This is one of a series of political profiles produced by political
psychologist Aubrey Immelman in the Unit for the
Study of Personality in Politics at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's
University in Collegeville, Minn.
June 4, 2000
Is new Rudy the real Rudy?
By Aubrey Immelman
When New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani ended his Senate bid on May 19, speculation was
rife about the new Rudy.
As the New York Daily News breathlessly editorialized on May 20, Rudy
Giulianis announcement that he is stepping out of the race for U.S. Senate, as
moving as it was riveting, revealed a side of his personality rarely seen in public. Yet
there could have been no better illustration of why he would have been a superb candidate.
It showed him to be not only honest and straightforward, but also compassionate and deeply
committed to the people of New York.
Then, on May 25, Sherryl Connelly, in a Daily News opinion column titled No more Mr.
Ice Guy, wrote: Id give anything for this not to be happening, but
Im developing feelings for Rudy Giuliani. ... The new Rudy has been popping up here,
there and everywhere as a hard man humbled. Which is alluring. ... Rudy has been letting
his inner human out.
Not so fast.
Personality, by definition, denotes a persons consistent, distinctive patterns of
thinking, feeling, acting, and relating to others and the new Rudy
persona is distinctly out of character.
Abrupt, drastic changes in behavior are more indicative of an individuals response
to powerful situational forces than of lasting personality change, and more often than not
reflect transient, temporary adaptations to an immediate crisis.
Claims of a new Rudy notwithstanding, logic dictates that Giuliani remains the dominant,
controlling, aggressive personality whose combative orientation was as instrumental to his
successful track record as a prosecutor as it has been in his crusade to clean up the mean
streets of New York City.
But personality style can be a double-edged sword. During his tenure in the mayors
office, Giuliani has shown a potential for self-defeating rigidity and an unwillingness to
compromise, with a penchant for berating his critics and assailing subordinates not acting
fully in accordance with his wishes.
While these qualities may be effective in getting the job done in New York City, such
fiery zeal may not be the right stuff for success in the U.S. Senate, revered by some as
the worlds greatest deliberative body.
Giuliani may be better suited for an executive position such as mayor or governor, but the
venerable legislative body that is the U.S. Senate is no place for a bellicose brawler in
which to advance his political ambitions.
Unless, of course, there is substance to the speculations of a new Rudy emerging from the
ashes of his aborted Senate bid in the face of a life-threatening crisis.
Giuliani, in announcing his decision to quit the race, noted that the notion of a new Rudy
was silly, saying, I think maybe its going to be a different
[Rudy], maybe somebody who grows from the fact that you confront your limits, you confront
your mortality. You realize youre not a superhuman and youre just a human
Can the leopard change his spots? Studies suggest that close to 40 percent of the variance
in personality and social behavior is biologically inherited. Biology, clearly, is not
destiny; experience creates considerable wiggling room for personality change.
However, personality crystallizes quite early in life and is fairly fixed by the end of
the third decade, despite popular notions of lifes seasons or
passages such as the midlife crisis or the empty nest
Without denying the importance of critical events in human lifespan development, basic
personality patterns are remarkably stable by midlife. In a sense, the more things change
the more they remain the same.
So, can the contentious, combative Giuliani tame the beast within?
Fundamentally, no. But the fateful events of the past month have shown that the firebrand
Giuliani is able to take stock of his priorities, see the bigger picture, and curtail his
baser, more aggressive impulses.
If his brush with mortality teaches Rudy to restrain the beast and harness its power more
skillfully, he will emerge from this crisis as a formidable force in politics no
longer fuming but still with that old fire in the belly.
Aubrey Immelman is an associate professor of psychology at the College of St.
Benedict and St. Johns University, where he directs the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, a
faculty-student collaborative project with the mission of conducting psychological
assessments of candidates for political office and disseminating the findings to
professionals, the national media, and the public. Joshua Jipson, junior English major
from Lakeside, Wis., contributed to this article.
George W. Bush