Is Rudy Ready For The Senate?

Over the past seven years, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has become known as the man who was tough enough to lower the city's crime rate. This reputation will make him a formidable candidate, if - as expected - he runs for the Senate against first lady Hillary Clinton.

Dan Rather recently spent time with Giuliani.

When Giuliani was first elected mayor in 1993, he made fighting crime his top priority. He and new police commissioner, William Bratton, accomplished this in an unusual way.

Instead of targeting only the worst offenders, they went after all law breakers, from porn peddlers to panhandlers. The idea was to stop small problems from becoming big ones, small crooks from becoming big timers. This theory of policing had never been tried in a city anywhere near as large as New York.

The results were staggering. Crime as a whole decreased by more than 50 percent. Murder decreased by 65 percent. New York became a model for police in the United States and around the world. Bratton even made the cover of Time magazine.

To read more about the policies and positions of Mayor Rudolph Guiliani, check out his official Web site.

This, to say the least, ticked off the mayor. To his critics and even some of his friends, this reaction revealed Giuliani's greatest flaw: what they call his uncontrollable ego. Among this group is Giuliani's former friend and supporter, ex-New York mayor Ed Koch.

"Most people believe that Bratton was driven out of office," Koch says. "He upset the mayor when he became the cover of Time magazine."

The mayor was upset, Koch says, because Bratton "was getting sun on his wings and the mayor doesn't want to share the sun." The mayor, however, said that Bratton decided on his own to quit.

Although the murder rate and some categories of crime been edging back up lately, New York still has a reputation as a safe city. The city long known as a morass of crime and bureaucracy is now widely hailed as well managed. Tourists, and their money, are pouring in.

Giuliani says his administration has given people new hope. "That's the most important accomplishment leadership can ever provide, which is to give people the sense of optimism that they can accomplish things that they can do, things that they didn't think they could do in the past," the mayor says.

"We've been able to do that for many many individual New Yorkers - restore their spirit of pride in the city, the spirit of accomplishment, even their willingness to try to solve some problems on their own that they used to look to government to solve before," he adds.

But in the last few years, some people, not only Democrats but some Republcans and others, have increasingly raised questions about Giuliani and how he has allowed police to handle minorities.

Two years ago, white cops took a black man - whom they had arrested for hitting a policeman - and sodomized him with a broomstick.

Last year, undercover cops killed an unarmed African immigrant, Amadou Diallo, in a barrage of 41 bullets. They said they thought he was reaching for a gun.

Black leaders accused Giuliani of supporting - even encouraging - a ruthless, even racist, police force. "The police feel that they can do what they want, and they will always be defended no matter what," says Reverend Calvin Butts, who among Guiliani critics is considered a moderate.

"So if you shoot at a man who is unarmed in the doorway of his home 41 times, it's all right because really all you did was shoot one of those people, one of those people of color, one of those immigrants from Africa," Butts says.

After the Diallo shooting, many groups staged protests. More than a thousand people were arrested in almost two months of demonstrations. Giuliani, in turn, summarily dismissed their complaints about police and refused to meet with black leaders.

After seven weeks of protest, the mayor finally met with black leaders. Giuliani defended his decision to wait, which he claims was not divisive.

"There are reasons why you meet and why you don't meet that have absolutely nothing to do with race," he says. "They have to do with good old-fashioned politics. You meet when you think you're going to accomplish something. You don't when you don't think you can accomplish something. You do that with a wide range of political figures."

Butts disagrees. "That's an uninformed insensitive brutal statement," he says of Giuliani's defense. "'It's not going to accomplish anything.' What do you mean by that? Nixon talked to China; Reagan talked with the Soviet Union. In the Middle East, the Israelis and the Palestinians are talking. What is he saying?"

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, a former Giuliani supporter, has recently become a critic.

While his opponents accuse him of racism, Giuliani says that he treats everyone equally. Koch, who recently wrote a book called A Giuliani, Nasty Man, agrees: "He's not a racist. It's just absolutely wrong. He is nasty but he's nasty to everybody." Koch says that the mayor is "mean spirited."

Others say he is inflexible and doesn't react well to criticism or dissent.

Giuliani sees it otherwise. "What I think is, I'm a very very strong debater," he says. "I actually enjoy dissent and disagreement, and enjoy debate, and learn a lot from it. But you have to be a strong personality to debate with me because when I debate, I'm back in the courtroom. So that can give the impression that I don't want debate."

Giuliani's latest dispute is over homeless people. When a vagrant hit a woman with a brick everal weeks ago, Giuliani retaliated by vowing to jail any homeless person who refused to go to shelters. "The streets do not exist in civilized cities for the purpose of people sleeping on them," he said at the time. "Bedrooms are for sleeping."

Another one of his current battles is about his stewardship of the New York City school system. If he runs, this will be a major issue in the Senate campaign. Clinton has already criticized the mayor for not improving the schools. The mayor insists it's not his fault.

Click here to visit the official Web site of first lady Hillary Clinton.

Of the school system, he said: "The whole system should be blown up and a new one should be put in its place." Giuliani says that this kind of rhetoric is not inflammatory but is instead the mark of a reformer. He compares this statement to Reagan's statement about the Soviet Union as an evil empire.

"Sometimes a political leader has to be the one to point out how bad things are in order to get the political support to radically change it," he says.

But with a probable Senate race in his future, Giuliani now is trying to tone down his image. He even has a children's book with his name on it and a campaign ad that touts his compassion in taking people off welfare.

But for Giuliani, there are no small battles, so he may have a hard time keeping up the nice guy image for long. It's this competitive attitude that may make the coming Senate race a political slugfest.

Broadcast story produced by Linda Martin; Web story by David Kohn;