Sunday’s New York Times went from positioning race-baiter Al Sharpton as a credible voice of anti-Trump dissent, to hailing the wisdom of another liberal MSNBC host: Chris Matthews. Matthews' horrified reaction to Trump-supporting Rudy Giuliani led off a contemptuous profile of the former NYC mayor, written by the eccentric reporter Alan Feuer: “America’s Mayor Rolls the Dice.” Feuer threw around psychiatric slurs: "Something had gone horribly wrong with Mr. Giuliani. There seemed no other way to explain it."
There was a moment during Rudolph W. Giuliani’s election night appearance on MSNBC when his exasperated host, Chris Matthews, seemed to speak for many of the former New York mayor’s longtime fans. With the polls about to close, Mr. Giuliani had gone on the air in a final bid to plug his candidate, Donald J. Trump, and as he had throughout this extravagantly nasty campaign, he went after Hillary Clinton with a less-than-verifiable line of attack.
Mrs. Clinton, as he put it, was an untrustworthy character who had committed a “significant number of crimes,” let her maid handle classified material and continually lied about her health. By somewhere in the middle of this bluster, Mr. Matthews had had enough.
“You’re a smart guy,” he interrupted. “You’re a smart politician. I’ve known you forever. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with you until this campaign.”
In these last few ugly months, many people, particularly people in New York, appeared to arrive at a similar conclusion: Something had gone horribly wrong with Mr. Giuliani. There seemed no other way to explain it. Why else had “America’s mayor,” a moderate conservative who had previously lent support to gay rights, gun control and open immigration, gone to work as a hatchet man for a man perceived to be a wall-building, race-baiting nativist?
Seriously? Liberal Manhattanites have long loathed Giuliani, even during his successful years as mayor when the crime rate plummeted.
To Mr. Giuliani’s critics, the answer was obvious: incipient mental illness. But to several of his allies and other observers, what struck some as insanity was actually a calculated gamble -- one that paid off handsomely on Tuesday night.
Now possibly the next attorney general, Mr. Giuliani, 72, aligned himself with Mr. Trump in a last-ditch grasp at influence and relevance, according to those who know him. While his sometimes dubious defense of Mr. Trump might have seemed an aberration from his 40-year career, it was better understood, they said, as its logical extension.
Feuer downplayed the ferocity of the Crown Heights riots.
Mr. Dinkins won by a narrow margin in a race in which 70 percent of white voters chose Mr. Giuliani, but the two met again in an even more divisive election in 1993. This one was a kind of proto-Trumpian affair -- Make New York Great Again -- in which Mr. Giuliani played on white anxieties over the spread of drugs and Mr. Dinkins’s equivocal response to the Crown Heights riots in 1991, which pitted blacks and Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn against each other.
The campaign kicked off in September 1992 with Mr. Giuliani presiding at a raucous rally of beer-drinking, mostly white police officers, some of whom stormed the steps of City Hall and then shut down the Brooklyn Bridge, holding signs that assailed Mr. Dinkins with racist slurs (“Dump the washroom attendant”). It was sufficiently disturbing that Bill Lynch, who ran Mr. Dinkins’s campaign, compared Mr. Giuliani to a figure who has re-emerged today in support of Mr. Trump: David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
Despite his attempts at governance, Mr. Giuliani’s second term was more or less an extended series of tantrums. The targets of his outbursts were numerous and varied: artists, jaywalkers, ferret owners, the state of Virginia (which refused to accept the city’s garbage), local black leaders (who refused to accept his approach to fighting crime), even his second wife, Donna Hanover (who learned on television that they were getting a divorce).
Then came Sept. 11, which, by all accounts, was Mr. Giuliani’s finest hour. Rising to the challenge of the disaster, he stood at ground zero, caked in dust, evincing leaderly calm in his Fire Department baseball cap. Two weeks after the attacks, with bodies still emerging from the rubble, he stood with a rainbow array of Democrats, Republicans, rabbis, priests and imams at a prayer service at Yankee Stadium, where, defying the nation’s jingoistic mood, he delivered an encomium to unity and hope.
After a first-night speaking slot at the Republican Convention in 2004 (where he employed the phrase “global terror” in some form at least a dozen times), Mr. Giuliani entered the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, a multimillion-dollar catastrophe that netted him exactly one delegate. In 2010, he briefly considered the idea of running for governor of New York. After that, he settled into a comfortable, if marginal, existence on the right-wing fund-raising circuit and as a curmudgeon appearing regularly on Fox News.
Feuer tried to bury Giuliani’s NYC political career, as the Times has tried to do on many occasions.
Another question is where Mr. Giuliani goes from here. In this, too, it seems, good people can disagree. Some of his old colleagues said it was unlikely that he would be received again into New York City’s political circles after actively consorting with a candidate who was so beloved by the ethnocentric right, and who was repeatedly accused of sexual assault.