Rudolph W. Giuliani likens himself to a boxer who never takes a punch without swinging back. As mayor, he made the vengeful roundhouse an instrument of government, clipping anyone who crossed him.
Mr. Giuliani was a pugilist in a city of political brawlers. But far more than his predecessors, historians and politicians say, his toughness edged toward ruthlessness and became a defining aspect of his mayoralty. One result: New York City spent at least $7 million in settling civil rights lawsuits and paying retaliatory damages during the Giuliani years.
After AIDS activists with Housing Works loudly challenged the mayor, city officials sabotaged the group’s application for a federal housing grant. A caseworker who spoke of missteps in the death of a child was fired. After unidentified city workers complained of pressure to hand contracts to Giuliani-favored organizations, investigators examined not the charges but the identity of the leakers.