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Sunday
Apr222007

Why Giuliani makes sense for what comes next

With former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani consistently leading early polls for the Republican presidential nomination, pundits have spilled an ocean of ink concerning his electability.

Having recently sat down with the man, let me tell you why I consider Giuliani a candidate wholly appropriate for our times.

As someone who spends a lot of time thinking and writing about globalization and security, I was brought in recently by the Giuliani campaign to discuss these topics with the mayor.

This is standard practice as presidential candidates gear up, and Giuliani's camp is the fourth I've visited in the last year.

I'll make no attempt to describe the mayor's positions on anything we discussed because that's his job as candidate. Let me instead give you a sense of what it was like to engage him over a couple of hours on my areas of expertise. I've interacted with numerous government, military and corporate leaders over the past couple decades, so I'm able to draw some comparisons.

First off, Giuliani is a serious and wide-ranging reader, not just a skimmer of "bullets" prepared by his staff.

When he reads your stuff, you better remember what you wrote because this guy really absorbs material.

Second, Hizzoner engages you directly versus having his subordinates draw you out. Typically, you brief the senior player only to have staffers toss out most of the follow-on questions.

With Giuliani, you lay out your basic argument briefly, and then it's off to the races. As an experienced prosecutor, the questions flow quickly and to the point.

Third, the former mayor's been around this world. No matter where the conversation wandered, Giuliani had personal contacts or experience or knowledge to draw upon. Better yet, when something came up that he didn't know, the former mayor was quick to admit it and toss out questions that drove further exploration.

Fourth, Giuliani likes intellectual debate but doesn't need to dominate. Everyone around the table has the same opportunity to chime in, but don't expect to be asked. So the atmosphere is competitive but open. For a famous egoist, the former mayor doesn't mind being interrupted, I was surprised to find. With a lot of big names, that's strictly verboten in such venues.

Fifth, the former mayor seems unusually focused on how to get things rolling as opposed to where things will ultimately end up. Many senior leaders focus on defining goals to the n-th degree while short-circuiting the how-to-get-there discussion, but Giuliani clearly likes the how as much as the what.

Lastly, as veteran politicians go, when viewed up close, Giuliani comes off as one happy warrior. He gives off neither the "angry outsider" nor the "appointed by fate" vibe. Instead, he seems genuinely thrilled at the prospect of tackling a lot of tough issues on a scale even grander than those found in New York City.

The man will never sport a tan, but he's definitely relaxed and ready.

One reason the current race seems so wide open is that - in historical terms - sitting senators have a very hard time getting elected. Typically, Americans choose their chief executives from the ranks of governors and wartime heroes, two life experiences that naturally display desired leadership characteristics.

In this age of globalization and our long war against radical extremism, former mayor Giuliani is unusually credentialed to serve as president.

Major coastal cities are the dominant nodes of our global economy. Not only do they attract roughly half the world's population, such megalopolises serve as primary flow points for commerce and immigration through their financial markets, seaports and air hubs.

So, whether you're talking about culture clashes, border security, legal compliance, systems integration or economic competitiveness, nowhere do globalization's major challenges concentrate themselves more than in coastal mega-cities.

In this long war against radical extremism, we can focus on killing bad guys or making our nation more resilient.

The former task takes us to the world's most off-grid locations, while the latter forces us to strengthen our biggest connections to the world's networks.

Ask yourself what's more important: fewer criminals or less crime?

As the mayor who resurrected New York City across the 1990s only to guide it masterfully through the system perturbation that was 9/11, Rudy Giuliani is uniquely qualified for what comes next: the recasting of America as globalization's most resilient pillar.

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