Rudy Giuliani: Everything you hate about Bush, and worse

giuliani.jpg“I’m pro-choice, I’m pro-gay rights,” Giuliani said.By Martin Bosworth

CNN.com Inside Politics, May 2, 1999.

Giuliani has described himself as a backer of civil unions and is frequently described that way in news reports. But he began distancing himself from civil unions in late April, when his campaign told The New York Sun that New Hampshire’s new law goes too far because it is “the equivalent of marriage,” which he has always opposed for gays.
Boston Globe, August 13, 2007.

Rudy Giuliani is definitely the “Teflon Don” of the current presidential campaign, in that even as more and more evidence surfaces about how deeply right-wing his politics actually are–or worse, that he’s pandering to gain traction with the GOP base–I still run across a baffling number of people who insist that they’d vote for him because of his socially liberal positions, or because he “cut taxes and stopped crime in NYC,” or because he looked authoritative and in command on 9/11.

Now, a lot of this is just pure mythos. Wayne Barrett of the Village Voice authored a devastating takedown of Giuliani’s supposed leadership during 9/11, citing as an example his insistence on building a command center for future terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center–the site of the infamous previous attack in 1993:

The mayor was so personally focused on the siting and construction of the bunker that the city administrator who oversaw it testified in a subsequent lawsuit that “very senior officials,” specifically including Giuliani, “were involved,” which he said was a major difference between this and other projects. Giuliani’s office had a humidor for cigars and mementos from City Hall, including a fire horn, police hats and fire hats, as well as monogrammed towels in his bathroom. His suite was bulletproofed and he visited it often, even on weekends, bringing his girlfriend Judi Nathan there long before the relationship surfaced. He had his own elevator. Great concern was expressed in writing that the platform in the press room had to be high enough to make sure his head was above the cameras.

In addition to the many instances of Giuliani’s disinterest in his actual work that I’ve cited (from having a campaign director who sells coke to ignoring Iraq Study Group meetings in order to collect hefty paychecks for speaking engagements), Giuliani’s foreign policy expertise and experience seems to be rooted in the idea that George Bush–one of the most unilaterally aggressive and militaristic presidents in our country’s history–just hasn’t pushed hard enough:

“We are all members of the 9/11 generation,” Rudy’s subtle first sentence reads — something that tells you quite a lot about what Rudy’s policies and campaign themes are. Rudy goes on to make some startling policy pronouncements — such as suggesting that we expand and redefine NATO into a worldwide alliance for pursuing more foreign adventures, and that running New York City as Mayor is very similar to handling the global foreign policy challenges associated with being President.

Meanwhile, his domestic policy platform is tepid at best, with his recently-announced health care proposal basically boiling down to a lot of weaksauce “market-oriented” programs and excuses to call single-payer health care plans “socialized medicine.”

And then there’s the point of Rudy’s notorious philandering and carousing while he was in office, leading to some very bitter and ugly scenarios as he continued to trade laterally for more palatable wives. Giuliani’s latest model, Judith Nathan, apparently is taking full advantage of the high-toned life Giuliani leads:

Today she and Giuliani, when they are not boarding private Gulfstream IV jets to Europe or trying to woo voters, shuttle between a $4 million Hamptons house and a $5 million nine-room Upper East Side apartment near Madison Avenue, its dining room walnut-paneled and crammed with crystal, china, and linen from Scully & Scully. Her annual salary has also improved: $125,000, evidently for helping to write some of the speeches Giuliani likes to give (for which he received $11.7 million between January 2006 and March 2007). This comes as a surprise to at least one of Judith’s acquaintances. Asked if he knew Judith was writing speeches, one former Giuliani aide replied, “Holy cow! God forbid!”

It doesn’t bother me that Giuliani slept around any more than it did Clinton. What bothers me is how ugly and vile his behavior was during and after each episode–how obviously entitled Giuliani felt to get away with something we nearly impeached a President for. That’s a very telling aspect of Giuliani’s personality–the sense that he is somehow innately better than the people he is supposed to serve.

I think, actually, that explains his appeal to people who should, frankly, know better. Giuliani’s image as the tough, commanding leader resonates with those who desperately want an authority figure–a “Daddy”–to tell them what to do and make them feel safe. No matter how fragile the reality is, the image provides comfort to those who desperately want it–and who are looking for an excuse to vote Republican to avoid the horror of (gasp) Hillary Clinton. 🙂

There’s also the “single-issue” voter complex that the progressive blogosphere has railed against for years–the idea that it doesn’t matter how a candidate or elected official votes on everything else, as long as he’s on the right side on your particular issue. In this case, Giuliani’s (until now) progressive stance on gay rights and abortion has softened him sufficiently to make him palatable to middle-of-the-road types who’re socially liberal but conservative on almost everything else. Meanwhile, it’s earned him unending hatred and scorn from the wingnut world– which may explain his gradual but noticeable shift to the right on these issues. Gotta keep the rabid dogs fed, after all.

