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Los Angeles Times Interview : Rudolph Giuliani : Will a Cross-Party Endorsement Result in Years of Repercussions?

November 13, 1994|Thomas Plate | Thomas Plate is editor of the editorial pages of The Times

NEW YORK — Rudolph W. Giuliani is the mayor of New York City and a Republican. Therein lies the tale.

The last such endangered species was John V. Lindsay, a patrician Republican from Yale. Before that was the flamboyant Fiorello H. La Guardia--the kind of Republican Giuliani, 50, wants to be--a GOPer who sails against the wind and can thus govern this overwhelmingly Democratic city.

Indeed, on a Saturday afternoon right before the election, this Republican--married to former TV newscaster Donna Hanover and the father of Andrew, 8, and Caroline, 5--was working the phones in his sumptuous City Hall office on behalf of a Democrat. He was trying to get incumbent Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, whom he had endorsed earlier that week in a stunning move, reelected to a fourth term. Giuliani sincerely believed the New York City-born Cuomo would pursue policies far more favorable to the metropolis than the challenger, a heretofore relatively obscure state senator named George E. Pataki, who was born and raised in upstate New York--a culture with as much sympathy for New York City as, say, San Franciscans have for Los Angeles.

At one point during the conversation in his office, the White House returned Giuliani's call to find out what else he thought the President should do to help Cuomo. The mayor asked for one more visit to New York by Clinton. But as the results on Nov. 8 showed, nothing could save Cuomo. Not even an electrifying endorsement by one of America's most interesting new politicians.

But now perhaps one of its most besieged. It may be a long time before New York Republicans forgive Giuliani for his betrayal of the party's nominee. And long-time political rival Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato is likely to make sure that absolutely no one in his party ever forgets it. But in Democratic New York City, the former federal prosecutor, by appearing to put the interests of the city over that of his party, may just have advanced his dream: to be the new La Guardia.

*

Question: We have a Republican mayor in Los Angeles who endorsed the Democrat Dianne Feinstein for reelection, and there's a Republican mayor in New York City who endorsed Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo. What's going on?

Answer: Dick Riordan and I analyze things very much the same way, which is, that we realize that we have to put the good of our city ahead of blind party loyalty. If we can, in any way, consistently support our party, consistent with the interests of the city, then we'll do that, even if you have to give the benefit of the doubt to your party . . . . But when there is a wide discrepancy, as the one that I faced between Mario Cuomo and George Pataki, you have to do what is best for your city. I assume the same thing is true with Dick Riordan.

Q: When you see big cities, you think Democrats, but in two of the biggest, New York and Los Angeles, you see Republican mayors. What are you and Riordan doing that people are responding to?

A: I believe we're both using what I consider the core principles of the Republican Party, and it energizes people. Trying to deal with the problems of poverty--whether it's the lack of a home, or a co-op or a condominium--and look to small business as a way in which you can work to meet the needs. The Republican direction we've been going in has more freedom to offer.

Q: You think that's a sellable concept?

A: Yes, I think it works, and the heavier emphasis on law enforcement and individual responsibility is also a corrective to the more kind of environmental or societal approach that had occurred before . . . . The crime bill expressed the new emphasis. But now, of course, (with our success) the Republican Party is feeling the responsibility of having two mayors who run America's two largest cities. And, over the next year or two, the debate will be: Does the Republican Party work? Does it broaden to embrace this new responsibility? If it does, then the base of the Republican Party can be expanded immeasurably.

Q: On that point, then, you endorsed a Democrat. People like that--you are your own guy. But still, there's a lot of dissatisfaction out there. And a lot of unhappiness with both parties, to the point where there's even a growing interest in a third party.

A: Yes. I see it in the politics of the state today. But I'm probably more comfortable with that than would normally be the case. I was the candidate of two third parties each time I ran for mayor. I was a candidate not only of the Republican Party--but of the Liberal Party, which has been an established third party for years in New York, and also of a new party. That, probably as much as anything else, got me elected mayor. Third-party upsurge says that people are uncomfortable with the usual two parties.

Q: Municipal financing is increasingly difficult. There's less money to go around. Your job, I guess, is to lower expectations as to what city government can do for you. How do you diminish those expectations?

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