By ERIC MARGOLIS
Sun, August 12, 2007
In New York, New York, neither Hillary nor Rudy is universally adored
NEW YORK — It’s boiling hot, humid enough to float the Staten Island ferry, and a tornado that hit Brooklyn and midtown is filled with seriously overweight tourists from Paducah and Oshkosh who should not be wearing short pants.
The city’s great and good long ago decamped to the Hamptons, where if you don’t have a $35 million “beach cottage” you are considered needy.
But I love New York any time of year. When I was growing up here, a worldly friend of my mother advised me, “there are only three civilized cities in North America: New York, San Francisco, and Montreal. All the rest is darkness!”
Half a century later, I still can’t say he was wrong.
For the first time in my memory, two New York state residents are running for president, former mayor Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton.
Those who liked Bush, will love Rudy.
This week, he blasted Democrats as “ready to embrace defeat” in Iraq.
Giuliani modestly claimed he alone can save America by: a) “continuing the offensive against Islamism,” and b) stopping Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. He left unclear which of these scourges was worse.
Voters here are ambivalent about Giuliani. Many New Yorkers are Jewish or Catholic liberal Democrats.
Some of them look at Bush, the southern holy rollers and NASCAR fans who form his core support, and the rest of the Republican Party’s hard right, as religious bigots.
The other day, a bookstore owner exclaimed to me, quite out of the blue,
“Bush makes me ashamed to be an American.” Her feeling is shared by many here in America’s least American, most cosmopolitan city. They can’t wait to see the backs of Bush and Cheney, but are unhappy about the choices to replace them.
Giuliani was a fine mayor and an honest politician in a city notorious for political sleaze and payoffs. He ran a tight ship, restored city finances wrecked by the inept, corrupt Democratic party machine, cleaned up city streets, and sharply reduced crime by allowing police to do their job.
The Big Apple roared back to life under Giuliani.
But Giuliani’s real claim to fame was 9/11, which brought him to national prominence by projecting take-charge competence that contrasted sharply with President Bush’s dazed, lacklustre initial response. Giuliani emerged the hero of 9/11, and has been living off this moment ever since.
But many New Yorkers don’t like their former hero-mayor. He is seen as arrogant, impatient, and notoriously ill-tempered. His Catholic faith and personal life, fraught with divorces and angry children — an estranged daughter briefly claimed this week she supported Barack Obama — won’t appeal to Bible Belt voters.
After eight years of Bush, the last thing most New Yorkers want is more blundering machismo and stupid wars. Giuliani is much smarter than Bush, but he shares many of the president’s perceived faults. Many think him unstable.
Besides, who can trust an Italian who finds it painful to smile? Italians were put on this earth to make life more enjoyable for all of us, not to wage jihad against Islam.
If New Yorker’s are not crazy about Rudy, their feelings for Hillary Clinton are hardly warmer. New Yorkers don’t like or trust many southerners, a feeling many southerners and westerners heartily reciprocate. Hillary has shape-shifted into a New York resident, but she is having trouble escaping her dark roots in smelly Arkansas politics.
BILL’S THE GORILLA
Bill Clinton, the 800-pound gorilla behind Hillary, was not liked either in New York. But after eight years of Bush, he seems almost saintly. Still, people here don’t trust the Clintons, are turned off by their naked power lust, and see Hillary as an unprincipled opportunist who is all make-up and no substance.
The presidential candidate I suspect most New Yorkers would really like to see is their current capable mayor and self-made billionaire, native son Michael Bloomberg. He’s cool, intelligent, and gets things done in a New York minute.
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