Fiorello H. La Guardia and the Making of Modern New York

Kessner, Thomas

McGraw Hill, 1989

p. 258

Fiorello La Guardia became mayor of New York in 1933, and “brought into office a fascinating, many-sided personality. He was an idealist who was shrewd and tough, a compassionate man driven by resentments and high ambitions, a progressive politician of strength and guile who skirted the edge of scruple to win elections. Five foot two and tub round, he carried a seven foot ego and a gigantic self-confidence that bordered on recklessness . . . he represented the maturing voice of liberal America, working furiously at the deficient center of American politics, fighting powerful men, potent interests, and dangerous foes and giving a fair account of himself, immigrant surname and all.” La Guardia: “People who love soft words forget that reform [as in removing patronage and graft] consists in taking a bone away from a dog. There will be excitement.” La Guardia knew that reform-minded politicians needed distance between themselves and whatever they would fix: “A man can’t see the play and be in it too.” Kessler says of LG that he had “a magnificent unrest,” and that he was a man of “ruthless simplicities.” Everybody was against this honest, reform-minded politician–“everybody but the voters.”

p. 286

As a rule, those administrators who disagreed with La Guardia were fired “’absolutely and permanently.’ No one he cared enough about to argue with escaped being fired dozens of times, only to have a secretary call the next day to assign the same work as if nothing had happened. ‘You’re fired’ was just another of the many colorful epithets that Fiorello used to let off steam. . . La Guardia rebuilt municipal integrity in a hard cast. His righteousness was hard-centered, a ruthless righteousness, able to do hard battle in the name of its goals.”