One afternoon in 1957, a 13-year-old Rudy Giuliani switched on his family’s TV and watched a lawyer pick a fight. Jimmy Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, had been called before the U.S. Senate’s Labor Rackets Committee to answer charges of corruption, extortion, and stealing from the pension funds of union members. He settled in his chair to face Robert F. Kennedy, the special committee lawyer, only 32 years old and a brutal interrogator.
“The Teamster case meant a lot to me,” Giuliani writes in Leadership, the popular memoir he published in 2002. “Hearing Bobby Kennedy’s withering confrontation with Jimmy Hoffa left a mark on me, at an impressionable time of life.”
It’s no wonder why: Hoffa scoffed at the hearings, calling his inquisitor “Bob” and dodging his questions. Kennedy gave as good as he got, darkly dramatizing the threat Hoffa posed to Americans, warning that “the life of every person in the United States is in the hands of Hoffa and his...