Many people have compared Barack Obama to FDR. Some have compared Obama to Ronald Reagan. A few (you can guess) have compared him to Jimmy Carter. But the truth is that Barack Obama's current leadership inspires recollection of another leader who came into office to find similar circumstances, and who led by trying to make as much change as possible, while also seeming to be everywhere at once.
This leader was Rudy Giuliani. In 1993, New York City was considered by many to have its best days come and go. It was thought to be a City on the decline. Crime was intractable; the schools were an urban nightmare; and the Mayor, David Dinkins, seemed to be out of touch or indifferent to the realities confronting the City.
Ask around: in the early '90s, plenty of smart people thought New York City was gone and never coming back.
Enter Rudy in 1994. Rudy was the perfect war-time Mayor for the City. He knew the City could get back on its feet; it just needed someone willing to push through a new agenda and new reforms. Because the City was in such dire straits, Rudy was able to get his way more often than had the City been working well. Rudy followed the "Broken Windows" theory of crime reduction. He brought in the great police chief Bill Bratton. He instituted a new "welfare to work" program. He showed up everywhere -- if there was a crime, Rudy was on the scene, as if he himself was going to personally arrest (or beat the crap out of) the person responsible for the crime. The bottom line was this: Rudy had ideas. Many of them worked. Some didn't. But he was trying, and compared to the previous guy, that was enough by itself to convince New Yorkers he was the right guy for the job. You got the idea that he really cared about the City and he would do everything he could to make it work.
Now, we all know what happened to Rudy, but this was first-term Mayor Giuliani, not the silly Giuliani of today.
In 2008, America is considered by many to have seen its best days. Many intelligent people believe that the "American Century" is figuratively over, and that we are no longer the country we once were. The economy is in the toilet; respect around the world is low; the problems we face seem insurmountable. And the President, George W. Bush, seems to either not care about the problems we face, or, if he tries a solution, no one takes him seriously.
Enter Barack Obama in 2009. Just like Rudy: he is willing to be everywhere at once, and you get the idea that he is absolutely on top of every issue. He seems to really care about the country and he will push through a new agenda, with new reforms, because the old way: it wasn't working. He's trying, and while all of his ideas may not work, he is able to convince Americans that he cares and he will do everything he can to make this work.
Rudy and Barack. They both came into disastrous situations, followed horrible leaders, and, in Rudy's case, turned things around. Let's hope that Barack has the same results as Rudy - at least, the first-term Rudy.