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From Barnes & NobleHe Did It His Way
My ears were still ringing as I sat down in a deserted newsroom, closed my eyes, and tried to think about nothing for a brief moment. It was two o'clock in the morning on November 2, 1993, two hours since a raspy-voiced Rudy Giuliani appeared on the stage of the Hilton Hotel and claimed victory in his campaign to seize the mayoralty from David Dinkins. For the first time all night there was quiet, except for the sound of a young staffer a few feet away from me, quietly sobbing at her desk.
I opened my eyes to watch her, an angelic-looking beauty barely out of grad school, dissolved in tears. That night, in the grand ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel, she'd watched the city's kind and grandfatherly mayor slide into defeat. All the idealists he'd brought to power watched as the dream borne of the election of the city's first black mayor came to a dismal end.
I'd been two blocks north and one block west that night, reporting from Giuliani headquarters. Cops, firemen -- anyone with a gripe about Dinkins -- stood around waiting nervously for the results. When a giant screen flashed a photograph of Rudy Giuliani and the words "PROJECTED WINNER" beneath it, the hushed crowd suddenly erupted in a deafening roar.
In the dramatic currents that were sweeping the city that night, it didn't seem unusual that an aspiring journalist, of all people, should be weeping. That night, the hopes and dreams of millions of New Yorkers, many of them black, were vanquished.
But for the rest of us, something profound was happening in New York City. Rudy Giuliani was promising that he would not just govern New York City but save it. And the city was dying.
For the next seven years, I watched with amazement as Giuliani did battle, sometimes with his enemies, often with himself. A journalist finds a subject who captivates him just a few times in a lifetime, and the new mayor soon grabbed hold of my attention, and my imagination. I didn't realize for years that I would feel the need to sit down and write a book about all I'd seen, but in retrospect the decision seemed inevitable.
Often, sitting with other reporters at the mayor's daily press briefing, I was less a journalist than a mesmerized spectator, blown away by the audacity, anger, and energy of a bizarre yet brilliant man determined to change the city. When Giuliani announced before a packed room of reporters and television cameramen that he'd decided to buck his own party's gubernatorial candidate and endorse Mario Cuomo, a villain to the Republicans, I almost began to cry from the enormity of the moment. I was like an opera fan surrendering to the bliss of a soaring aria: I was mesmerized by the drama of it all.
Giuliani specialized in moments like these. He enjoyed the build-up, the fevered speculation over his intentions, and the bombshell press conferences that would end these mini-dramas. It was like that at the end of his run for the Senate against Hillary Clinton. He seemed to take a perverse joy from self-destructing in so public a way, proudly parading his flame Judith Nathan up Second Avenue while his wife grieved over their deteriorating marriage. When he announced his withdrawal, he basked in the moment, even as his career was being -- in all likelihood -- irreparably damaged.
Former Mayor Ed Koch, who initially admired him, liked to say that Giuliani would never be a great mayor because he lacked the heart of a great mayor. But from a journalist's perspective, Giuliani was a great subject, no matter how flawed he was as a leader.