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No plums in Rudy’s visions

December 29, 1997

The night before Christmas, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani decided to stroll down Fifth Avenue to ponder his chances for national office.

Two years before, Giuliani had read in this very column that his nemesis Bill Bratton had taken the same stroll to ponder whether New Yorkers realized he had singlehandedly created what his agent termed "the greatest drop in crime in city history." Giuliani had fired Bratton for this apostasy.

Before setting out, Giuliani decided to have his staff accompany him. That would allow him to smile and banter so that people might think he was human. However, he ordered them to remain a half block behind him and forbade reporters from writing about the incident until today.

"And why shouldn't I be senator if I want to?" the mayor thought to himself. Standing outside the Plaza Hotel, he imagined himself at the Senate well, orating a la Daniel Webster. Just as he began intoning "New York may be a large city but there are those who . . ." Giuliani felt a chill over his shoulder. Hovering above him was the specter of Fran Reiter, his former deputy mayor and campaign manager whom Giuliani recently booted out of City Hall.

The mayor, who likes people to believe he fears no man, nearly jumped out of his trousers (no, he wasn't wearing women's clothes on Christmas Eve).

"Denny! Did you see that?" he shouted to his counsel, Dennison Young.

"Yes, Mr. Mayor," Young answered, although he'd seen nothing. Young never disagreed with Giuliani.

"Humbug, Denny!" said the mayor, striding across 58th Street, where he imagined himself as vice president under, for example, George Bush, the son of the ex-president and now the Republican governor of Texas. Suddenly, the mayor felt another chill. The figure of Lee Brown floated by.

Brown, police commissioner under David Dinkins during the Crown Heights riot, had been recently elected mayor of Houston. Giuliani had traveled there to aid Brown's opponent, Bush's millionaire chum, Bill Mosbacher, whose family contributed $24,000 to Giuliani's re-election campaign.

"Randy!" shouted the mayor to his first deputy Randy Mastro, who was tagging along with Young. "I think someone's after me."

"It must be the mob," said Mastro, who before joining the Giuliani administration was considered quite sane. "I think it's the Fulton Fish Market crowd. This could be very big."

Printable versionThe mayor continued to the University Club, where on the corner of 54th Street he felt the rush of heat. Giuliani saw a fire that seemed to engulf him. Then, a figure materialized from the flames.

"Oh, my God!" Rudy shrieked. "Is this where I . . . ?" But instead of a devil with a pitchfork, the figure was that of a woman. It was his wife, Donna Hanover, standing alone before the fireplace of Gracie Mansion. She was mouthing the words, "Rudy, are you coming home for Christmas dinner?" These were the first words she was believed to have spoken to him in a year.

"Cristyne!" the mayor bellowed for his communications director, Cristyne Lategano.

"Don't let that Lee Brown shake you, Rudy," she said. "He says he failed to act in Crown Heights to prevent a Los Angeles-type riot." Recalling Giuliani's attempts to claim sole credit for the city's crime reduction, she thought to herself, Lee Brown is an even bigger liar than Rudy.

Impressed as always with Lategano's sagacity, the mayor realized what he needed: the advice of Ray Harding.

Harding, the head of the Liberal Party, had given Giuliani the Liberal line so that New York Democrats wouldn't feel uncomfortable voting for a mayor who is a Republican. Harding and his law partners then made millions of dollars as city lobbyists.

Like Giuliani, Harding's strength as a politician was that he had no ideology, other than his own advancement. As he put it, "I don't let ideology blind me to political realities." His aides say he especially admired Giuliani for accepting the $24,000 from the Mosbachers while perpetuating his image as a "corruption fighter."

Harding, celebrating Christmas Eve at his law firm, was already interviewing mayoral candidates for 2001. When Giuliani arrived, Harding was interviewing the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Having concluded that Giuliani might have problems nationally and miffed at him for sacking his protege Reiter, Harding said, "The Reverend Al wants you to know, Rudy, he has a place for you in his administration. You'll have a car, a driver and a siren. The Reverend Al thinks you'll make a perfect police commissioner."

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© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.