As a former senior deputy to Rudy Giuliani, Joe Lhota has frequently been asked about Giuliani and Lhota’s time as his budget director and deputy mayor. Lhota speaks highly of Giuliani and, as the de Blasio v. Lhota election has at times morphed into a rerun of Dinkins v. Giuliani, enthusiastically promoted the Giuliani legacy. Giuliani was in many ways an extremely successful mayor, overseeing a dramatic improvement in public safety and more broadly restoring the sense that the City was governable. Lhota rightly extolls those accomplishments, fairly claiming a degree of credit for them and arguing that he will govern in that mold.
Lhota seems largely unable to simultaneously deal with the negative aspect of Giuliani’s legacy, however, muddling the effectiveness of his pitch to voters from the Giuliani era. Giuliani was a powerful personality who belittled and excoriated those who opposed him, often looking like a bully. As his term drew to a close he was washed up as a political leader, the public exhausted by the endless operatic drama and glad to see him go. Redeemed by his extraordinary response to the September 11th attacks, Giuliani’s negatives have been largely ignored since he left office. They’re present in the 2013 mayoral discussion however, both overtly and beneath the surface, generating a visceral rejection in many voters. Lhota appears unwilling or unable to deal with that negative reaction, but unless he can better separate the positive and negative strands of the Giuliani legacy Lhota seems unlikely to fully capitalize on the positive Giuliani legacy.
I asked Lhota about it today at a press conference in East Flatbush.
Update – Personality Glimpses:
Here are two very brief clips displaying a bit of Lhota’s personality. In the first, he brusquely dismisses a question asking how he would have managed his campaign differently (noting in fairness to Lhota, election day is still 12 days away). In the second, a brief quip illustrates his dry humor.
Update #2 – Full Press Conference:
Here is video of the full press conference.