The New York Times reports that, when confronted with the issues that separate Giuliani from the conservatives he needs to win the Republican primary, Giuliani responded, "There are things that unite us that seem to be a lot stronger'' than the differences. And then quipped, "As I say, I disagree with myself some days.''
It's often been said that Rudy Giuliani was one of the heroes of 9/11. Fine. I, too, joined the rest of the country in raising Giuliani on our collective shoulders in the days after 9/11. However, I've grown increasingly uncomfortable with the "Rudy-the-Hero" industry ever since. And here's why: When Mayor Giuliani remained in downtown Manhattan after the first tower fell, when he ran toward the fire, instead of away from it, when he ran toward the victims, when he embraced the city in the hours, days, and weeks following that tragic day, did he go beyond the call of duty? Or is that kind of leadership actually, simply, the call of duty?
We seem to be so accustomed to our politicians running away from danger, so used to our elected officials following polls instead their hearts and minds, that we fall all over ourselves the minute one of them does what we hope and vote for, the minute one of our leaders actually leads. On 9/11, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani did a stunning job as a leader on a day that we were screaming for one. But, we're still screaming for one.
Being a leader means having that kind of courage when facing a room full of reporters, too. Instead of joking and saying, "I disagree with myself some days," in order to avoid the searing truth that your beliefs may keep you from winning your party's primary, I want to hear, "This is what I believe. This is why I believe it. And if you don't want to vote for me because of it, then don't. But if you want a leader who tells you what he thinks, who doesn't run from controversy, who doesn't run from his own opinions and convictions, a leader who actually leads, then I'm your guy."
A wise man once said, you can't make a good deal unless you're willing to walk away from it. That goes for leadership, too. You can't be a true leader unless you're willing to walk away if you can't be the leader you truly aspire to be.