Last week wasn't a particularly marvelous one for Republicans. In the House, a clownish coup against the speaker, led by a small band of sophomores -- and inexplicably joined by Gingrich's four top lieutenants -- was big news. On the Senate side, the Republicans were on the defensive for the first time in the campaign finance hearings, as former chairman Haley Barbour tried to explain how some Hong Kong money made its way into GOP coffers in the 1994 congressional elections.
One of their number, however, was a class act. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani distinguished himself in his prompt and merciful dealing with the tragic situation of a group of deaf-mute Mexican immigrants who were being enslaved in Queens. The mayor plunged into the thick of it and began defending the defenseless. He saved them from the INS deportation -- and the NYPD jail. He put them up in a motel in the name of the compassionate people of New York City.
It was brilliant and breathtaking. Citizens of the District of Columbia looked on with admiration and envy of the deepest, most mordant sort.
His Honor acted without regard for the poor wretches' status. He has long since taken a position, not endorsed by his fellow Republicans, that, legal or illegal, immigrants are fellow members of the human race, to be helped when they are in trouble. This may explain why Giuliani, who took hold of a city regarded as ungovernable and has made it a nice place to live, is not often mentioned for national office.
While Giuliani was dealing with a real problem within his jurisdiction, our mayor, Marion Barry, was taking off for a summit in Zimbabwe, for reasons not entirely clear to the taxpayers who are footing the bill.
Giuliani is always thinking about his city. He set out to restore morale, pride and civility. He started out by tidying up the roadways from the airport to Manhattan. It was a gesture letting people know that he wants to make a good first impression on travelers. Our mayor cannot even keep up with the weeding of the supposed flower beds that run down the middle of Connecticut Avenue.
Giuliani has tidied up Times Square, too. He is even convincing New Yorkers that it is OK to be polite, that "please," "thank you" and "excuse me" are not signs of weakness.
Most spectacularly, he has reduced New York's crime rate by 39 percent. He began small, instructing police to arrest petty offenders, like turnstile jumpers. It turns out that people who commit small crimes often commit larger ones.
Washington is a different story. Despite a huge police force, crime, except for homicide, is up.
There is no shaming Barry. Senators who come here and recoil from the Third World conditions berate him at every public forum they can find. He pays no heed. Washington Post reporter Michael Powell, in a series of two articles about the diseased innards of D.C. government, shows once again what everyone knows: namely, that it isn't money that's wanting, it's management.
The police force and the public school system suffer from too many desk jobs. People who should be walking beats or teaching children are shuffling papers in "administrative" jobs.
Giuliani doubtless gives his friends and potential voters city jobs. The difference seems to be that in New York, municipal workers expect to deliver, to pick up the garbage, to keep the traffic lights working, to fill the potholes and give the time of day to citizens who apply for permits and licenses. District bureaucrats feel imposed upon when called upon to render public services.
Giuliani is not considered lovable. Critics call him a bully. He has a monster ego, and he was petty and vindictive in forcing out Police Chief William Bratton for no other apparent reason than that the chief was getting more credit than he was for the dramatic turnaround in crime. D.C. at this point would love a bully like him.
Barry speaks coyly of running for re-election. His record is abominable, but he will play the race card again (the city is 70 percent black) and we may be in for another four years of misrule. It's the difference between having a real mayor and one who only plays a mayor on TV.
Universal Press Syndicate