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To Temper Image, Giuliani Trades Growl for Smile

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  • Ram Lau
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/29/us/politics/29giuliani.html May 29, 2007 To Temper Image, Giuliani Trades Growl for Smile By MICHAEL POWELL ATLANTA — Oh,
    Message 1 of 1 , May 29, 2007
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      http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/29/us/politics/29giuliani.html

      May 29, 2007
      To Temper Image, Giuliani Trades Growl for Smile
      By MICHAEL POWELL

      ATLANTA — Oh, baby, here it comes. The gray-haired woman raises her
      hand and compliments His Honor for his Sept. 11 bravery. Then she asks
      him:

      Why does so much of the world hate us? Haven't we failed to understand
      Arab grievances? We misinterpret their word "jihad," which is not
      necessarily a hostile word.

      Rudolph William Louis Giuliani III's eyes pop wide. His eyebrows rise.
      He is blinking rapidly. For veteran Rudy watchers, all signs point to
      a rhetorical lunge for this woman's jugular.

      Except he pauses and looks down at his feet and looks up again and —
      smiles.

      "Ma'am, I really respectfully disagree," the former mayor tells her.
      "Maybe I'll answer your question with a question. Respectfully, again,
      I don't think you understand the nature of the threat."

      Respectfully? Ma'am?

      The dyspeptic, "not afraid to suggest his opponents have really
      deep-seated psychological problems" Republican mayor of fact and
      legend has taken a holiday. What's left on the presidential campaign
      trail is a commanding daddy of a candidate, a disciplined fellow who
      talks about terrorism and fiscal order and about terrorism some more.

      Mr. Giuliani laughs, he gestures expansively, he even pokes fun at his
      tendency to wax a wee bit authoritarian. (He suggests a touch of the
      cane was necessary to impose discipline on that liberal asylum known
      as New York.) He shakes hands with reporters he once viewed as "jerky"
      and assures them he is fine with tough questions about abortion, where
      he has settled on a position supporting a woman's right to choose, and
      about gun control, where is he at least halfway into a policy back-flip.

      He has not sanded down all his edges. At Oglethorpe University here,
      where he met with 200 voters, he does not hesitate to challenge that
      woman who asks about jihad. But he does so in a fashion that leaves
      her ambulatory.

      "They hate you," he says of the Islamic terrorists, bringing his hands
      up to his chest. "They don't want you to be in this college, or you,
      or you — —."

      Mr. Giuliani wheels around and points toward another middle-aged woman
      in the front row, who looks momentarily startled. "And you can't wear
      that outfit because you're showing your arms."

      "This is reality, ma'am," he continues, his voice streaked with just a
      touch of exasperation. "This isn't me making it up. I saw reality
      after 9/11. You've got to clear your head."

      His answer meets with sustained applause.

      If Hillary Rodham Clinton is the nurturer warrior and Barack Obama the
      college idealist and John McCain the tough but irreverent flyboy, then
      Mr. Giuliani is the father, the talk-tough-on-terror,
      I'm-comfortable-wielding-authority guy.

      In dress, he plays to type. Other candidates go open-necked or pull
      flannel shirts out of the closet for New Hampshire.

      Not the former mayor. He dresses in the one-size-too-large suits he
      has favored since his days as a federal prosecutor, with the top shirt
      button fastened and tie knotted tight. It is difficult to imagine
      anyone asking him a "really dopey" (two favorite Giuliani words now in
      abeyance) question about his favored style in underwear, as someone
      once did of Bill Clinton.

      Mr. Giuliani has made upgrades. The comb-over, his decades-long
      insistence on combing his hair across a substantial expanse of
      cranium, is history. His remaining hair is slicked back and comes to
      rest in a tight nest of graying curls.

      He has honed his speaking style. His mayoral excursions tripped
      merrily through the land of ego and id, with all manner of growls.
      Challenge him, as one unfortunate did on the mayor's weekly radio show
      in 1999, urging him to legalize ferrets as pets, and the best advice
      was to duck.

      "The excessive concern that you have with ferrets is something you
      should examine with a therapist, not with me," the mayor advised. "You
      are devoting your life to weasels." "There is something really, really
      very sad about you," he added.

      Now his sentences are taut three-step progressions that end with a
      pleasing verbal whap! So he disposes of the Democrats' insistence —
      since rescinded — on setting a deadline for withdrawal from Iraq. "Has
      any army," he says, then pauses, "ever been required," then another
      pause, "to give a printed schedule of its retreat?"

      The former prosecutor's hands slice and dice at the air as he talks.
      He rarely works off notes, which allows him to add a verbal curlicue
      or two at each stop. In Atlanta, as a woman seeks his views on health
      care, he closes his eyes, crosses his arms and sinks chin in hand. The
      effect is to watch the mind's gears turn. David Pass, 31, journeyed to
      Olgethorpe to hear Mr. Giuliani. He cannot hide his enthusiasm. "He
      lets you know exactly where he stands," Mr. Pass said. "He's not
      afraid to say what he believes."

      Mr. Giuliani was always a visceral pol; he knows when to retract the
      canines. Before the 1993 mayoral campaign, Democratic operatives
      assured all who would listen that they would poke until Mr. Giuliani
      unleashed his inner Mr. Hyde. It never happened. In November, he beat
      the incumbent mayor, David N. Dinkins.

