman

Nonfiction/Simon & Schuster

Has Rudy Giuliani, the once world-class mayor revered by millions who cleaned up crime in New York City, put the brakes on Wall Street, and gave the free world hope after 9/11, become a joke of his own making?

In his second book on Giuliani, Andrew Kirtzman, political reporter for print and television, who has covered him for three decades, offers some answers in Giuliani: The Rise and Tragic Fall of America’s Mayor.”

“Much of it written in Fire Island Pines in the dead of winter,” the author puts to use years of accrued knowledge about what makes the man tick, together with hundreds of interviews from people who knew the former mayor during all stages of his life. As Kirtzman himself puts it: “He has fascinated me from the moment I met him to this day.” 

His fascination is apparent as he traces the flight line of Giuliani’s rise to power from a man whose “titanic accomplishments” – he was knighted by the Queen of England – somehow morphed into a sloppy, hair-dye-dripping, boozing and cynical “fodder for late night comedians.”   

Calling Giuliani’s fall “tragic,” and asking, “What happened to Rudy Giuliani? That is the question?” Kirtzman put me in a King Learish/Shakespearean frame of mind; a grand reference to what might be just one more ladder-climbing official brought low by his own lust for power and money, who went off the rails when it all went south. After all, when Giuliani was asked about his legacy he replied, “’My attitude about my legacy … is ‘fuck it.’”

A surprising answer from a man with a strong Catholic background who, when at Bishop Loughlin High School studied the “doctrines of the Catholic faith in the school’s catechist club,” while his friends were sneaking cigarettes. A serious student, he founded the school’s opera club.

Complex and unconventional man that he is, Giuliani is full of surprises. Outwardly cheerful, yet with a “dark, Machiavellian streak,” his childhood was unstable.

A violent thug with a hair-trigger temper, his father served time in Sing Sing. When his son brought home As, his withholding and demanding mother wanted A+s. Add to the mix Catholic schooling, and you have a man whose young psyche was conditioned to respect authority.  

Aggressive and accusatory, he celebrated authority. Wielding it in a take-no-prisoners style early on in his crime-busting mayorship, he held forth on the value of respecting authority; he thought it had been given a bad name. In a twisted way of thinking, and showing his “dictatorial impulses,” he espoused that freedom was the “’willingness to cede to a lawful authority.’” His, this reviewer can’t help thinking. 

Kirtzman doesn’t let captivation with his subject get in the way of research and facts, and serves up a full complement – often uncomplimentary – of Giuliani’s deeds and misdeeds. 

He details his dealings with Perdue pharma (OxyContin anyone?) and freewheeling, up-for-hire, sketchy Russian businessmen pals, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, convicted of funneling a Russian oligarch’s money into U.S. government elections. “‘They were perfect. They did everything I wanted, and they never got involved in asking questions,’” said Giuliani in a New York Times interview.

And Trump? As his personal attorney and instigator at arms, Giuliani blamed his boss’s loss to Biden in 2020 to faulty voting machines, sued districts and local governments, wasting time and voters’ money, that in the end came to nothing. Cheek to jowl with his cohort, Giuliani’s hand was heavy in whipping up the misguided mob that stormed the Capitol.

This of a man who, when he left office in 2002, had “every conceivable door … open to him; he could have run a foundation, a corporation, a law school. All would have preserved his Olympian stature.”

From where this one-time “emperor of the city” stands now, methinks thinks Olympus is going to be one, hard climb back up. And yet, after reading Kirtzman’s accounts of Giuliani’s blatant and knowing disregard of the law – he was a DA for Pete’s sake!

It’s all there in “Giuliani,” told with the even-handedness of a professional who knows his subject and holds nothing back. Giuliani’s private deals and public shamings; his political relationships; his allies and enemies. There are personal nuggets about top tier political heavies; check out the Rambo chapter re police commissioner Kerik. Both an eye-opener and eye roller about one of the most talked about men in government. 

“…egocentric to the degree that he has failed to consider the feelings and rights of others,” said a city’s Department of Health psychiatrist describing Giuliani’s father before he was sent to prison.

Perhaps the son fell close to the tree.