Rudy in a Top Hat

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The Gettysburg Address delivered in a thick New York accent might not come across quite the same.  And Rudy Giuliani in a top hat would look like the Penguin from the Batman comics.Rudy as Penguin

But the Kentucky-born Lincoln and Gotham’s favorite son have more in common than being, well, a little homely.

As thoughtful attorneys with social views considered by contemporaries as ‘progressive,’ President Lincoln and Mayor Giuliani each possessed a remarkable strength of character and will that in many ways defined their administrations.  Both were unlikely heroes – Lincoln from Nowhere, America rising to the presidency during one of our nation’s most trying times; the Republican Giuliani taking the reins of a city not particularly known for tough, conservative stances on crime, welfare, or taxes.

Beyond the obvious parallels, however, lies a more profound similarity.  When one examines the writings and actions of these leaders, one finds a startling likeness of mind.

Take, for example, the familiar reasoned, logical, and tough stance from Giuliani, in this instance involving the Legal Aid Society:

One group, however, didn’t think they should do their part to help.  In October 1994, the lawyers who worked for the Legal Aid Society went out on strike.

The Legal Aid Society provides legal services to the poor, including their primary mission – representing indigent defendants in criminal cases.  The city has an obligation to provide such counsel, and we contracted with the Legal Aid Society to fulfill this obligation.  If its lawyers didn’t show up for work, criminal defendants would be deprived of their constitutional right to representation.  In fact, judges can release offenders when they don’t get lawyers fast enough, or are kept in jail for too long without a lawyer.  The Legal Aid Society had gone out on strike at other times during previous administrations.  Sometimes these strikes had gone on for months, risking dangerous individuals being set free by judges because they didn’t have lawyers when they appeared in court.

When Legal Aid threatened to strike in 1994, I announced that if they carried out their threat we’d do whatever we could to cancel their contract.  This wasn’t just about the inconvenience and selfishness of their position.  Once a lawyer undertakes a case, he or she is bound to see it through to a conclusion.  A lawyer who takes on a client cannot stop representing that case without that responsibility being relieved by a judge, even if the client can no longer pay…

That still didn’t stop the Legal Aid Society from going out on strike.  I said, “Okay, in two days I will consider you to have broken your contract.  We’ll find other lawyers to do the work.  And in the future the city will not do business with any organization that includes any lawyer who has walked out on their ethical obligation.”

– Rudy Giuliani in Leadership, pg. 273-274

Compare this with Lincoln’s message to Congress on July 4, 1861:

With rebellion thus sugar-coated [leaders of the rebellion in southern states] have been drugging the public mind of their section for more than thirty years, and until at length they have brought many good men to a willingness to take up arms against the Government…

…Having never been States, either in substance or in name, outside of the Union, whence this magical omnipotence of “State Rights,” asserting a claim of power to lawfully destroy the Union itself?

…The States have their status in the Union, and they have no other legal status.  If they break from this, they can only do so against law and by revolution.  The Union, and not themselves separately, procured their independence and their liberty.  By conquest or purchase the Union gave each of them whatever of independence or liberty it has.  The Union is older than any of the States, and, in fact, it created them as States.  Originally some dependent colonies made the Union, and, in turn, the Union threw off their old dependence for them, and made them States, such as they are…

…It is now recommended that you give the legal means for making this contest a short and decisive one…

– Abraham Lincoln in “Message to Congress in Special Session,” July 4, 1861.  In The Words of Abraham Lincoln, pg. 294-295 and pg. 293

It is this shared spirit – the intense, fighting spirit of a leader committed to a reasoned position on the issue at hand and to acting on what he knows to be a necessary and right course of action – that ties these two men.

Like Lincoln, a President Giuliani would face a nation divided on ideological, economic, and social grounds.  America was rewarded with a Union preserved when it entrusted its future to a man of wisdom, tenacity, and unshakeable commitment to his beliefs.  It is again a time when our nation is in dire need of a firm, resolute leader.  A leader who understands differences and overcomes them, in the face of overwhelming odds, for the good of our nation.

Lincoln in Yankees hat

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