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New reaction to old behavior

October 29, 2001

To use a phrase from "The Godfather," Rudolph Giuliani's favorite movie, the mayor is a "wartime consigliere."

Except for his refusal - so far - to attack his possible successor Mark Green, the mayor hasn't acted any differently since the attack on the World Trade Center than he had before Sept 11. In fact he's now praised for the very behavior he was criticized for in the past.

Take Giuliani's snubs and insults of people he disliked, disagreed with or felt were upstaging him.

In March 1994, two months after becoming mayor, he was feuding with President Bill Clinton over something now forgotten. When Clinton visited New York, Giuliani ordered his police commissioner, Bill Bratton, to snub him.

Although Clinton visited the 61st Precinct station house in Brooklyn, Bratton was nowhere to be found, an insult to the president, to the Police Department and to New Yorkers.

Bratton's excuse was that he couldn't be with the president because he was too busy walking his dog, prompting columnist Jimmy Breslin to dub him "Commissioner Alpo."

Four years later, in April 1998, Vice President Al Gore visited New York to give a good government award to the Police Department. The mayor objected because he wanted to personally receive it himself.

When Gore arrived at One Police Plaza, Giuliani altered the seating arrangements. The vice president was to have sat in the middle with Giuliani and police officials on each side of him. Instead, it was the mayor who was placed in the middle, with Gore and the police officials on each side.

The mayor then canceled a scheduled news conference with Gore.

Giuliani's then-press secretary, Cristyne Lategano, said: "The mayor would have been delighted to receive a meaningful award. But a sledgehammer is not an appropriate award for this Police Department and this commissioner."

Her remarks prompted the following comment by Gore's spokeswoman Patricia Ewing:"Do they always operate like that?"

We now come to Giuliani's most recent slight - of Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal. On Oct. 11, the prince offered the city a $10-million check in honor of the victims of the World Trade Center attacks.

But he also released a statement that said the United States should "reexamine its policies in the middle east and adopt a more balanced stance towards ... our Palestinian brethren [who] continue to be slaughtered at the hands of Israelis."

The mayor, in what many consider his finest hour, returned the check, saying:"I entirely reject that statement. There is no moral equivalent to this act. The people who did it lost any right to ask for justification."

The prince himself helped dispel any doubts as to whether the mayor had acted appropriately when he revealed his own prejudice. The mayor, the prince said, succumbed to "Jewish pressure."

Stumbling to Succession.
But even a wartime consigliere stumbles, as Giuliani did when he suggested he would ignore the city charter and state constitution to seek a third term or, failing that, a three-month extension because the city needed him.

A most salient - and unreported - point was made by former Mayor Edward I. Koch when he endorsed Fernando Ferrer. Koch said that if the mayor cared about the city, he would remain for three months but under the new mayor. Whether in war or peacetime, this appears something Giuliani cannot bring himself to do.

State of Security.
With every pol in town forming an anti-terrorism committee, Gov. George Pataki's public security crew met last week at police headquarters with its city counterpart.

The state team was led by Jim Kallstrom, the former head of the FBI's New York office, and his right hand man, former NYPD Chief of Department Louis Anemone. Police sources say Anemone did not try to sit in the chair of his protege, the current Chief of Department Joe Esposito.

State Senator Roy Goodman, who started his own anti-terrorism committee, was not present.

The Two Toms.
Chief Tom Fahey of the Police Department's Public Information office was soaked by a leaking fire hose last week at the Park Avenue site of a scaffolding collapse when he tried to climb a stairway to chase photographers off the building's roof.

His civilian counterpart and nominal superior Tom Anetenen downplayed the soaking as "mist." Some police officials have complained to Your Humble Servant that the two Toms no longer include this column in the daily news clips distributed to department brass. Such an omission has not occurred since the dark days of the Howard Safir regime when this column was circulated like samizdat.

Perhaps the two Toms fear their boss, Commissioner Bernard Kerik, does not enjoy reading about the telephone call he took from Victoria Gotti, the daughter of the Gambino crime family head, as this column reported this month. The two Toms swear the omission was an oversight.

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© 2001 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.