April 27, 2007


What Rudy Believes: Gun control? Welcoming immigrants? A woman's right to choose? Never mind his past positions. The only -ism that Rudy Giuliani believes in is sadism. (Michael Tomasky, 05.08.07, American Prospect)

Conservatives who admire Rudolph Giuliani for his association with the date September 11, 2001, may wish to consult Google on the question of the mayor's behavior on May 10, 2000. The Rudy of that date should give them, and everyone, reason to stop and think about the great hero's moral architecture.

The weeks leading up to the date had been surreal. Giuliani was running for a U.S. Senate seat against Hillary Clinton. The traditional Senate campaign in New York consists of swings upstate to discuss economic development and airfares, day trips out to Long Island to curse sprawl and pledge devotion to oysters, and occasional high-minded speeches in the city at places like the Council on Foreign Relations -- Clinton's tedious, but quite effective, course. Rudy's, however: Rudy's campaign since March had consisted of vicious attacks on a police-shooting victim named Patrick Dorismond; an announcement by his estranged wife, Donna Hanover, that she would appear in The Vagina Monologues ("GYNO-MITE!" ran the headline in the New York Post); and the exposure, at long last, of Rudy's extramarital relationship, with a woman named Judith Nathan. In the middle of it all, he'd been diagnosed with prostate cancer, but even that sympathetic note seemed strange enough as to be somehow part of his willed unraveling.

A full week had now passed since the Nathan story broke, and Giuliani, in the face of a frenzied media circus, had said nothing publicly about his marriage. A photo, indelibly etched in my memory, from Cardinal John O'Connor's May 8 funeral service -- he had died the same night Nathan hit the papers -- summed up the weirdness better than any words could: There in the front pews sat the Clintons, the Gores, the Bushes, the Patakis, and, all by himself, Giuliani. And so the papers, that morning of May 10, carried livid admonitions from Republicans like state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno for the mayor to return to planet Earth, to address his situation, and to run a campaign. As fate would have it, I had lunch that day on Union Square with Juleanna Glover Weiss, Giuliani's just-hired press secretary who later went on to a certain kind of fame as one of "Cheney's Angels" (the vice president's loyal and secretive spokeswomen). So I missed the press conference -- as did she, more importantly -- at the New York Public Library at which The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller asked Giuliani, "Do you have any reaction to Mr. Bruno's comments yesterday … about your marriage?" [...]

"I do," Giuliani said to Bumiller. "It was very, very painful. For quite some time, it's probably been apparent that Donna and I" -- his New York accent, never thick, was real enough that "Donna and I" always came out "Donner and I," making it sound like he was talking about a reindeer -- "lead, in many ways, independent and separate lives. It's been a very painful road, and I'm hopeful that we'll be able to formalize that in an agreement that protects our children …"

Sounds reasonable, right? Indeed, it sounds even open, honest, and painful -- and for those reasons admirable, especially for a politician. But there was one huge catch: He hadn't told Donna that he was announcing this. Today, as Giuliani seeks the presidency, journalistic shorthand typically refers to his "messy divorce," or uses other phrases like that. Barbara Walters assembled a report for 20/20 in late March that was focused squarely on the question of the Giuliani-Nathan relationship -- this was the Giuliani campaign's spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to render Nathan a sympathetic figure -- but even then, Walters glossed over the sordid details. Reports like Walters' avoid describing what really happened: that he used his own philandering as a ploy to elicit public sympathy in a battle that he started against the mother of his two children, then ages 10 and 14.

That May afternoon, "Donner" emerged from Gracie Mansion and announced that she'd tried to keep her marriage together, referring to an attempted reconciliation the previous summer, but that "it was difficult to participate in Rudy's public life because of his relationship with one staff member" (both Giuliani and Lategano have always denied a dalliance). Two nights later, while Donna and the kids were on a plane to Los Angeles to spend the weekend -- Mother's Day weekend, no less! -- with her parents, Rudy took Judy out for a stroll up Second Avenue, permitting the newspaper photographers to snap pictures all along the way. They were on the cover -- the "wood," in the argot -- of the tabloids the next day, as Giuliani undoubtedly knew they would be. That, I thought, was an interesting way to "protect" his children, which he had vowed so solemnly to do just 48 hours previous.

Bill Clinton may have embarrassed his family, but Rudy Giuliani humiliated his. That previous summer to which Donna referred, when she thought she and her husband were reconciling? He was dashing out to the Hamptons to spend weekends at Judy's condo! This was not mere irresponsibility, the kind of "mistake" we "learn from," as he has taken to saying on the stump. This was sadism. And he didn't act this way only toward his wife and kids, which might render this a private matter. No -- this was how the man dealt with enemies private and public.

Conservatives may think they're supporting the September 11 Rudy. But I covered the man for 15 years, and I can guarantee them they'll be getting the May 10 Rudy as part of the bargain. If they actually nominate him, they will eventually learn this the hard way, just like poor Donna did.

With every voter who finds out his politics there's less chance of that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 27, 2007 6:58 AM

Poor Donner my foot!

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 27, 2007 8:55 AM

Private life has nothing to do w/public life.

Posted by: Sandy P at April 27, 2007 2:28 PM