- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 27, 2001

Algernon Charles Swinburne titled his poem, dedicated to the memory of the French poet, Charles Baudelaire,
"Ave atque Vale " or "Hail and Farewell":
"For thee, O now a silent soul, my brother,
Take at my hands this garland, and farewell."
I re-dedicate these lines to one of New York City's great, possibly the greatest, mayor the city has ever seen. Time Magazine has named him the Person of the Year. I nominate him at New York's Mayor of the Century.
As a born-and-bred New York City resident, my memory of New York mayors goes back a long way as far back as Jimmy Walker, a corrupt Tammany ward heeler with a charming personality and great wit. As a young assemblyman during the 1920s, he explained his favorable vote in the New York legislature for some dreadful bill with these unforgettable words: "There comes a time in every politician's life when he must rise above principle." (Mr. Walker clarified his appointment of his mayoral predecessor, the cretinous John F. Hylan as a Children's Court judge: "It means that the children now can be tried by their peer.") Another Tammany hack, John P. O'Brien, when asked whom he would appoint as the city's new fire commissioner, told the press conference: "They haven't told me yet."
One of the few New York mayors who rose above the muck of municipal politics, achieved a national reputation and inspired a wonderful and eponymous Broadway musical was Fiorello H. La Guardia. But Mr. Giuliani tops them all, the good, the bad and the so-so.
Would I have felt the same way about Mr. Giuliani had it not been for September 11 and his inspiring leadership? Of course. During his eight years in office he transcended the normally fixed lines that divide liberals and conservatives on municipal issues. And he did this because he made the streets safe for people to walk on, because he reformed welfare, because he revived neighborhoods like Harlem and Brownsville, because he was incorruptible. When Mr. Giuliani took office in 1994, New York City was on the road to what Detroit had become, a city without a future, a disaster area.
"Mr. Giuliani has raised the bar," writes Professor Fred Siegel in the current New York Observer, "for what we expect of New York mayors. Before Mr. Giuliani, the conventional wisdom insisted that New York was ungovernable. New York's problems were said to be an expression of national problems, social trends, right-wing Republicans or a variety of other bogeymen. We know better now. He leaves office as 'America's Mayor'."
One big question remains: what of Mr. Giuliani's future? Can this talented leader break the jinx that has haunted the office of New York Mayor so no incumbent has ever risen to higher elective office? Mayors of other cities have been elected to higher office. Hubert Humphrey went from mayor of Minneapolis to senator from Minnesota, vice- president under Lyndon Johnson and an unsuccessful presidential candidate against Richard M. Nixon in 1968. Sen. Richard Lugar, Indiana Republican, was mayor of Indianapolis. Pete Wilson went from San Diego mayor to senator and a successful governor of California. Maybe there are other exceptions but they can't be significant. The New York mayor's job seems to be the dead end of American politics, the tomb of the politically ambitious, no matter how prominent they become nationally.
The New York City mayoralty is considered the second-most important elective office in the land. And when a mayor has had two terms, an unofficial term limits applies to further or higher elective office. For no other office in the land except the presidency has such 24/7 scrutiny. The mayor is a permanent target for investigative journalists, and in a megalopolis like New York there is always something to investigate, whether it's the police or fire departments, judges, the medical examiner, jail wardens or local school boards. Few other cities get the daily scrutiny the media give New York and with reason. New York is the country's cultural center. The media and book publishing giants, the stock exchanges, the big banks and corporate headquarters are concentrated in the borough of Manhattan. That's why it was Osama bin Laden's target.
Let's hope that Rudy breaks the jinx about New York City mayors. The country needs Rudy.

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times.


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