Politics & Government

Hate the snow? Love the Yankees? Rudy thinks you should thank him

Presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani.
Presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani. Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel

WASHINGTON - Forget about re-signing baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez or ace pitcher Mariano Rivera. If the New York Yankees really want to win another World Series only one thing needs to be done: elect Rudy Giuliani.

"I do point out that when I was mayor of New York City, the Yankees won four world championships," Giuliani said during a recent Republican presidential debate. "And since I've left being mayor of New York City, the Yankees have won none."

In his pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination, Giuliani has unabashedly taken credit for lots of things - New York's economic turnaround, its dramatic reduction in crime, a major drop in the welfare rolls and, yes, even for giving positive mojo to the Yankees as their No. 1 fan.

He was apparently even a force of nature: The average amount of snowfall in New York dropped from 35.975 inches a year in Giuliani's first term as mayor to only 17.735 in his second term, according to National Weather Service data compiled by Giuliani's presidential campaign.

"He does take credit for the sunshine and gentle rain that falls on the city," said Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University. "There's practically nothing good that he hasn't claimed credit for: fresher air, clearer water, cleaner subways."

But credit - and how you take it - can be a tricky proposition on the campaign trail. Former Vice President Al Gore learned that during the 2000 presidential campaign when he talked about his role in making the Internet a public tool, about Love Canal and about who were the inspirations for author Erich Segal's characters in "Love Story." Gore got a reputation as a self-aggrandizing stretcher of fact.

Giuliani has run into trouble over-touting his accomplishments. In campaign ads and on the stump, he takes credit for cutting or eliminating 23 taxes while mayor of New York. An analysis by the Website FactCheck.org says Giuliani overstates his record and can only take credit for initiating 14 cuts.

Using information provided by the city's non-partisan, publicly funded Independent Budget Office, FactCheck.org determined that Giuliani was claiming credit for eight cuts that were actually initiated by New York state lawmakers. A ninth cut was the New York City Council's handiwork.

Giuliani's response: What's the big deal?

"There was just an article written about the tax cuts I did in New York and the big debate is did I do 23 or 15," Giuliani said at a campaign house party in Windham, N.H., last month. "Well, I'm ahead of everybody else at least 15-nothing, because no one, including the governor you're asking about (former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney) did tax cuts."

Still, the ex-mayor said he stands by the 23 figure.

"The reason it's 23, and this is really silly, is I actually proposed 64 tax cuts," Giuliani told the Windham gathering. "I proposed so many tax cuts that you really can't find the ones that I proposed and the ones I didn't propose. It was part of my strategy. The way I negotiate is I ask for more and then I accept less."

Giuliani's penchant for seeking credit became legendary in New York. When Time magazine put William Bratton, Giuliani's first police commissioner, on its cover and credited him for the drastic drop in New York's crime rate, Bratton quickly found himself in Giuliani's doghouse and quit.

In 1997 New York magazine ran a bus billboard ad campaign with a slogan that the publication was "possibly the only good thing in New York Rudy hasn't taken credit for." City Hall objected, claiming the ad violated the publicity-happy Giuliani's privacy and New York State civil rights law that protects citizens from having their names used for advertising purposes.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority removed the ads. New York magazine sued and won. Circuit Chief Judge Jon O. Newman was unmoved by an MTA attorney's argument that the ad suggested a connection between Giuliani and the magazine.

"Sure, there's a connection," the judge said. "New York Magazine chooses to kid the mayor. They're the kidder. He is the kiddee."