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Rudolph Giuliani: Faith in work, God, and himself

The former New York mayor's sense of discipline, which stemmed from a childhood living with a devout Catholic father and attending parochial schools, has shaped his career in public service.

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"When I was mayor of New York City, we worked very, very hard to reduce crime, but also to right-size government … ultimately to make it effective and efficient," he said at a September breakfast hosted by the Northern Virginia Technology Council in Reston, Va. "If it weren't for technology, we wouldn't have been able to accomplish that." Noting that he had created a new department responsible for upgrading the technology of all other city departments, he wryly said: "The reason we named it the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications – DOITT – was because we wanted to call it DO-IT!"

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To his supporters, the former mayor remains the tight-fisted hero who tamed an uncivil city.

To his critics, Giuliani was a divisive bully who brazenly stole credit for others' accomplishments: The crime rate had started to decline three years before he was elected, and the Disney deal that revitalized Times Square was negotiated by his predecessor, David Dinkins.

Some also saw a love of the limelight and a tendency to showboat. His work prosecuting big fish like Ivan Boesky in 1986 for insider trading and junk-bond trader Michael Milken in 1988 gained Giuliani a steady stream of national headlines. But critics accused him of parading brokers from their offices in handcuffs simply for the media attention. In several high-profile cases, he was later forced to drop the charges.

Others charge that he made New York worse in some fundamental ways. Racial tensions flared, and Giuliani refused to meet some leading African-American public officials for a year after becoming mayor. Those tensions were exacerbated by several high-profile police misconduct cases.

"Blacks and Hispanics in particular would complain to me that he was a racist. But I'd say, 'He's definitely not a racist, he's nasty to everyone,' " says former Mayor Ed Koch, author of "Giuliani: Nasty Man," in a phone interview. "He believes he knows best and will brook no dissents."

But people who worked closely with him contend that Giuliani did listen – in fact, he thrived on people challenging his ideas, just as his childhood friend Peter Powers had done.

"He could take a very, very tough position publicly and look to be unbending, when in fact there were very few things that he was unbending about," says Fran Reiter, then a leader of the Liberal Party who became one of Giuliani's deputy mayors. "Rudy is a pragmatist, and that's ultimately what made him effective."

Controversial 9/11 footprints

As he campaigns for president, Giuliani often invokes 9/11. While it was not the cornerstone of a speech – he works not to politicize it, even shutting down his website and holding no political events on the anniversary – the attacks were a transforming moment for him as well as for the nation.

When he reopened the New York Stock Exchange in September 2001, he said, "We understand even more the value of our democracy. We appreciate even more a nation that's ruled by law and decency and concern for human life, and we understand the necessity to defend ourselves."

That's the theme Giuliani returns to on the campaign trail.

"We have to be on the offense against terrorism," he told the Virginia high-tech executives. "But we also have to do a better job of explaining who we are as a people – we're not militarists. We want to do business with you."

He attributes to 9/11 his conversion to certain views held by the National Rifle Association. "September 11th … puts a whole different emphasis on the thing America needs to do to protect itself, even putting a renewed emphasis on the Second Amendment [the right to bear arms]," he told a polite but skeptical audience of NRA members, during a speech last month in Washington.

He also promised to appoint "strict constructionist" judges, which for many is code language for judges who would see almost any form of gun control as unconstitutional.

Neither went over well with this crowd. Jeff Reh, general counsel of Beretta USA, noted that Giuliani, when mayor, brought the lawsuit against gun manufacturers currently in the courts.

"I found it troubling to hear Mayor Giuliani suggest the enforcement of constitutional rights should depend on the circumstances of the moment," said Mr. Reh. "It was disingenuous.... When he was mayor, he worked to increase restrictions on ownership of assault rifles."

Giuliani says his thinking on that matter has simply evolved – and appeals to common sense rather than ideology.