A 'Straight Shooter' Or A Temperament Problem?

Until recently, discussion about which GOP candidate might be temperamentally unsuited for the presidency has revolved around Sen. John McCain, who has a short fuse. But with former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani now poised to run, questions about the Big T are also hovering over Hizzoner.

Giuliani gets mostly high marks as mayor--for cutting crime and welfare and for heroic leadership after 9/11. But New Yorkers also remember his thirst for power and bouts of unwarranted nastiness. After 9/11, the mayor briefly weighed challenging the city constitution that barred a third term. "He was hellbent on doing it," says one former aide from this period, who wouldn't be named for fear of retaliation. McCain was among those who talked Giuliani out of it, arguing that he'd be better off going out on top.

Other examples of temperamentally questionable behavior go back more than a decade. After Police Commissioner William Bratton's innovative crime-fighting landed him on the cover of Time magazine in 1994, Giuliani sacked him, apparently for getting too much publicity. When New York Magazine placed ads on buses in 1997 referring to the publication as "Possibly the only good thing in New York Rudy hasn't taken credit for," Giuliani leaned on the transit authority to take the ads down. A judge upheld the magazine's free-speech rights.

A critical new documentary, "Giuliani Time," chronicles the mayor's tone-deaf response to local police shootings. For instance, after police killed Patrick Dorismond, an unarmed Haitian-American, in 2000, the mayor improperly released Dorismond's juvenile arrest record, bizarrely said that an earlier argument between Dorismond and his girlfriend might have been a factor in his death and refused to express sympathy to his family. Giuliani later apologized. The same year, he used a press conference to inform his second wife, Donna Hanover, that he wanted a divorce. (She responded with her own announcement that her husband had been having an affair with an aide for "several years.")

A Giuliani campaign spokesperson, Katie Levinson, says his temperament is a plus: "Rudy is a straight shooter." But will a less flattering version of the personality issue be used against him in debates? Says an aide to one rival, insisting on anonymity for himself and his candidate: "You just have to wait and watch."

Join the Discussion