Rudy Guiliani

He was a rock, but he managed to be compassionate, too
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Rudolph Giuliani had a press conference just before Christmas and indulged himself one last time. Days away from stepping down as Mayor of New York City after eight years, he wanted to remind us one last time what a wonderful job he had done.

He is quite shameless. When New York magazine put adverts on the sides of the city buses a couple of years ago saying it was the one good thing in the city that the mayor couldn't claim credit for, he sued to have them removed.

A strict Roman Catholic who almost became a priest as a young man, he pioneered the politics of intolerance. Crime was not tolerated, but neither were critics or political opponents.

While getting the prostitutes and pimps from Times Square became part of the Giuliani legacy, the man himself titillated the city by publicly dumping his wife of several years while escorting another woman to functions. Nor did he do himself any political favours when he dithered over running for the US Senate against Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2000, before finally accepting the challenge and then abruptly dropping out. He did, we should say, have a good health reason: Mr Giuliani has been battling prostate cancer.

And yet, the city will miss the man. As he said at the press conference, he oversaw a 62 per cent drop in serious crime, a halving of the number of city residents on welfare and a nearly 50 per cent rise in personal income.

And then came 11 September. It seemed like Giuliani had only been in the job all that time to be the guy looking after us then. He managed that rare thing of seeming to be a rock but compassionate, too.

So where will he go next? Could he be President Giuliani one day? Surely he is too convoluted a man for that. But then America has had convoluted presidents before. Quite recently, they did.