Addressing investors over a lunch of Reuben sandwiches, knishes, and sushi, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani evoked the New York of a decade ago, reminiscing about a time when horse-drawn carriages were welcome in Central Park and medical marijuana was still a joke.
That pre-financial crisis era was also a happier time for many of the penny stock investors in the room, gathered for Marcum’s third annual Microcap Conference on Thursday, some of whom were fondly remembering the bull markets of 2007 and 1999.
Guiliani delivered a keynote that almost sounded like a stump speech — which some listeners commented was his best yet — and he mostly stuck to politics. He described his stance on Republican issues, criticized the Obama administration as well as New York’s current Mayor Bill de Blasio, and hinted at whether he might run for President in 2016.
At one point, New York’s 107th mayor actually raised his voice on stage as he expressed anger with U.S. foreign policy and, in particular, President Obama’s failure to stop Russia’s actions in Ukraine, which “makes America look weak,” he said.
Calling himself “more conservative on economic policy and foreign policy than almost any Republican,” Giuliani said he was disappointed in the President’s speech at West Point on Wednesday, criticizing the Administration’s plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and reduce the U.S. Navy “when China is challenging us in the Pacific” by pressuring Japan and Vietnam. “Does the President think the world is suddenly going to become nice?” (While some believe increased marijuana availability could have that effect, he disagreed: “It can deteriorate your brain. I used to be a narcotics prosecutor,” he said.)
Homing in on Russia’s seizure of Crimea in Ukraine, Giuliani said that, having met Vladimir Putin, he felt he understood the Russian leader and feared his intentions. Taking a trip through history, Giuliani noted that when the U.S. invaded France on D-Day during World War II, the only land the U.S. military took was a cemetery plot for dead soldiers. “When England went to France, they took half of it. When the Romans did it, they took everything in sight,” Giuliani said. “What the heck do you think the Russians are going to do, or the Chinese?
“When World War II ended, the Russians took all of Eastern Europe and put them in slavery,” Giuliani continued, pointing to Soviet restrictions on religion and other freedoms. “And what did we take? Nothing!” he yelled.
Answering audience questions, Giuliani turned his rancor toward New York City’s new Mayor de Blasio. Besides de Blasio’s spending and education policies, Giuliani took particular issue with his efforts to ban the horses that have long pulled old-fashioned carriages (often carrying sightseers) around Central Park –and used the critique to segue into another Republican refrain.
“I wish he’d keep the horses in Central Park. I think they’re nice horses,” Giuliani said. “Horses like to work. What are they going to do with the horses? They’re going to send them out to a farm somewhere and they’re going to die of boredom.
“I know these horses. They want to work,” he continued. “They don’t want food stamps, they don’t want welfare.”
Giuliani expressed liberal views on abortion, gay marriage, and unions, which he swore he wants to preserve. “I like unions, unions are good,” he said. “I even belong to a union. I belong to SAG, because of my great work in Anger Management,” he noted, referring to his cameo in the Adam Sandler movie that earned him membership in the Screen Actors Guild.
Finally, Giuliani arrived at his biggest applause point. While 20 years ago he would have suggested that “the answer to the economy” was to lower taxes, he now believes “the real answer is to cut regulations by half,” he said. “The way we were taxing ourselves out of business, we are now regulating ourselves out of business, regulating ourselves to the point of ridiculousness and insanity.”
So, then, what’s Guiliani’s solution? He told a story about a judge that used to tell lawyers who submitted long briefs to “give me the best 20 pages.” Giuliani said he would take the best 40% of federal regulations and throw the rest away “and see how we do.”
For many of the Giuliani supporters listening, the million-dollar question was what it would take for him to make a bid for the Oval Office in 2016. To that, the former mayor played coy: “I have no idea. Give me $100 million dollars?” he said, swearing that he hasn’t considered it — yet. “I’m only thinking about 2014 right now, but at some point next year, I’ll answer that question.” From the sound of his speech this week, the answer may very well be “yes.”