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Andrew Kirtzman: New York City after Rudy Giuliani

Andrew Kirtzman has covered Rudy Giuliani for seven years as a reporter for New York One's 24-hour news network, and was with him at the World Trade Center on September 11. Kirtzman is the author of a 1999 biography, "Rudy Giuliani: Emperor of the City," which has just been republished to include a chapter about the recent events of Giuliani's life.

CNN: Good day, Andrew Kirtzman and welcome to Newsroom.

ANDREW KIRTZMAN: I'm totally happy to be here. Thanks very much. I've been trying to keep my head above water, both because we just had an election the other day, and because I wrote a new chapter to my book, "Rudy Giuliani: Emperor of the City." That came about because I was with Giuliani the morning of September 11th, and kind of experienced that whole ordeal with him, and felt a major need to write about it. The result is the paperback that just came out this week.

CNN: Michael Bloomberg was at least 15 points behind in the polls prior to September 11. Now he's the next mayor of New York City. What role did Rudy Giuliani have in victory?

KIRTZMAN: Giuliani is majorly responsible for the election of Michael Bloomberg. He waited until about 10 days before the election to endorse Bloomberg. At the time, Bloomberg was running 16 points behind in the polls, even after spending $40 million. But being a billionaire, Bloomberg was able to take that Giuliani endorsement, fashion two television commercials out of it, and plaster the airwaves with it for the next week and a half. Bloomberg's popularity just rocketed.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Does Giuliani have future political ambitions that you are aware of that have come about as a result of the events of September 11?

KIRTZMAN: He's always had kind of a secret desire to be president, since he was a teenager. His problem is that there's already a president, and that president is a Republican. Since September 11, I really think that Giuliani has become presidential material, but the reality out there is that there's no room for him, yet.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: What is Giuliani going to do next?

KIRTZMAN: That's a good question. He's got a $3 million book deal with Talk Miramax Books, and he's got to turn out two books because of that. But otherwise, the biggest guessing game in the city now is whether he'll join the Bush administration, or just kind of wait for this mayor to stumble, so he can run for the job again in four years.

CNN: How do you explain Rudy Giuliani's unprecidented popularity since Sept. 11?

KIRTZMAN: You have to remember that for most of September 11, George W. Bush was not in contact with the American people, and it was Giuliani who was the face of leadership, not only in New York, but all over America. That image of Giuliani telling people that things were under control, but also leveling with the public in a very honest way, and a very compassionate way, has been burned into the American psyche. It's something that I write about extensively in my book. He's become an American hero and kind of a father figure, at a time when people feel the need for a savior.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Do you think that Giuliani's performance as mayor has been overrated because of Sept. 11th events?

KIRTZMAN: I think a lot of his excesses have been forgotten because of the World Trade Center crisis. His ruthlessness, his paranoia, his kind of tenuous relationship with the first amendment -- it's all been really marginalized, because he was so brilliant during a huge crisis.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: New York City has had a surge in popularity with the down turn in crime, etc. Can the new mayor keep this going in the right direction?

KIRTZMAN: It's a very good question. Giuliani, to New Yorkers, came to symbolize their own personal security. The major question pre-September 11 was who could keep that going? Bloomberg won, partially because he identifies himself so aggressively with Giuliani's policies, to the point that he promised to keep Giuliani's police commissioner on. But Bloomberg is a political neophyte and has only worked in finance. He's a major unknown.

CNN: What happened with the Hispanic vote in this election and what will it mean for the Democratic party in New York?

KIRTZMAN: The Democratic party of New York City is having a nervous breakdown this week. Freddy Ferrer lost the Democratic primary run off to Mark Green, and was so bitter about what he felt were racist tactics used by Green, that he and his supporters kind of poisoned the atmosphere for Green in the minority community. Half of all Hispanics ended up voting for Bloomberg. So, someone has got to pull that party together, and it is very unclear whether that person exists.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Mr. Kirtzman, if Rudy had presidential aspirations, would the Republican Party support him in light of his performance after 9/11?

KIRTZMAN: Giuliani's political advisors have always argued that his law and order credentials would supercede his liberal positions on abortion and gay rights in the Republican party. But I think the consensus pre-September 11th was that was wishful thinking. Now, when it comes to thinking about Giuliani, all bets are off. As the New York Times said yesterday, he's been elevated to "civic sainthood." You're not just dealing with a politician, you're dealing with a saint.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Would Bill Clinton ever run for mayor?

KIRTZMAN: Being mayor of New York City is not nearly as glamorous as being president. You have to wake up in the middle of the night and go to fires. You're much closer to the ground being mayor than being president. Your hands get a lot dirtier. I think Clinton would be insane to want that job.

CNN: Going back to Bloomberg--what kind of mayor is he expected to be? Is he truly the right person to help New York City recover from the September 11 events?

KIRTZMAN: New Yorkers bought his message, that the city is about to have an economic crisis, and you needed a businessman to solve it. But this is a guy who doesn't know where the bathroom is in City Hall. He doesn't have a day's worth of government experience. He really just started studying the issues fairly recently. He's a totally untested quantity. For a reporter, it's a fascinating story, almost like a movie, billionaire business titan elected mayor of New York City during its worst crisis.

CNN: Do you have any closing comments for us today?

KIRTZMAN: It's been an extraordinary last few months, and I think that if I were not able to sit down and pour it all out in writing for my book, I think I would have gone insane. There was just so much to kind of digest, and it was a genuinely traumatic experience, being so close to the Trade Center collapse, and being with Giuliani as he dealt with it, that writing the book was a catharsis, and was really a labor of love. If I could just end with a crass plug, I don't want people to go out and buy the hardcover copy of the book, because they'll get gypped. The chapter about Giuliani and the World Trade Center is only in the paperback, which came out last week. It's called "Rudy Giuliani: Emperor of the City."

CNN: Thank you for joining us today, Andrew Kirtzman.

KIRTZMAN: Thank you.

Andrew Kirtzman joined via telephone from New York. CNN provided a typist. This is an edited transcript of the interview, which took place on Thursday, November 08, 2001.


• Andrew Kirtzman Bio -

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