My first and only personal encounter with Rudy Giuliani was at the Staten Island start of the 1997 New York City Marathon. Rudy gave a speech. I don’t recall much about the speech – I was nervously contemplating what would turn out to be four hours and seventeen minutes of private discomfort – but I do recall bits of it. He congratulated us on our coming tour of the five boroughs of that wonderful city. He received a respectful smattering of applause at the end of it, together with a bit of good-natured jeering – there were many New Yorkers among us, after all.
For my part I had a grudging respect for the man. He was a Republican, true, but he had been significant, if not instrumental, in transforming a city I loved from an unsafe one to one of the safest, for its size, in the world. His finest hour, in the aftermath of September 11, was yet to come.
I can only imagine what reception that same speech would garner Rudy today. A wall of hate. A cacophony of rage. New Yorkers have never held back about voicing their disdain, and Rudy Giuliani is now justly disdained by the world.
Now the probability is that he’s being investigated by the Southern District of New York for offering Michael Cohen a justice-obstructing presidential pardon in exchange for refusing to testify to Congress. That’s the very district for which Rudy was once United States Attorney. Back in that era Rudy was a man to respect. While Donald Trump was busy being what he always was, a clown, a punchline, a rube, Rudy’s was a name that carried a discernible weight and gravitas.
Unfortunately for many, telling a lie and getting away with it is the same as telling the truth, committing a crime and getting away with it is the same as being law abiding. The overriding miscalculation of many people crowded around Donald Trump was that they could lie, commit crimes and get away with it. Rudy Giuliani’s miscalculation was trusting and believing in Donald Trump. And for that he’s traded, not a great name, but certainly a good one, for a name that has earned him a place on the ash heap of history. A name that will never be mourned save by the disgruntled ignorant, the moral leprechauns, the people who, let’s face it, ultimately amount to nothing and contribute less.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.