- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2001

When Winston Churchill became prime minister of Britain in May 1940, he was able to do something his unfortunate predecessor, Neville Chamberlain, could not. The Labor Party trusted Churchill because he had steadfastly opposed Chamberlain's appeasement of Adolf Hitler. So, Labor agreed to form a national government and suspend competitive elections until the war ended. But the party, however, reserved the right to pull out of the coalition government at any time of its choosing. It exercised that right immediately after V-E day, and won a landslide victory in July 1945. Clement Attlee, deputy prime minister in the wartime government, became the new prime minister. Unity not politics had helped Britain stave off defeat.

The point to this history lesson is that what was intelligent even essential policy for Britain in its hour of crisis might well be followed by New York City in its hour of crisis. New York voters ought to think hard about letting a great two-term mayor like Rudy Giuliani retire to private life after demonstrating the kind of municipal leadership we haven't seen since the madcap days of Fiorello LaGuardia.

The mayor, whose second term expires Dec. 31, is barred by a term-limits law from running again. But New York City's current crisis will not end with the city's primary elections next Tuesday, nor with the upcoming general election. Mr. Giuliani's sterling leadership since the Sept. 11 bombings of the World Trade Center has, according to an Associated Press report, prompted calls for emergency legislation to extend his term. The legislature and Gov. George Pataki would have to enact a new law to extend Mr. Giuliani's term. They should. Partisan politics at a tragic moment like this should give way to proven leadership. The normally unflappable London Economist said Mr. Giuliani "was an inspirational figure" throughout the crisis.

New York City's tragedy demands an experienced leader, whom New York voters have trusted twice in municipal elections. It is no time for amateurs.

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