Giuliani: Taken Down by Baseball?

10/29/2007 06:28 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

So it's come to this. After years of exaggeration, misrepresentation, cronyism and downright lies, about pretty much everything he's ever done, Rudy Giuliani is on the hot seat because of ... BASEBALL? Even taking into account cultural differences that make the sport about as interesting to me as the World Luge Championship is to most American voters, it's weird.

Giuliani can dismiss torture as a "silly" discussion, say that SCHIP will make middle-class children become wards of the state, defend a convicted pedophile priest, and nothing happens.

He can lie brazenly about 9/11, his record as mayor of New York City, and his hiring practices, and nothing happens.

But he changes his mind about a baseball team (OK, he pathetically panders to New Hampshire voters via the Boston Red Sox), and the mainstream media can't get enough of it.

Whatever the reason, this is a welcome change from the sad excuse for coverage that normally benefits Giuliani. For instance, not so long ago, Matt Bai wrote in the New York Times Magazine that "whatever you think of Giuliani personally, it's hard to argue that he didn't succeed in [restoring order to New York City]." Well, actually, it's not that hard if you don't deliberately ignore basic statistics and common sense.

Crime in New York City started to decline before Giuliani took office, continued to drop during his eight years in office, except for a massive spike in 2001, and dropped yet further after he left office. A beginner's knowledge of charts should allow most people to realize that the downward trend was independent of the three consecutive mayors' policies. Moreover, a look at crime trends across the U.S. shows a similar drop (albeit not quite as steep, but then again most places didn't start as high as New York City).

It is intellectually lazy and irresponsible for journalists and voters to simply accept the conventional wisdom that as mayor Giuliani was particularly effective at combating crime, let alone at preventing terrorism, managing finances, or improving infrastructure. And it is downright self-destructive to think that whatever Giuliani's record in New York, it is in any way applicable to the responsibilities that he would be taking on as president. Anyone so sheltered or so cynical as to compare New York City in the 1990s to Baghdad now, as Giuliani did earlier this year, can't possibly be considered anything more than a dreadful joke that many of us deeply hope has played out. If baseball is what it takes to open voters' eyes, so be it.