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Hamlet on the Hudson

November 23, 2009

So Rudy Giuliani is apparently not running for governor and is dithering about whether to try for the Senate.

We’ve lived through this melodrama before.

A decade ago, after months of indecision following his battle with prostate cancer and his split from wife Donna Hanover, he backed out of a Senate race against Hillary Clinton.

His excuse then was that he was a man of deeds more than words, and that his heart belonged to New York City, and not the U.S. Senate. Translation: As mayor, he loved giving orders.

Does that mean he’s not going to run this time against Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand? Even with a reported 15-point lead in the polls? Well, just remember his 2007 presidential flame-out after he began as the Republican front-runner.

As a candidate now, Giuliani’s problems go beyond appointing a crook as the 40th police commissioner of New York City. More important, in Your Humble Servant’s opinion, are his children, who refused to campaign for him in the past.

Is daughter Caroline, whose graduation from Harvard Rudy reportedly boycotted, still not speaking to him? And God knows what’s up with Andrew who, when last heard from, was suing Duke University for tossing him off its golf team.

Giuliani may indeed be a disaster as a father and a husband, but this doesn’t mean he wouldn’t make an excellent Senator, or governor for that matter.

Forget the nonsense from his chum, former Staten Island Congressman and borough president Guy Molinari, that Giuliani declined to run because he feared he wouldn’t be effective in Albany. What he really feared was running against Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic attorney general who is killing Giuliani in the polls.

Indeed, if anyone in New York State can solve the problems of dysfunctional Albany, it is Rudy Giuliani. Put another way, if Giuliani can’t, no one can.

Rather, Giuliani’s problem as a politician is that, while he can solve monumental problems like governing New York City, he creates equally monumental problems because of his personality and character.

For examples, turn to his two terms as mayor, including his six-years as de facto NYPD commissioner.

With Bill Bratton as police commissioner from 1994-96, Giuliani did nothing less than revolutionize the culture of the NYPD. He and Bratton stopped a lot of blood-letting in the streets and shook up a once-proud department whose overwhelmed leadership had literally given up on taming crime. Bratton spawned new systems and new leaders, beginning 15 years of dramatic, then steady, crime declines under the city’s three successive police commissioners.

After the 9/11 attacks, Giuliani inspired the city. Picture Michael Bloomberg in that role and you’ll see why Giuliani will long be remembered when Bloomberg is long forgotten.

What has damaged Giuliani are his own demons. He fired Bratton after only two years with no credible explanation, citing trips Bratton had taken on private jets paid for by wealthy Wall Street friends. This reporter, who followed each twist of their tortured relationship, concluded that Rudy fired Bratton solely because Bratton was receiving too much publicity — at Rudy’s expense.

Those same demons reappeared in 2001 at the end of his second term. Then, he sought to amend the city charter, to extend his term for three months. He told voters — and maybe even believed it — that New York could not survive 9/11 without him.

To his credit, he backed down when mayoral opponent Fernando Ferrer called him on it. Former mayor Ed Koch put it best: If Rudy cared so much about the city, he should remain for three months — under the new mayor. (Too bad Koch didn’t make the same proposal to Bloomberg eight years later when he subverted democracy to gain a third term by buying off the City Council a la Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.)

Then, after firing Bratton, what did Giuliani do? He appointed crony Howard Safir. Crime continued to fall but the pressure to keep it down led to one of most outrageous acts in department history: the 41-shot barrage of police bullets that killed an unarmed African immigrant, Amadou Diallo.

To avoid testifying on the shooting before the City Council, Safir pleaded a “scheduling conflict.” Turns out, the conflict was his secret trip to Hollywood.

The night before the council hearing, he was spotted on national television at the Oscars, standing next to actress Helen Hunt.

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Even worse, he had allowed the Revlon Corporation to fly him out to the coast on its private jet, and pay for his stay at a four-star Beverly Hills hotel.

Rudy never criticized Safir for the freebee trip as he had Bratton.

But, because this column, which at that time appeared in Newsday, carried updates on the Conflict of Interest Board’s four-corner stall in investigating Safir, he was forced to reimburse Revlon $7,100 for his Oscar excursion.

Then there’s Bernie Kerik, Giuliani’s former bodyguard and driver, who is headed for the slammer. Giuliani appointed him police commissioner despite the warnings of his staff and signals from the Department of Investigation of troubles in Kerik’s past.

Meanwhile, on the home front, Giuliani was cheating on Donna, who believed he was having an affair with his press secretary, Cristyne Lategano. (She denied it, saying that had she been a man, all the time she spent with Giuliani would not have caught anyone’s attention.)

Rudy then jilted her, divorced Donna, and took up with a new girlfriend, Judy Nathan, now his wife.

Sources say she is urging him not to run because during his presidential bid, the media beat her up pretty badly.

But when Giuliani makes decisions, he listens to only one person, often to his own detriment — himself.

Time’s up in Miami for John Timoney, who’s completed seven years as police chief, the longest run in that city’s modern history.

With a change in the administration there, what’s next for New York City’s former First Deputy Police Commissioner, whom Esquire magazine described in 2000 as “America’s Best Cop”?

“I stumble from day to day and good things happen,” said Timoney, who said he was on the job until January 15th.

He’s friends with Vice President Joe Biden, whom Timoney met when he headed the police department in Philadelphia, so is there a future in Washington?

Could he begin a career in academia? His memoir, “Beat Cop to Top Cop,” is due out next April from University of Pennsylvania Press.

Asked if he might return to New York, a la his former boss, Bill Bratton, Timoney, who, like Bratton, might be interested in heading the NYPD, said, “As what?”

The police department’s unofficial official historian Tom Reppetto has called Ray Kelly the greatest police commissioner in New York City history. Rudy Giuliani bestowed that honor on Howard Safir, while lawyer and agent Ed Hayes maintained that mantle befitted his client Bill Bratton.

Now comes a fan of Tom Constantine, former head of the New York State Police.

“At various times over the years I've met a number of the nation's prima donna cops, including Kelly, Bratton and Safir,” writes Terry O’Neill, Director of the Constantine Institute in Albany.

“I have my own candidate for America's greatest cop.I had the opportunity to tell the Trustees of the State University of New York about him this week.I first met Tom Constantine in December 1986 just after Mario Cuomo nominated him to head the New York State Police. We were at a meeting where everyone was lined up to congratulate him. He looked up at the ceiling and said: ‘I can't believe this happened to a kid from Buffalo.’ Tom's most endearing quality is that he is a very humble man.”

After almost 20 years as Queens District Attorney, Richard Brown, a young 77, is still, God bless him, racing down from Connecticut to hold curb-side, weekend press conferences, as he did last weekend when a Corona man killed his wife and teen-aged son. Brown is especially nimble — if bored — at home, or if, as also occurred last weekend, Police Commissioner Kelly was not present to muzzle him.

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