November 27, 2007


When Rudy met Hillary: Rudy Giuliani markets himself as the Republican with the best shot at beating Hillary Clinton next fall. But the first time the pair faced off, that's not how it worked out. (Rob Polner, Nov. 27, 2007, Salon)

Post 9/11, it may be hard for many outside New York to remember that city residents had started to tire of their mayor by 2000, as the end of Giuliani's second term neared. Giuliani's habit of hurling poison darts at Clinton was a reminder to New Yorkers of his appetite for confrontation and his need to belittle opponents. The Clinton operation stuck doggedly to discussing local issues at one campaign stop after another. Hillary would make 30 dutiful visits upstate between July 1999 and mid-February 2000. Giuliani trekked upstate much less frequently, and usually confined himself to city-centered themes and his mayoral record on crime and welfare cuts. The mayor also continued to paint Clinton as a panderer and part of the "liberal elite."

But all of his potshots failed to make a dent in the 10 percent sliver of undecided voters on which the outcome of the election appeared to depend. By January it was clear that Rudy's upstate advertising had not driven Hillary's numbers down or his own numbers up, and polls showed that the carpetbagger charge, never very wounding, had lost much of its power. Clinton ground out yardage little by little and hoped Rudy would beat himself by being, well, himself.

That's what Giuliani was doing on Feb. 7, when he read the lyrics to "Captain Jack" aloud at City Hall. If it was not the turning point in the campaign -- and perhaps it was, because Hillary would pull even with Rudy in some polls within three weeks -- it was at least emblematic of what the coming months would bring.

After Hillary's campaign officially launched on Feb. 6 with its embarrassing, but trivial, musical gaffe, Matt Drudge linked to her use of "Captain Jack" on his Web site. Giuliani operatives contacted reporters early the next morning, telling them to look at Drudge's site, and faxing them an outraged press release from William Donohue of the right-wing Catholic League. Reporters were prepped to ask Giuliani about the Billy Joel song.

At his City Hall press conference, after reading the lyrics aloud, Giuliani professed outrage. "Can you imagine," he asked, "if George Bush had held an event and right before the event a song was played that said, Let's say yes to drugs, let's glorify drugs, let's glorify pot?" He said there was a possibility the choice of songs had been intentional and wasn't just the product of a snafu. "It means that people of that ilk and that ideology are around you."

But the response to Giuliani's gambit, at least in New York City, might not have been what the candidate desired. On the local NBC TV affiliate, political reporter Jay DeDapper betrayed disdain as he explained how the Giuliani campaign had contacted local journalists, trying to interest them in the supposed controversy. "It's only February and it's come to this," said DeDapper, on air. At the end of the week, Daily News columnist Michael Kramer, no Clinton fan, awarded "Round 1" to Hillary, and said Rudy was the loser because he was "on one of his famous, petulant tears." Kramer cited the "Captain Jack" incident. "The mayor's rant," he said, "was petty and bullying." Kramer also slammed Giuliani for filling upstate talk-radio airwaves with "over-the-top" anti-Hillary commentary. Clinton continued to march through the snow.

By March 2, at least in a Siena College poll, the candidates were tied, 42 to 42. External events kept breaking Clinton's way. A jury acquitted the police of murder in the death of Amadou Diallo. George Bush became the all-but-certain Republican nominee for president. Both developments seemed to scare a few Democrats back into Hillary's column. Journalists began to describe Clinton as a greatly improved, dogged campaigner, and they noticed that she was closing in on 50 percent upstate. Democrat Chuck Schumer had hit that magic number when he knocked incumbent Republican Al D'Amato out of the Senate two years earlier. And then, with the race neck and neck, the mayor handed Clinton the lead. He did it not by attacking her or another politician, but by impugning the memory of a previously unknown resident of his city.

On March 16, an undercover cop working a "buy and bust" sting outside a Manhattan cocktail lounge tried to persuade a 26-year-old Haitian-American security guard named Patrick Dorismond to sell him some drugs. Dorismond took offense at the officers' overture. A scuffle erupted, a cop's gun went off, and Dorismond fell to the pavement dead. Amid the news of the fourth police shooting of an unarmed black man in the city in 13 months, Giuliani and his police commissioner, Howard Safir, released the dead man's sealed juvenile record to discredit him. The victim "wasn't an altar boy," the mayor said.