Images are easy to sell and perceptions are hard to shake. People are essentially simple, and want to boil complex issues down to simple points that they can understand and relate to them. Just as Bush’s “guy you want to have a beer with” demeanor masked the already-evident destructive flaws in his personality until it was too late, Giuliani’s social moderate views and impressive post-9/11 political theater have solidified him in the eyes of many as the LEADER people want. But dig a little deeper and you’ll see that not only is he the absolute opposite of what a leader should be, but that his leadership style echoes and amplifies everything we have come to loathe about the Decider.

And we can’t have another four years of that sort of leadership messing up the country.

28 comments on “Rudy Giuliani: Everything you hate about Bush, and worse

  1. Yes, exactly — Giuliani is all myth, no substance. That’s why Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins called their 2006 book about Giuliani and 9/11 “The Grand Illusion.”

    I just finished reading it and heartily recommend it. The worst part is that Giuliani’s lack of interest in preparation for terrorism may have exceeded the Bush administration’s. His focus was entirely on domestic crime (not to mention Amadou Diallo, panhandlers and squeegee men).

    This despite the first WTC attack in ’93 (before he was mayor), which involved one of the largest non-nuclear bombs in history.

    Also, I haven’t read it yet, but the new Vanity Fair has a profile of Judi Nathan: “Giuliani’s Princess Bride.”

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  4. So our choices are between Giuliani or Hillary? I don’t follow you.

    Your paragraph on “Daddy” betrays the objective angle you have often set up here for yourself. Why not leave that kind of tone to hacks and advocates, and people who are really on the outside of a norm, trying to cause shifts in consciousness?

    Yeah, Giuliani is going to sell himself as the ‘secure choice’ that’s no secret. That choice exists for the Left as well, and one wouldn’t have to dig too far to find it. Perhaps if the Left were to construct a foreign policy beyond “do it better than they did” then the appeal of Giuliani would begin to vanish.

    But I would submit that Giuliani is neither right nor Left, but has more of an old-world “boss” managerial style. Obviously it succeeds within a certain context, but for the good of the whole country I can’t see it as a success.

  5. Even if I sincerely believed his positions on abortion and gay rights, I feel neither of those issues should have any bearing ont he next election.

    Gotta agree with this post. Giuliani isn’t a candidate – he’s a brand. He’s an image. His face might as well be accompanied by a picture of the twin towers. His presence in this election has little to do with policy, much to do with desperation. To many Republicans, Rudy is the strongest chance they have of keeping some kind of major power in the next election. Not everyone loves him, but they need him.

  6. Yeah, but… Who among the GOP hopefuls do you like better?

    I ask because if things hold as they are, the Dem nominee is going to be a very galvanizing Hillary Clinton. I’m not much on Rudy, but let’s see: John McCain, Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Sam Brownback, Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo … just stop me when I get to somebody you’d RATHER see in the White House than Rudy.

  7. I’d rather have McCain or Romney in the White House than Rudy, but as little as I like Hillary, I’d rather have her than any of the GOP candidates.

    This election is shaping up to be another “vote against” election instead of a “vote for” election….

    Cthulhu ’08 is looking better and better. “Why settle for the lesser evil?”

  8. Hillary would beat the pants off him in an election. That is if he has his pants on during the night of the elections. Probably not, but it won’t be with with Judith Nathan. By then, he’ll have another trollop on the hook. The man is in constant need of sexual adulation.

  9. I agree that Guliani is an absolutely unacceptable candidate for President. In time, I pray that all Republicans realize that he is anything but the strong moral leader they are looking for. Guliani would be the worst possible choice for both Republicans and Democrats–the thought of him as President truly frightens me.

  10. Raging Bee (and everybody else in general): “None of the above” is a perfect valid theoretical answer, but let’s focus on two realities:

    1: The GOP is going to nominate SOMEBODY.
    2: If the Dems nominate Hillary, that GOP somebody has a damned good chance of being elected.

    So let’s take a real world look here. As bad as Rudy is, who on the Republican side is better?

    I think the answer is probably “nobody.”

  11. Sam,

    The problem with your argument is that Rudy actually DOES have the best chance of winning. That’s what makes him dangerous.

    He’s already walking away from his socially liberal positions now that he’s planted the meme in people’s minds that he’s pro-gay and the Hero of 9/11. He’s playing to the base in the hopes of drawing them away from sure losers like Brownback and Tancredo. Giuliani will siphon votes away from people who despise Hillary and want any excuse to vote Republican, and the end result is that if he gets it, you can expect another four years of Bush, only worse.

  12. Russ,

    You do realize I linked to that selfsame Vanity Fair article you keep referencing, right? Where do you think I got the quote about the Giuliani’s high-flying lifestyle? 🙂

  13. Martin: This is all well and good and likely true. But you STILL haven’t answered the question, and that’s because it doesn’t have a good answer.

