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Giuliani Defines 'Leadership' For New Era

Politics: His new book talks tough about the war on terrorism, but the ex-mayor is happy in this stage of his life and might remarry soon.

September 29, 2002|JOSH GETLIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — He had visited the smoldering World Trade Center 30 times in the last 36 hours and was in a state of shock. Rudy Giuliani badly needed sleep, but when President Bush flew to New York three days after the terrorist attacks and asked what he could do for him, the mayor crisply answered: "If you catch this guy, Bin Laden, I would like to be the one to execute him."

More than a year later, Giuliani remains emphatic. "I still mean it," he said in his office 24 stories above Times Square. "I think I'm the logical person to do it, as a representative" of all New Yorkers.

During eight years at City Hall, the Big Apple knew Giuliani as a mayor firmly in control, a tough politician who never minced words and thrived on confrontation. That image has been softened somewhat in the former mayor's just-published "Leadership," a 400-page guide for political and private leaders based on his life in politics and as a former U.S. attorney.

He's looking more relaxed, his prostate cancer is under control and Giuliani says "there's a good chance, a really good chance" that he and girlfriend Judith Nathan may soon make a wedding announcement. Nowadays, he runs an international consulting firm specializing in corporate security, makes speeches at $100,000 each and is happily embarked on a new life.

But the old Rudy still shines through: In an interview Friday, he said he expects to reenter politics and refused to rule out runs for the presidency, the U.S. Senate or New York governor. He no longer entertains plans to seek his old post, however, because his mayoral successor, media mogul Michael R. Bloomberg, is doing "a very good job."

"I've learned that you don't cut off options, and I have no idea of what the future will bring," the former mayor said, acknowledging the political buzz that has him either poised to step in for Vice President Dick Cheney if needed in 2004, or running against U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in either a New York senatorial or U.S. presidential contest down the road.

"Right now I'm in the private phase of my life, [but] I think I'll want to go back to government again. Maybe it will be appointed office," he said with a wry smile, fueling already rampant speculation that Giuliani might be a candidate for the proposed post of Homeland Security czar.

Wherever he goes, people ask Giuliani about America's readiness to combat terrorism, and he has a tough message for them: At a time when millions may be lapsing into complacency, Giuliani said the nation should brace itself for suicide bombings. They are easier to pull off than the highly coordinated Sept. 11 attacks, he noted, and preventing them in big cities is difficult.

"Just because [bombings] passed us by in the first wave doesn't mean we can dismiss them in the second," Giuliani noted. "And New York is in many ways easier to patrol than Los Angeles. L.A. is a very big, sprawling place, with numerous downtown areas. You have to do the best you can."

In the hours after the Sept. 11 attacks, Giuliani said he and his staff wrestled with one question more than any other: Would the terrorists strike again at New York City, or stage another attack somewhere else, to show their versatility and keep American security forces off balance?

"I don't know," he said with a frown, looking over Times Square, "but as a former prosecutor I was taught to put myself into the head of my enemy. And I became certain that they [Al Qaeda terrorists] are going to wait awhile, and then they're going to do something that's not anticipated."

Despite the strain and trauma he went through after the terrorist attacks, Giuliani insists that he has not fundamentally changed as a person. But the circumstances of his life have been radically altered. On the morning of the World Trade Center disaster, he was a lame-duck official who was undergoing a messy divorce. Within days, he was suddenly transformed into "America's mayor," a politician who led New York through an emotionally wrenching period and became Time's Man of the Year.

Looking to the future, he said Americans will need a higher level of leadership, given the twin legacies of the terrorist attacks and burgeoning corporate scandals. Political and business leaders, he noted, should be putting a much greater premium on candor.

"What people expect now is direct communication [from leaders], as opposed to the scripted, spun and orchestrated interventions that take place," he said. "One thing that happens if you're not scripted is that you make more mistakes. But then people can be more realistic about leaders. They don't have to pretend to be perfect, and I think that's going to be equally true of a president, a mayor, a governor or a corporate CEO."

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