Breakfast with Rudy

This morning, I was fortunate enough to enjoy an intimate breakfast with former Mayor of New York City Rudy Guiliani over Lou’s coffee and muffins. Sponsored by the College Republicans and organized by the Review’s own Managing Editor, Melanie Wilcox, the event was quite small, with just five members of the Review staff (including myself), as well as the President of the College Republicans, Mayor Guiliani, his senior political advisor/unofficial Campaign Manager Wayne Semprini, and a few other men who were either friends or a security detail (or both).

Guiliani came off as quite down-to-earth, chatting about his friendship with former President George W. Bush, as well as his transition from practicing law to politics. He explained the fundamental difference between the two arts, saying, “If someone asks me as a lawyer how I intend to reform education in New York, I say, ‘Merit-based pay for teachers, institute school vouchers, get rid of tenure…’ If someone asks me how I intend to reform education in New York as a politician, I say ‘Look. I have two children. And apart from their health, their education is my utmost priority…’ “

In short, Guiliani was charismatic and jovial, but also perceptive and willing to respond to our difficult questions. For instance, I explained to him that although my parents are avid Yankees fans and conservative Republicans, my mother considers him to be “weak on social issues.” Thus, I asked him what should tell her, seeing as her concern was probably one of the greatest obstacles prevent Guiliani from gaining nation-wide conservative support in the 2007 primary.

He responded, “Your mother thinks that, perhaps rightfully so, because I am pro-choice. But understand: I do not support abortion personally and I believe it is ethically wrong. Nevertheless, I do not believe it to be the government’s job to dictate what a woman can and cannot do regarding the most intimate decisions about her body.” He also noted that he was among the first to sign the Domestic Partnership Bill, and was very proud of it, saying “the government likewise has no business dictating the minutiae of anyone’s personal relationships, homosexual or not.” Both answers were, to say the least, deliberately and deftly diplomatic.

When I asked him about his potential entry into the 2011 Republican Primary, Mayor Guiliani said, “I’m certainly considering it. I’ll only run if I think I can win, but I’ll definitely decide by August.” He also noted that “New Hampshire demands a lot of personal attention” (I mean, he made it up to Hanover so he’s clearly dedicated) and that if he were to run in the upcoming election, the biggest change he’d make from his 2007 campaign would be his budgeting of time. “I spent 70% of my time in 2007 just fundraising, and only 30% campaigning,” the Mayor explained. “You need money, sure, but New Hampshire people especially, they want to look you in the eye.”

Later in the day, Mayor Guiliani gave a talk in the Top of the Hop, organized again by our Managing Editor, Ms. Wilcox and former US Ambassador to Bermuda/Dartmouth Tuck Professor, Gregory Slayton. While the Mayor’s initial talk was not particularly illuminating and at times even simplistic (oratory may not be his greatest strength), Guiliani excelled during the student/faculty question and answer period that followed. Overall, he came off as very personable, with sound conservative views and a comfortable ability to articulate them. His visit, on the whole, was definitely a success, and its positivity may have encouraged him about his prospects as a Republican candidate in the upcoming primaries.

The only notable person missing from the day’s festivities was College President Jim Yong Kim, who, as one professor put it, “could not take five minutes out of his day to get photographed shaking hands with one of the ten most famous people in America.” President Kim is rapidly becoming notorious—amongst students, faculty, and staff alike—for being detached, impersonal, and out-of-touch, and his absence from every single event with Mayor Guiliani today certainly did not mitigate that negative impression on campus.

Nonetheless, the events were fun, well-attended, and gracefully executed. The Review staff is grateful to Ms. Wilcox, Professor Slayton, Mayor Guiliani, and the College Republicans for the time, effort, and dedication it took to organize so successful a visit.

 

–Georgia Travers