NEW YORK is in the grip of Giuliani Fever.
The prospect of losing our mayor so horrifies New Yorkers that many wish openly to cancel the upcoming election.
What exactly did Giuliani do to earn such adulation?
Pundits speak vaguely of his "leadership" during the September 11 attack. But what do they mean?
I think I can explain.
Like thousands of other New Yorkers, I watched the World Trade Center fall, with my own eyes.
I returned to my home office afterwards and set to work redoing the headlines on the Internet news site that I edit.
It was tough going. Phone and DSL lines were down. I couldn’t reach key staffers.
One of our technicians had to leave work because his brother, who worked at the World Trade Center, was missing (the brother turned up 18 hours later, in a triage center, wounded but alive).
My wife and I had to pick up a journalist friend of ours and give her shelter for the night, because the bridges were closed and she couldn’t get home to Manhattan.
As we drove to fetch her, we saw Manhattan burning across the river, smoke pouring so thickly from the stricken island, it seemed as if half the city must be ablaze.
The hours passed quickly that day. There was so much to do, so much to digest.
All too soon, I noticed the shadows lengthening, and the sun hanging low in the sky. I found myself wondering, "What will happen tonight when the sun goes down?"
Looters had terrorized the city during the 1977 blackout. Would it happen again?
With police tied up at Ground Zero, conditions seemed ripe for brigandage.
Yet the night passed in peace. Only the roar of F14 fighters broke the silence.
That is why we love Giuliani.
Rudy kept order. He put the city’s 40,000 cops on roundtheclock duty. At Rudy’s urging, National Guard units and New York State troopers arrived before nightfall.
Our last mayor would have handled things differently, I think.
When riots broke out in Crown Heights in 1991, our first black mayor David Dinkins dithered for three days, apparently unwilling to order a police crackdown on black rioters.
Were the hooligans grateful for Dinkins’ indulgence? No. They pelted him with rocks and bottles when he showed up in Crown Heights, as contemptuous of his cowardice as every other New Yorker had become by then.
Had Dinkins been mayor on the night of September 11, God knows what would have befallen our city.
But the criminals fear Giuliani. They stayed home that night, because they wanted to stay alive.
Like most New Yorkers, I want Rudy to stay. We’re sitting ducks without him.
And that’s exactly the problem.
In a constitutional republic, no politician should be so important.
Sadly, New York City has strayed very far from the constitutional model envisioned by our Founding Fathers.
We have strict gun laws, for one thing. It takes months to get a pistol permit. Most New Yorkers cannot get one at all.
The lucky few who own firearms would be fools to use them. Shoot a criminal, and you’ll be sued for millions. Maybe you’ll end up in jail on hate crime charges too.
That’s why it matters so terribly much who succeeds Giuliani.
An armed and vigilant citizenry would not worry so obsessively about who occupies City Hall. Even with a Dinkins in charge, we could patrol our own neighborhoods and defend ourselves, if need be.
But disarmed people cannot fend for themselves. When trouble strikes, we can only cringe in our homes, and cry out for a strong man to protect us.
Our Founding Fathers knew the horrors of war and its temptations. They gave us the Second Amendment so that Americans would never beg for a dictator’s protection.
Yet here in "liberal" New York, we thought we knew better. We stripped our people of arms and denied them the right of selfdefense.
Now, like helpless sheep, we bleat for a shepherd.
The worst may lie ahead. Wars have a way of turning out longer, deadlier and nastier than anyone suspects at the outset.
If anthrax scares us now, how will we handle ebola, nerve gas and nuclear blasts? How will we handle mob violence, if our cities lie crippled and our police are overwhelmed?
Most Americans have cheered on the airline pilots in their demand to carry sidearms.
Maybe it’s time to stop cheering others, and to start demanding that same right for ourselves.