RudyWatch II: On Arafat, Is Giuliani a "Leader" or a "Hothead"?

05/25/2011 12:15 pm ET
  • Mark Green Host, 'Both Sides Now' & author of "Bright, Infinite Future"

Rudy Giuliani earlier this week bragged that he didn't clear it with lawyers before he evicted Yasser Arafat from a UN event at Lincoln Center because, said the Mayor with his characteristic modesty, he's a "leader."

"I didn't hesitate -- like Hillary Clinton to answer questions about what she is going to do about Iran... I didn't seek to negotiate with him -- like Barack Obama would do or said he would do... I didn't call for a team of lawyers to tell me on the one hand you can throw him out, on the other hand you can't. Maybe you can partially throw him out. Maybe we can have him sit, like, further up. I made a decision. You see, I lead. That's what a leader is about. A leader has the confidence to make a decision."

That's Rudy's self-glorifying, tabloid view of himself. In fact, he engaged in the exact kind of temperamental outburst one doesn't want to see in a president during, say, a Cuban Missile Crisis. Based on his actual performance that night, he probably should have consulted with a therapist rather than a lawyer before making the foreign policy judgment that Arafat shouldn't attend an event that he was invited to by the UN.

For those interested in what actually happened that day, here's my post of April 5:

Giuliani's Foreign "Success"

When challenged about his lack of foreign policy experience, Rudy Giuliani touts his speechifying abroad - "I've probably been in foreign lands more than any other candidate for president in the last five to six years" - and then brags that he even kicked Arafat out of a UN event. But according to an official eyewitness, that 1995 episode shows him to be more Billy Martin than U Thant.

The United Nations was celebrating its 50th anniversary with the largest world gathering of leaders and dignitaries ever here in NYC. In honor of the momentous occasion, the New York Philharmonic offered to give a special concert at Lincoln Center for all 185 VIPs from official delegations. According to an American official at the UN who saw what happened and spoke to me, Mayor Giuliani "threw a temper tantrum" when he spotted Arafat in the crowd minutes before the curtain went up. He grew "red faced and went out of control," said the official. "Rudy was absolutely infantile like a two year old" and dispatched his aide to eject Arafat - despite the fact that this was a celebratory, symbolic UN event to which the PLO leader was duly invited and ticketed.

Yasser Arafat was obviously controversial figure, no doubt complicit in terrorism. But according to President Clinton, he was also a necessary partner in creating a Middle East peace. His very presence at the UN 50 embodied the purpose of the anniversary festivities to renew the UN's "vigor and effectiveness in promoting peace, development, equality and justice and understanding among the peoples of the world."

When Arafat was told he and his delegation had to leave, he was miffed, sat calmly though the first two movements of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, and then peacefully departed. Giuliani later crowed that "anybody who misses that fourth movement [of "Ode to Joy"] misses the entire symphony." And the tabloids played up his pugnacious pro-Israeli, pro-American antics. (The Daily News headline read: "Rudy's One Rude Dude.")

But the Clinton State Department saw it very differently: "It's not kick him out of a concert like that. This was not the right thing to do. Arafat should be treated with respect and dignity. He's the leader of the Palestinian people, and he is negotiating with Israel." Former Mayor Ed Koch, no friend of the PLO, said Giuliani "violated every decent obligation that he has as mayor." A spokesman for President Clinton chided Rudy's meddling: "We are not at work calibrating the foreign policy of the United States with the foreign policy of New York."

Rudy Giuliani is not the first politician to exaggerate and play to the cheap seats. But his bullying, hot-headed M.O., which played so well to NYC tabloids, would be an utter disaster on the world stage. Given the U.S.'s declining international standing, do Americans really want a Mike Tyson biting someone's ear off when we don't get our way? Folks who want a W. on steroids will love Rudy. Attack Iran? Hell, here we come, Pakistan!