NEW YORK, March 22 (UPI) -- One of the oldest rules of politics is that it's very hard to keep a gap from opening between executives and their successors, even when the successor in question is hand-picked.
Given the high self-regard, which is one of the few characteristics shared by former Mayor Rudy Guiliani and incumbent Mike Bloomberg, and the lack of a close personal relationship between them, the media has barely been able to restrain itself while waiting for the final break between these two men.
In New York's checkered political past, such close relations as those between Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, and Al Smith and Franklin Roosevelt broke apart when one man succeeded the other in high office.
And Bloomberg and Giuliani don't even have a past personal relationship to sustain them. In fact, their relationship, while crucial to Bloomberg's success in last year's election, has been transitory.
So far, in fact, the advantage has been entirely on Bloomberg's side. Until the events of Sept. 11, Rudy's endorsement of Bloomberg would have brought as many negatives as positives -- in fact, it had been a standing joke for eight years that an endorsement by the mayor was a ticket to oblivion.
But after Sept. 11, when Rudy became "America's Mayor," his endorsement suddenly became worth its weight in gold. The combination of Bloomberg's money and Giuliani's TV spot, together with Democratic infighting, proved just enough to put Bloomberg over the line in the closest mayoral general election in the history of greater New York.
Giuilani's help to Bloomberg continued, inadvertently, after the latter's election. Like Bill Clinton, nothing became Giuliani worse than his manner of leaving office.
He got into a squabble with the widows of the firefighters killed at the World Trade Center, because he proposed to pay the salaries of a number of his cronies with funds raised for the WTC charity he headed as mayor and then carried with him to the private sector, but eventually backed off after a number of scathing headlines; he signed secret deals with his cronies in the two professional baseball teams, which hurt the city's negotiating position over the building of new stadiums for them; and he took all the records of his administration with him when he left office.
By reminding members of the public of the reasons that so many of them had hated him before Sept. 11, Giuliani, like Clinton, helped smooth the path of his successor.
Bloomberg made it clear that a new time was at hand, when, in two of his first actions, he appointed David Dinkins' police commissioner to replace Giuliani's man in the job, and when he visited the Rev. Al Sharpton, the literal bete noire.
Since that beginning, hardly a week has gone by without the new mayor abandoning or reversing the policies of his predecessor, whether it is Giuliani's late appointments to a number of boards, the privatization of the Off Track Betting Corp., the transfer of the inspections of buildings from the Building Department to the Fire Department, the financing of two new baseball stadiums, or the installation of the Museum of the City of New York in the newly rebuilt Tweed Courthouse. Bloomberg has even proposed cuts in the budget of the Police and Fire Departments, sacrosanct in Rudy's day.
While Bloomberg has kept a few of Giuliani's people, most of his appointments have been drawn from Democrats who served in the Koch and Dinkins administrations. And even on such small matters as Giuliani's bitter hostility to the United States Tennis Association's stadium contract, Bloomberg has gone out of his way to strike a new attitude.
Through all this, the former mayor has kept his peace.
Calmness in the face of provocation is not usually a characteristic visible in Giuliani's past, and the media, itching to cover a fight, has been waiting with bated breath for the chance to whip out headlines featuring a quarrel.
Why has nothing happened so far?
It may be that Rudy took a vow of silence for six months, a not uncommon phenomenon. It may be that he feels that Bloomberg's policies, despite rhetorical shifts, are still in line with his own. After all, crime is continuing to drop, the new mayor's signature issue, so far, is mayoral control of the school system, which follows exactly in Rudy's footsteps, the mayor has continued to enunciate (if not entirely to fulfill) Rudy's position of "no new taxes," and the new mayor so far has followed Rudy's line on such questions as welfare reform and union contracts.
The new mayor is governing as "Rudy lite," not as the anti-Rudy. Of course, the same would have been true even if Mark Green had been elected mayor last year.
And there is, of course, the not-often-mentioned reality of Bloomberg's vast personal wealth and contacts. Giuliani has a consulting firm, employing his inner cadre, to support. If he crosses the new mayor, he makes running this enterprise harder.
It's not that Rudy's silence has been bought or could be bought, but is a factor which must affect his willingness to split with the new mayor on the not-very-elevated grounds of difference that have so far appeared.
Bloomberg was elected by a tacit alliance between many of the most pro-Giuliani activists in the city with many of the most anti-Giuliani activists in the city.
So far, he has been able to govern without being forced to make a choice between these constituencies. That's partly because both of them are waiting, hoping that circumstances, or a misstep by their opponents, will push Bloomberg onto their own side.
Those who were hoping that Rudy would explode and fire the first shot have so far been disappointed. There are a host of newspaper headlines and TV leads waiting for that moment. But so far, none of them can be used.
It's not a death watch, it's a fight watch. And it won't stop soon.