- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 9, 2005

A thousand days hence, more or less, Republicans will assemble at a national convention to nominate their presidential candidate to run against New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, or whoever becomes the Democratic candidate. Rudy Giuliani ought to be the Republican opponent. Three reasons:

1. He can win.

2. He is the right man to take on the war against terrorism.

3. It’s time to break the New York mayoral jinx. The man to break that jinx is Rudy Giuliani.

In the history of New York City, no mayor has ever risen in the political realm once his term is over. That’s the jinx. Maureen Dowd, the New York Times columnist, quoted David Garth, Mr. Giuliani’s campaign manager eight years ago, as hoping that Mr. Giuliani “might be the one to break the cliche that mayors from New York never make it to higher office.”

The history of New York City mayors demonstrates an iron fact: When their terms of office are over their political careers are over as well. Proof: Fiorello La Guardia to Ed Koch, highly visible and successful New York mayors, were finished politically when they left City Hall.

According to the London Economist, the Republican Party’s main “crowd-pullers,” after President Bush, are Rudy Giuliani, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The California governor is barred by reason of his foreign birth from running for president.

Were it not for New York City’s mayoral term limits law, Mr. Giuliani, the subject of a new biography, “The Prince of the City: New York and the Genius of American Life” by Fred Siegel, after two terms in office, could have run for a third term.

Does Mr. Giuliani have a chance against the jinx?There is something about the job of New York’s chief magistrate that is political poison. And it doesn’t matter whether the occupant of City Hall is a Tammany hack, a populist reformer or a squeaky-clean Republican.

La Guardia’s career demonstrates that the New York mayor’s job is the poison pill of American politics. Here was a man, a maverick Republican, who killed Tammany Hall, ran successfully three times on nine different party tickets, was a showman, a wit, scandal-free, charismatic, a public official who handled personal publicity brilliantly and unconventionally. He had been a popular congressman. Had he stayed in Congress, who knows where he might have landed? But instead he became mayor of New York and his eternal reward? He got an airport named after him. Mayor Jimmy Walker was forced out of office by then-Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt and ended up as arbiter of New York dress industry disputes. And Mr. Koch? When last heard from he was doing commercials for the A&E; TV channel.

In the 1994 New York gubernatorial election, Mr. Giuliani followed La Guardia’s tradition. He supported the incumbent liberal Democrat, Gov. Mario Cuomo, over his fellow Republican George Pataki who, unfortunately for Mr. Giuliani, beat Mr. Cuomo. Mr. Giuliani had ample precedent for violating party loyalty. Mayor La Guardia supported President Roosevelt against Republican presidential candidates. La Guardia was a dyed-in-the-wool New Dealer. Nevertheless, it did him no good with a Democratic Congress or with a New Deal president. President Roosevelt ignored his pleas to let him get into World War II as a general, a colonel, a Cabinet member, anything.

As for Mr. Giuliani, New York’s 107th mayor, he did a remarkable job in establishing a successful workfare program, reducing crime, reducing the number of welfare queens. Under Mr. Giuliani, the city’s quality of life improved and he showed that ungovernable New York City was governable. And after September 11, 2001 he rallied New Yorkers, a feat that won him global acclaim.

New York’s City Hall may be the tomb of the politically ambitious. Yet, paradoxically, there is no end of mayoral candidates. A New York mayor can become a national figure — Mr. Koch was, so was La Guardia — but somehow the moment they leave the confines of the Empire State, that’s the end of their electability to a higher office. At least, so far.

Why is this so? Beats me. Mayors of other big cities have moved up the ladder electorally. Buffalo Mayor Grover Cleveland became President Cleveland in 1885. Hubert Humphrey went from mayor of Minneapolis to senator from Minnesota, to vice-president under Lyndon Johnson and, in 1968, unsuccessful presidential candidate against Richard M. Nixon. Sen. Richard Lugar was mayor of Indianapolis, a small city with no real urban problems, but he is one of the most powerful leaders of the U.S. Senate. Pete Wilson went from San Diego mayor to senator and then governor of California. But the New York mayor’s job seems to be the dead end of American politics.

Well, Rudy Giuliani is no longer mayor of New York City. Does the jinx linger on? I hope not.

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

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