Sunday, August 07, 2005

Back to the future?

I am reading Fred Siegel's delightful The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of American Life.

Siegel sets the stage this way. "Giuliani first saved the city from its own, apparently intractable, political pathologies well before he saved the city and country from the panic that could have followed the 9/11 attacks. Time and again, from reducing crime and welfare, to driving the mob out of the garbage industry and reforming City University, he achieved what the conventional wisdom had assumed was impossible. The third and by far the least known of his extraordinary accomplishments was to revive the idea of upward mobility for the poor in a city whose economy had been organized around servicing poverty."

Reading the early chapters, I confess that I had forgotten just how toxic liberal policies towards the cities were. Siegel reminds us of racial politics at its cynical worst, incited by armies of opportunists and economic know-nothings -- to name just the headliners.

Siegel demonstrates that Giuliano had the Machiavellian clarity of vision as well as the skills to take all of this on and to succeed.

He is to be reckoned with, especially (in Siegel's view) as 2008 will be a year when the Bush coalition will give way to a more centrist Republicanism.

Bill Frist has taken note -- and is surely reading The Prince of City, if he has not already done so.