    I think I’m willing to submit that if I have to endure four more years of GOP president – and please, please, let this question remain hypothetical – but IF, then I can’t see how Rudy isn’t decidedly better than the rest of that pack, as bad as he is. And until somebody explains why I’m wrong, I’ll keep believing it.

    Further, I think Hillary is the easiest of the Dem hopefuls to beat because she mobilizes SO much antipathy. I don’t think the GOP can beat Obama (if the election were held tomorrow, anyway), and I don’t think they’d have a prayer at beating Edwards. No way in hell could they beat Gore.

    But Hillary they could beat.

    It isn’t that I’m saying you’re wrong about Rudy. It’s that of the worst-case scenarios we’re looking at, he seems to be the least worst-case, if not by much.

  14. Fred Thompson MIGHT be better than Rudy; but I only say that because Thompson doesn’t have enough of a record to prove that assertion wrong. (Besides, that last so-so actor they ran for President didn’t do so bad.) McCain WOULD be better than Rudy, if he could only launch another search-and-rescue mission for his spine and balls.

  15. Sam,

    Being “least-worst” doesn’t make you suck any less. Indeed, I have less respect for Giuliani than I do evangelical wackjobs like Brownback or bigots like Tancredo. They, for their considerable faults, enjoy a generally consistent policy line on their pet issues (Abortion and immigration, respectively).

    Giuliani is more like Romney or McCain–a guy who projects the image of being a straight-shooter, yet is utterly conscienceless about switching his positions to whatever will gain him traction. And even more than those two, he’s demonstrated a distinctly authoritarian/ignorant streak in his political career that would sink us deeper into every foreign quagmire you could think of.

    Of the current Republican candidates, the only ones I could see employing nukes to settle a foreign policy issue would be Brownback…and Giuliani. One of those guys has no chance of getting the big chair, but the other does, and that scares me. It should scare you too.

  16. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on the one point, then, since we’re generally in line on everything else. To your point–I wouldn’t vote for ANY Republican running in this election. I’d sooner pull the lever for Mike Gravel or write in Dr. Slammy. 😉

    I’d much rather see Hillary in office than any of them, but I’d much rather see Obama in than Hillary, and DEFINITELY Edwards before Obama. All of these people can beat Giuliani, but Hillary is the diciest prospect.

  17. I hear you, but you’re ducking the issue. I KNOW you wouldn’t vote for any of them. I’m saying that there is a series of GOP candidates, and that there is a hierarchy of bad, and that there is a variable chance (as you note) that one of them could wind up president.

    In that hierarchy, I see all the others as worse than Rudy. Your refusal to engage the question doesn’t alter the chance that he could be elected.

    Regardless, if you vote for Dr. Slammy, all your dreams will come true.

  18. Sam,

    I’m not ducking that question at all. I just think the hierarchy goes in a reverse order than you do. In my hierarchy, Giuliani is the MOST dangerous, not the least, and the fact that he IS electable only accentuates the fact. I don’t write these hit pieces just to amuse myself, you know. 🙂

    People like Tancredo and Brownback are too extreme to reach anyone beyond their respective bases. Giuliani has succeeded in fooling a great many people into thinking he’s more of a moderate and more of a leader than he really is. To me, that’s considerably more of a threat to Dems retaking the white house than any of the second-tier guys.

  19. Well, on this we’re going to have to disagree, then. We know, without question, what the others are, so the only remaining argument seems to be that Rudy is scarier because the others are comparatively inept.

    That would be more compelling if I hadn’t had a good up-close look at the damage inept can do over the past seven years.

    However, what I said earlier still holds. The best way to stop ALL of them is to nominate Obama, Edwards or Gore.

  20. The issue is, no matter who the GOP nominate, it’s still the same GOP that nominated Bush Jr., still dominated by the same incompetent, ignorant, uncaring, corrupt, morally bankrupt loony right. And no one gets the GOP nomination without pandering to the loony right, as McCain, Mutt Romney and Giuliani have already so blatantly done. It really doesn’t matter who they nominate — if they win again, after eight years of disastrous Bush-league failure, they will know they can do anything they want with absolute impunity.

    YOU haven’t told us what makes Rudy better than the rest, or how he would stand up to the loony right more effectively than the rest.

  21. Hey, now – let’s steer clear of that word “better.”

    I think my position on Rudy is fairly straightforward. I agree with most of what has been said, but Martin and you both, but there remains this legacy on key social issues. I don’t know that I yet buy that those progressive positions are no longer operational. I think there’s room to ask what’s real and what’s maybe being pandered about to garner votes. Not that this makes it okay – just that I have a smattering of doubt in my mind.

    As I see it, the worst-case Rudy = the best-case for everybody else (on policy, that is). If he’s everything Martin says he is, then he’s Mitt/McCain/Fred, etc.

    If he ISN’T that worst-case scenario, and he may well not be (say he’s a 9 on the bad scale instead of an 11), then he’s better than the rest.

    Let’s be clear, though – NOTHING I’m saying is an endorsement. By way of analogy, I’m simply saying that being stabbed ten times is worse than being stabbed nine times.

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