Against the “greedhead Giuliani” theory

When he dropped off the ISG, he was acting out of political cowardice, not greed.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no brief for Rudy Giuliani. But I find it really hard to believe that Giuliani dropped off the Iraq Study Group because he was too greedy to give up the speaking dates.

Of course, I also don’t believe that he selflessly decided to forgo the opportunity to burnish his national security cred in the run-up to the election lest his presence “politicize” a process run largely by Jim Baker. But if I had to guess which of Giuliani’s ruling vices was on display, my money would be on ambition and cowardice, not greed.

True, the fact that he decided to join ISG after he was already contemplating a run for the Presidency makes nonsense out of his claim that he dropped off to avoid politicization; why get on in the first place, then? (And of course that claim is also inconsistent with Giuliani’s resignation letter to James Baker, which simply pleads “previous time commitments.”)

But, by the same token, when Giuliani agreed to join the ISG he was already well launched on his career of exploiting the memory of 9/11 for boatloads of money. It’s hard to believe that it was news to Giuliani that ISG would have meetings, or that the meetings would conflict with speaking dates. And it wasn’t as if he’d suddenly discovered that he had a narrow time-window in which to make his pile; he’d already been cashing in on the “America’s Mayor” shtick ever since he left office in 2002.

What seems much more likely is that Giuliani joined the ISG because he thought it would help him in his quest for the Presidency, and then dropped off when he figured out that it would hurt him instead. Maybe he was quick enough &#8212 I never claimed the man wasn’t shrewd &#8212 to figure out before the rest of us that the ISG would come down on a position that Bush, and more important the Republican primary voting base, wouldn’t swallow. That made him decide to distance himself from the ISG by accepting rival speaking dates. Then when Baker said “Start showing up or quit,” Giuliani quit, with a sigh of relief. The Republican base will tolerate someone with no coherent position on Iraq, or someone who doesn’t know for Shi’ite about the actual problem of Islamist terrorism, as long as he makes it clear he purely loves killin’ him a buncha A-rabs, but if Rudy’s signature were on the ISG report Mitt Romney would wrap it around his neck: “my opponent, who seems to think that talking is a good response to terrorism …”

Rudy saw the bullet coming, and he ducked it. No, this explanation isn’t any more creditable to Giuliani than the “greedhead” theory, but it’s more in keeping with his character.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: