All year, many New Yorkers have been trying to tell their friends in other parts of the country that there's another Rudy Giuliani than the one they're seeing in debates—the bully boy who should spell his first name with an "e."
Now they—and all of Giuliani's critics—are about to have a 55-hour treasure trove of material to work with. It's as if a revealing but non-legally-incriminating version of the tapes of Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon were out there for everyone to hear, hiding in plain sight before they got to the White House.
The story about the tapes in The New York Times on Friday will likely create a market for recordings of "Live From City Hall … With Rudy Giuliani," a weekly radio program that ran from 1994 to 2001 on radio station WABC-AM in New York.
Some of the stories from Giuliani's radio days are well known. His telling off the president of the organization Ferrets Rights Advocacy ("David, your excessive concern for weasels is a sign of something wrong in your personality … you need help") is hardly going to harm his campaign.
In fact, little on the tapes is likely to hurt Giuliani in the Republican primaries. Voters in those contests like a tough guy who insults dopey liberals.
The only exception may be his criticism of the National Rifle Association. "It really is absolutely astounding that the NRA continues to have influence in areas in which they make no sense at all," the mayor said in an annoyed tone in 1994 after being asked about the gun lobby's opposition to banning assault weapons.
The bigger problem the tapes pose will come if Giuliani is the GOP nominee. Then they can be used in general-election attack ads to suggest that he lacks the temperament to be president.
"Why don't you seek counseling, Bob? I think you could use some help. You should go to a hospital. You should see a psychiatrist," Giuliani told a caller who did nothing more than ask about a report that a friend of the mayor was in ethical trouble.
When a caller named Joe made the excellent point that city parking privileges should not favor well-to-do lawyers over regular people, Giuliani labeled his views "Marxist."
This will prove useful to left-wing critics who want to attack Giuliani as a fascist for trying to stay in power after his term ended in 2001. When he acts hurt and says the opposition is engaged in demagogic name-calling, his detractors can accurately claim he started it.
If the United States is attacked again by terrorists, Giuliani's bullying personality may come back into fashion. But for now it seems out of sync with the electorate. The subtext of his campaign—"The only thing we have to use is fear itself"—doesn't have the same ring as Franklin Roosevelt's original version.
Americans voters usually prefer sunny personalities like FDR and Ronald Reagan. Even Nixon got elected in 1968 by pretending that he was a new man. Giuliani is trying to do the same, smiling a lot and playing kissy-face with his wife. Unfortunately for him, the man on those radio tapes will now be a permanent part of the record.
As any New Yorker knows, that's the real Rude-y.