      As Mr. Giuliani told an appreciative audience in Alabama, "I'm tough,
      I'm strong, but I'm rational."

      It's 6:45 a.m. on a sultry spring day in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and 800
      people sit in the Bryant Conference Center listening to glitter-haired
      sisters playing country violins. They wait patiently for the man who
      will be introduced as America's mayor, and they will give him a
      standing ovation. Later that day Mr. Giuliani steps out of a black
      S.U.V. and walks into a fish joint in Birmingham at the dinner hour.
      He flashes a smile, and the patrons stand and clap and slip arms
      around him and cadge autographs and photographs.

      For all the Beltway chatter that Mr. Giuliani's moderation on abortion
      renders him radioactive for the evangelicals who inhabit the core of
      the Republican Party, the former mayor attracts little verbal
      buckshot. More often, the image that comes to mind as Mr. Giuliani
      traipses into a string of packed, applauding rooms in Alabama, Georgia
      and New Hampshire is of a rock star, if that rocker happened to be a
      balding and slightly hunched former mayor.

      In Atlanta, Mr. Giuliani offers to take questions, and a stout blond
      woman in a red pantsuit shoots straight up, raising her hand and
      nearly shouting, "I think you are sooooo handsome."

      (In 1994, a woman in Queens translated the same compliment into New
      Yorkese; she peered carefully at Mr. Giuliani and acknowledged, "You
      look a lot better in person.")

      At the root of his celebrity lies Mr. Giuliani's performance on Sept.
      11, 2001. The shadow of that day is inescapable; he is prayed for,
      applauded and asked to reminisce. And the refrain from those who
      listen to him is the same: When President Bush was flying to and fro,
      when Vice President Dick Cheney went to his bunker, Mr. Giuliani was
      the eloquent voice and face of America.

      In Tuscaloosa, a county chairman spoke of his anxiety that day, and
      how listening to the mayor comforted him. In Atlanta, Debbie Lange
      said she was no rock-hard Republican. But her adult child lived in
      Washington. If she pulls the lever for Mr. Giuliani, hers would be a
      premonitory vote.

      "We haven't seen the last of all the horrible things that could happen
      to us," she said, her voice becoming a whisper. "I want someone who
      could look the worst in the face when it happens."

      Mr. Giuliani gets tagged as a late-middle-aged obsessive dining out on
      his grand moment. That seems overstated. He talks about competition in
      health care. ("The Democrats want socialized medicine." His lips play
      with a smirk, and he asks: "How many Americans do you know go to
      Europe for health care?") He holds forth on the need to cut taxes and
      to require foreign visitors to carry ID cards.

      But conversation usually circles back to that September day. When the
      towers fell, Mr. Giuliani was certain of what he saw.

      Defense is for the surrender crowd. He is about playing offense, and
      with a strong stomach: More electronic surveillance, more Patriot Act,
      more tough "but legal" interrogation methods. Mr. Giuliani peers at
      the smiling residents of Tuscaloosa.

      "Right now, as we sit here enjoying breakfast, they are planning on
      coming here to kill us," he warns them. "I don't blame people for not
      getting it before 9/11. But I do blame people who don't get it now."

      He circles his hands around his head, as though to bat away America's
      cobwebs.

      "The Democrats want to take us back on defense," he says. "You can
      feel it; you can hear it."

      The former mayor sat in a cavernous ballroom on May 21 and listened as
      New York Republicans showed him the big love. Happiness flowed so
      profusely an observer might forget that most in attendance wanted to
      flay Mr. Giuliani when he endorsed Mario M. Cuomo, a Democrat, for
      governor in 1994.

      Guy Molinari, the diminutive and white-haired former Staten Island
      borough president, shot a sideways glance at Mr. Giuliani, who is in
      full grin. "I love this guy," Mr. Molinari said.

      Only someone really rude would recall Mr. Molinari's take in 1994:
      "The only thing that makes sense is that he becomes a Democrat."

      Mr. Giuliani was a Kennedy Democrat who has allied himself with Bill
      Clinton on issues like banning assault weapons but has also proclaimed
      himself a Reagan Republican. Ideological consistency is not Mr.
      Giuliani's groove; leadership and destiny are. So is self-assurance.
      Ask Mr. Giuliani how to impose fiscal discipline on Washington, and he
      notes: "I'm an expert at it." Mention New York and he says: "The
      turnaround was massive, palpable; nobody can really deny it." Quiz him
      about presidential qualifications, and he says that there is no way to
      prepare, but that "being mayor of New York" comes as close as it gets.

      As for terror, "I understand terrorism in a way that is equal to or
      exceeds anyone else," Mr. Giuliani says.

      Mr. Giuliani will drop a self-deprecating joke. When annoyance tickles
      at the back of his spine, he has learned to smile rather than scowl.
      But he suffers no deficit of self-confidence.

      He took a walking tour of a woodworking factory in the Connecticut
      River Valley on May 23. Then 150 workers gathered round, eye visors
      slung around their necks, and a woman with auburn hair pulled back
      asked him what it took to become president.

      Mr. Giuliani's brow furrowed. He began talking about the grand,
      bipartisan, four-president-long effort to put a man on the moon. Such
      an achievement "needs someone with a driving personality who can get
      it done."

      He smiled, almost to himself. "And I've got the candidate who can get
      it done," he said.

      He took two steps, leaned toward her and pointed at his chest. He
      mouthed a single word:

      "Me."
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