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Goodbye, Giuliani

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Rudy Giuliani is out. Out of the New York Senate race, and for all practical purposes out of politics. He has been with us for more than a quarter century.

  • Our crusader for justice, prosecutor of mob bosses and crooked pols.

  • The architect of the city's comeback from Bad Apple-dom.

  • The fallen star whose terrible second term as mayor raised questions about whether the first good one was just a lucky break.

  • The hero of 9/11

  • The post-9/11 parody of himself

  • And finally, one of the worst presidential candidates in modern history. (He spent $59 million for exactly one GOP delegate)
It was quite a run. Like Eddie Walker, Fiorello LaGuardia, and Ed Koch, Giuliani was one of New York's colorful mayors and if there is anything history teaches, it's that we will remember the interesting guys way more than the competent ones. If someone happens to be both, then that is a gift from the gods. Rudy wasn't. He was a one-trick pony, a prosecutor who was very good at running down the bad guys, issuing indictments, choreographing the perp walk. But he had no gift -- or interest -- in serious administration. And he had a terrible eye for talent. His one great hire, Police Commissioner William Bratton, was out before the end of Giuliani's first term, guilty of the cardinal sin of looking better than the mayor.

Of the people Giuliani kept around, the worst wound up serving time in the clink for crimes ranging from embezzlement and possession of kiddie porn (Housing Commissioner Russell Harding) to tax fraud and lying to White House officials (Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik). The rest often just stayed around, and wound up working for Giuliani's consulting firms or running his beyond-terrible presidential campaign.

One of the things about Giuliani we will always argue about is how much credit he deserves for behaving well on 9/11. The answer is that it's always worth honoring grace under fire. But it's also important to remember that it was Giuliani the disengaged second-term mayor who created some of the conditions that made that terrible day so terrible.

He put the city's emergency command center in the worst possible location - the World Trade Center -- because it was within walking distance of City Hall. That's why Giuliani was famously trudging through the streets of lower Manhattan following the attack -- he had no place to go.

There has been nothing in the 9/11 aftermath to make anyone reevaluate the Giuliani legacy with a stronger tilt toward the positive. He tried to postpone the mayoral election under the theory that the city couldn't get along without him. (It did.) His plan to run for the Senate against Hillary Clinton came to nothing, and he bailed out early, tossing the whole mess to his hapless successor, Rick Lazio.

Then Rudy went off and made a great deal of money, providing obscure consulting services to companies and countries who liked being able to hire the name, and making speeches about leadership for six-figure payouts.

And he enjoys it a lot, as he has now made clear. He's smart enough to have realized that there's no future in national politics for a guy who thought Bernie Kerik would make a swell head of Homeland Security.

And Rick Lazio once again gets to take over a Senate campaign that Giuliani decided really wasn't his cup of tea.

Goodbye, Rudy. You had your moments. Too bad there weren't very many of them.