Posted by: David Kiley on December 14, 2004
In this day of the well-known managing their images like brands, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has come to stand for something nationally. Can anyone tell me what it is?
Giuliani was a brand in decline at the end of 2001, a Mayor who was being rushed to the door. Then the tragedy of 9-11 happened. He stood tall, acted appropriately, rose to the occasion and went to all the funerals. He acted like any decent human being and office holder should. And for that, he was made a hero.
The Bush campaign used Giuliani as much as they could this year, wooing Democrats not persuaded by John Kerry that Bush was the only candidate who could really protect Americans. Giuliani, who is more socially liberal than even John Kerry, earned valuable political capital with the Bush White House by selling his integrity to a front runner. But that whoosh you heard this past weekend was Giuliani spending that capital faster than a Bronx lottery winner at The Sands.
Giuliani publically pronounced Bernard Kerik the best man for the job as Homeland Security Chief. And the Bush White House accepted Giuliani’s word. Why wouldn’t they? This was a Mayor who ran the prostitutes off 11th Avenue and Times Square after previous Mayors failed. He was the “hero” of 9-11, so Time Magazine proclaimed. As a U.S. Attorney, he led stock brokers on perp walks in broad daylight. And as head of a new investment banking firm, corporate clients will entrust him with hundreds of millions and rely on him to do due diligence and merger-acquisition deals. Surely, Giuliani’s word can be counted on.
Nope. For a personal brand to work, there has to be muscle on the bone and truth all around. Giuliani is shot on both. The former Mayor has been walking in front of a parade that found him since 9-12. That parade has just desserted him.
It's mystifying to me that people have been jawboning Giuliani as presidential timber for 2008. Until now. Even before the Kerik incident, can anyone tell me how a liberal New York City Mayor who has championed gay rights and marched in gay rights parades, admitted to cheating on his wife with a staff member while he was a sitting Mayor and had young impressionable children residing in the Mayor's mansion is supposed to win the Republican nomination for President in today political climate? How was that ever going to happen? Bill Frist and Jeb Bush would turn him into deli meat.
Even after the revelations of Kerik's sordid life, Giuliani has still said: "The irony is he is the best man for the job." That's a soundbite worth keeping for the 2008 primary. Morning radio jock Don Imus had the best line: "As Homeland Security chief, Kerik would have been responsible for keeping illegal aliens out of the country. He can't even keep them out of his own house!" That's a reference to Kerik copping to the misdemeanor of paying an illegal off the books as a nanny and not paying any Social Security taxes for her. This is the man Giuliani still stands behind as the best choice. Giuliani apparently recommended Kerik to the White House without doing five minutes of due diligence on the man. Perhaps he outsourced it.
Now that Giuliani's national political career is over, the question is what company needing financial/legal services is going to bypass all the choices out there for Giuliani's new firm? His friends might throw him business. But what responsible CEO is going to entrust his company to Giuliani now? He could run for Senate next time, and he might have enough juice to unseat Hillary Clinton. But I wouldn't bet on him to beat Eliott Spitzer for Governor. Giuliani is a brand that just got whacked.