By Terence Samuel
|David ButowCorbis Saba for USN&WR|
or years, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani seemed a perfect fit for the city he served: smart, brash, and contentious. During his tenure as mayor, from 1994 to 2002, even cynics conceded that the city seemed to be working better. But the accomplishments always came with an edge; Giuliani never suffered critics lightly. At particularly ferocious moments, beads of sweat would even appear on his upper lip, and he'd use his right hand to wipe them away while blasting hapless opponents.
Gradually, the New York attitude caught up with him. "The mayor's constant public bullying of those who disagree with him has begun to trouble even his strong supporters," wrote the New York Times in 1995. By April 1999, Giuliani's approval rating had dropped to 40 percent, and a year later, his failing marriage had become a daily tabloid soap opera.
But Giuliani seemed transformed by September 11. In a poignant moment captured by the HBO documentary In Memoriam: New York City 9/11/01, Giuliani looked skyward that morning and saw a body falling from the World Trade Center. He covered his mouth with his right hand, except that this time he was battling tears, not sweat.
In the aftermath, Giuliani found a language that spoke to all the emotions coursing through the national psyche. It was a blend of outrage and anguish, determination and reassurance. "The eyes of the world were on him, and he was out there helping us heal," says Rep. Tom Davis, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
In February, Giuliani was made an honorary knight by Queen Elizabeth, and this spring he accepted an invitation to be the high school graduation speaker in Shanksville, Pa., where the fourth hijacked plane crashed on September 11. In March, Giuliani was the headliner at the House Republican campaign committee's spring fundraiser in Washington. D.C., which produced a record $7.5 million for GOP candidates. These days, Rudy Giuliani "is the Good Housekeeping seal of approval," says Davis. "He has no negatives."