Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

January 30, 2008

Rudy and the Zen of Irritability

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 10:27 am

Back in the day, yea even further back in the day before people said “back in the day” and then got tired of saying “back in the day” (see earier post on outmoded colloquialisms), anyway sometime before his 9/11 apotheosis, I interviewed Rudy Giuliani for JFK Jr.’s now-defunct political magazine George. It’s not often a magazine allows a writer to compose his own headline, but I had one in mind from the beginning and they went with it: “The Zen of Irritability”.

it was my theory that Rudy was the kind of Zen master who likes to swack his students with bamboo canes, tough zen, and I argued that the famous “broken windows” theory of governance that he employed to cut crime in the city reflected it. That by lowering the threshold of civic irritability so tht law enforcement didn’t look the other way at minor crimes like breaking windows, it would create a climate of intolerance for major crime.

It’s hard to argue with results though some think Rudy grabbbed too much credit for policing practices instituted in the previous administration, and minions of the mayor at times carried the atittude to “Giuliani time” outrages.

Nonetheless, he more or less conceded in the interivew with that “broken windows” governance was a kind of Higher Irriatbility.

When the interview came out I heard he was–of course–irritated about it. he was irritated that peole would think him irritable, even though I meant it as a compliment.

Somehow there’s a lesson here. There are times when we need Grand Irritabiity from leaders. And there are times when a strong hand in a velvet glove is better than a strong hand sporting brass knuckes.

My intitial take on Obama and the “security issue”: he has the kind of strength and confidence tht doesn’t need bluster. But don’t get him irritable. He’s beginning to show that he has a little Rudy–maybe just enough–in him.

Judging from reecent snarking comments from Iowa rubes it may be that Rudy’s Zen of Irritability doesn’t travel well, but I’m kind of glad we have have him back where he belongs, here in New York the World’s Capital of Irritability. It doesn’t faze us here.

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