Is a Cup of Coffee Ever Just a Cup of Coffee for Rudy Giuliani?:
The steaming pile of diseased horseshit that is his 2002 book Leadership (or "How I Gleefully Profited Off a Nightmarish Disaster") contains many, many passages of the trademark Rudy Giuliani weirdness, even if "ferrets, psychotic hatred of" doesn't show up in the index. For the Rude Pundit, the page or so Giuliani devotes to the ethics of taking coffee from a restaurant owner while he was mayor is a fascinating microcosm of the ethics of the man. Here's a good chunk, from pages 209-210:
"The importance of setting an example is one of the reasons why I made such a big deal of paying my own way.
"The principle applied when I ate at restaurants. I realized that a free cup of coffee and cheeseburger from a diner owner who voted for me was unlikely to compromise my integrity...The owner would know that he wasn't going to get preferential treatment just because he treated me to a meal, and arguably there's nothing immoral - certainly nothing illegal - about accepting a gift from someone who expects nothing in return. When a proprietor flat-out refused to give me a check, I left enough money to cover the cost - and a nice tip."
Giuliani then tells a story about a time he insisted on getting a check from a diner owner fan in New Jersey, only to realize he didn't have his wallet, thus forcing a friend to pay the bill for him. He concludes that story, which occurred when he was in private law practice in 1990, with this: "Afterward, I realized perhaps I was carrying my objections too far - a cup of coffee from a grateful diner owner wouldn't have compromised my principles and would have given him a lot of pleasure."
The Rude Pundit thought about this passage when he heard FBI agent David Cardona talking about the indictment of Bernard Kerik on multiple corruption charges. Cardona drew a clear line in the sand of right and wrong in regards to the behavior of public servants: "A beat cop accepting a free cup of coffee ... is properly viewed by the public as wrong. ... If a free cup of coffee is wrong, Kerik's long list of alleged crimes is repugnant."
The point here is that the passage from Leadership ain't about a kind of honesty. It'd be one thing if Giuliani said, "I paid the check because a mayor shouldn't take free things from his constituents." Or if he said "It's unethical, even though it shouldn't be." But, no. Giuliani makes it seem like he's doing some great gesture. More importantly, he completely exonerates himself from any possible taint.
Look at that one line: "[A]rguably there's nothing immoral - certainly nothing illegal - about accepting a gift from someone who expects nothing in return." How many elected and appointed officials caught in bribes and graft would re-crucify Jesus to be able to make that statement and get away with it? Duke Cunningham? Bernard Kerik? How big does the "gift" have to be before it implies something is expected in return? What if nothing explicit is ever stated? But here's the bottom line: if Giuliani didn't think it was immoral or illegal to take that cup o' joe, he should have taken it. If he paid, he knew something was skeevy about it, denier though he may be. And, no, this ain't much ado about bullshit.
Of course Giuliani could overlook all of Bernard Kerik's sins. Because he didn't see them as anything other than the price of doing business. Hell, his ability to keep promoting a lummox like Kerik was a crass demonstration of his sheer power. It's a slippery slope, though, when you start to excuse some sins. It's even worse when you surround yourself with sinners. Like it or not, no matter how pure you think you are, at some point, you become the sinner yourself. And for a spiteful, vicious bastard like Giuliani, it compounds his vileness until, when he breathes, he exhales corruption.