In fact, Dorismond had, literally, been an altar boy. He had even attended the same Catholic high school as Giuliani. As Time's Margaret Carlson would write, "Giuliani may want to consider saying he's sorry and letting Patrick Dorismond rest in peace." Instead, Giuliani said he had no regrets and had handled the matter "appropriately." Within days of the shooting and Giuliani's response, polls indicated that his electoral support within New York City, the advantage he'd enjoyed over any other potential GOP Senate candidate, had begun to collapse among two key groups, Latinos and Jews. At the start of the month, a Zogby poll had still shown Giuliani in the lead statewide; by March 25, another Zogby poll had Clinton 3 points ahead.

An early April New York Times poll gave Clinton an even larger lead, 8 points. Giuliani remained deadlocked with her upstate -- but then he scrapped an upstate campaign swing in order to attend the Yankees home opener, blowing off 400 ticket-holders to a "Women for Giuliani" luncheon in Rochester. Giuliani was unapologetic, telling reporters at the ballpark that he'd ignored the advice of his advisors so that he could do what he loved best. Clinton popped up outside a diner in Rochester, a portable microphone in her hand. "Well, I'm happy to be here," she said. "I have enjoyed coming to the Rochester area talking about the issues."

In a sense, it was all a replay of 1998 and early 1999, before either candidate had officially announced. Back then, Hillary had topped the polls because New Yorkers were, for a time, sympathetic to her and sick of Rudy. Throughout the state, voters had channeled their weariness with the GOP-dominated Congress' impeachment of President Clinton into support for his wife; at the same time, New York City voters expressed their irritation with Giuliani's insensitive handling of another police shooting -- the death of Amadou Diallo -- by withholding their support for him. Hillary as victim and Rudy as bully had meant a fleeting lead in the polls for the Democrat, one that evaporated once memories of Lewinsky and Diallo became less vivid. A year later, Rudy was again making Clinton the victim and himself the bully, and again helping his opponent.

After Dorismond, the bad news never stopped for Rudy. On April 27 he announced that he'd been diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer. Though he resumed campaigning within days of surgery, expressing eagerness to return to the trail, the New York Post soon published a photograph of the married father of two children standing next to a woman the tabloid described as a "Mystery Brunch Pal."

At the same time, the New York Conservative Party began to make good on its threat to back a third-party bid rather than endorse Giuliani. Former Rep. Joseph DioGuardi announced that he was seeking the nomination on the Conservative line, and party chair Mike Long called him "the right candidate." Just as in the present election cycle, when social conservatives have hinted they may boycott the candidacy of the pro-choice Giuliani, Long had been hinting throughout the 2000 Senate race that Giuliani would have to change his stand on abortion and several other litmus-test issues or forgo the Conservative Party's endorsement. No Republican had won statewide office in New York in more than two decades without appearing on the Conservative Party ballot line as well. In some cases, the endorsement had been worth 200,000 votes. Long's disenchantment was also personal; the endorsement had been withheld, at least in part, because of Giuliani's abrasive manner. "The mayor," said Long, "just doesn't know how to handle human beings."

Republican power broker Joseph Bruno, the majority leader of the state Senate, was soon pleading with Rudy to straighten out his marriage and focus on defeating Hillary. But by then it was too late. Giuliani was about to give himself the coup de gr√Ęce.

As Bruno's comments made headlines, the mayor disclosed at a May 10 press conference that he did indeed have a "very special friend." His secret affair with Judi Nathan had started some 10 months earlier, said Giuliani. By the way, he was also leaving his wife of 16 years, Donna Hanover.

Hanover apparently didn't know that last bit of information was coming. She learned about the dissolution of her marriage on the news. Badly stung, the mother of Giuliani's two children emerged from Gracie Mansion hours later to give her own press conference. Fighting back tears, Hanover accused her husband of conducting another earlier affair with a City Hall aide. He denied it.

After 10 rocky days of deliberation, Giuliani excused himself from the chaos. He dropped out of the race at a packed City Hall press conference on May 20. Giuliani cited his health. His once-promising career in politics looked finished, something he recognized in saying his illness taught him that politics was not the most important thing in his life any longer.

There were only 11 days left before the GOP's state nominating convention. Rep. Rick Lazio, who had never formally left the Senate race despite the party hierarchy's preference for Giuliani, stepped in to accept the Republican nomination.

He'll bail on this race too as it becomes apparent he can't win.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 27, 2007 5:43 PM

and condelezza rice will be vp any day now, and eric roberts is really julia, lol.

get used to the idea of the mayor being our nominee, unless fred drinks some energy shakes...

and it would be an opera to see him go up against Hilary. I've thought for a while she was gonna win her party, but I've come around. Every time I see a real close up picture of her it becomes more and more obvious to me....there is no chance in h*ll she's getting nominated, not only is she what we all know she is, but she is just ugly and scary to look at.

Posted by: neil at November 28, 2007 10:31 PM