Another famous New Yorker, Yogi Berra, once said, “We may be lost but we’re making good time.” That pretty much sums up the current state of Rudy Giuliani’s political reality and doesn’t bode well for his future.
When it comes to Rudy Giuliani, I want to be upfront from the start. I’ve lived in New York City most of my adult life and I have greatly benefited from having lived here. I voted for Rudy Giuliani every time he ran for mayor. He used to live around the corner and down the block from where I’ve lived for the past 30 years. I had the misfortune, one weekend evening, of sitting two tables away from the Giuliani family in an Upper Eastside restaurant. I was more than taken aback when the man who had rid the streets of “squeegee pests” along with high and low priced hookers couldn’t control his own children as they ran riot about the dinning floor. Giuliani was as oblivious to his children’s behavior as he was to the displeasure they caused the patrons trying to enjoy dinner that evening.
If you’re not a New Yorker of long standing or one who has resided in the greater metropolitan area for a number of years your opinion of Rudy Giuliani is more likely than not a function of your memories of the September 11 terror attack and his response thereto, which was undoubtedly heroic. His performance in the aftermath of 9/11 led many media pundits to portray Giuliani as an “American Churchill”, something my British friends, both liberal and conservative, roundly derided. However’ if you’ve been here awhile you know full well that the day before 9/11/2001 Rudy Giuliani was pretty much a political has been, having sunk to the level of a political afterthought. He was perceived, socially, as a bit of a buffoon. Prior to 9/11, Mayor Giuliani had made a spectacle of himself, in an unflattering way, by openly discussing his failed marriage in public even before he had completely done so privately with his wife. This was an affront to polite society in particular and viewed with disdain by the public generally. Thus in many ways his latest attack on the persona of Barack Obama is best viewed as Giuliani running true to form. In other words, Rudy Giuliani has regressed to his personal political mean.
Through his latest comments, Giuliani has effectively worked to further undermine his own credibility with statements about Obama “not loving his country” or “not having grown up like the rest of us.” How would Rudy Giuliani, intimately, have been privy to any of Obama’s inner feelings not having grown up with him and not now, or ever, having had a close personal relationship with the president. Moreover, to call Obama a Socialist either belies Giuliani’s lack of understanding of what constitutes Socialist ideology at best, or represents his intellectual dishonesty in leveling such a critique at its very worst. The same can be said of Giuliani’s charge that Obama is “Anti-Colonialist.” Barack Obama didn’t grow up under any colonial administration and like any number of political leaders of the 21st Century, he would, most likely, conform to the prevailing view that the age of colonialism was long past its prime and over. Can Mr. Giuliani find anyone in the world today, other than some obscure fringe political personality, who thinks a return to colonialism, in spite of any benefits it may have previously conferred, now represents the way forward? If not why continue in propagating the twin canards that Obama is either a Socialist or an anti-Colonialist or any combination thereof? Is it that Rudy Giuliani is just so desperate for attention that the only way he can achieve it is to, once again, play the part of public buffoon by blurting out absurdities on the various political soap boxes of the far right?
Giuliani’s latest episode of embarrassing behavior, can only work to hinder the Republican Party, which is desperately trying to engineer a major overhaul of image. The Republican Establishment has been working mightily to accomplish just that, so needless to say, does anyone doubt that they have been appalled by Mr. Giuliani’s latest act of political self-destruction? Since before the 2014 mid term elections the Republican Party has been working to marginalize the Tea Party, has shifted its rhetoric to the center, (i.e. to the left) in how it addresses the plight of the middle and working classes and is making all the right noises about proving they can both govern and compromise. Thus, blatantly absurd comments from Rudy Giuliani, missteps by Rand Paul and Chris Christie discussing vaccinations, Scott Walker’s equivocating in London on evolution and Ted Cruz suggesting the G.O.P. should again shut down government can only serve to undermine the G.O.P. at a time when it is trying to rebrand itself. To paraphrase Michael Gerson’s comments this morning on “Meet the Press”, if right wing talk radio becomes the voice of the G.O.P. it can only work to undermine any budding Republican renaissance that might be currently taking hold.
In some respects, the plight of Rudy Giuliani mirrors that of a few other prominent conservatives who, like many liberals before them, have succumbed to their own success and its subsequent hubris. One only need think of how the career of Bill Clinton unraveled in a series of sexual and ethical missteps to understand just how badly a promising administration can become mired in controversy. Donald Trump another New York icon made a fortune with existing family money to become one of the most successful men in America. Regrettably, that success went to his head when he thought it was an easy transition to being a credible political figure. He too has made somewhat of a fool of himself in his endless quest for Obama’s birth certificate. Sarah Palin was successfully elected to Governor of Alaska but in her being tapped for the second spot in the faltering presidential campaign of John McCain had come to believe that she too was a major force on the American political landscape. However she has proven herself to be nothing more than a shill for the far right while at the same becoming great source material for Saturday Night Live.
American democracy, to the extent that even continues to exist in a meaningful manner, or on the prospect that it will ever make a comeback, depends on a vigorous political discussion between at least two diametrically opposed points of view, which create political competition. That’s what the leadership of the Republican Party, at least rhetorically, is trying to achieve. That said the commentary of Rudy Giuliani only serves to affect the opposite. The fact that fringe elements on the far right enthusiastically embrace Mr. Giuliani’s commentary is in and of itself meaningless. Mr. Giuliani’s comments serve no purpose other than to stir up a faction of the population that, in the final analysis has little to say in where the country is ultimately heading. Look back at the time from the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt to the present and what does one see? With the exception of the candidacy of Barry Goldwater, which resulted in the largest landslide against conservatives in American electoral history, the G.O.P. has, on the national stage, nominated moderates who have fared for better or for worse, against the Democrats. Thus to there is little for conservatives to gain from embracing the sordid and hackneyed rhetoric of a guy like Rudy Giuliani who for all practical purposes has sunk back to the lowly position he occupied before terrorists drove two planes into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. As was suggested at the beginning of this post, with regard to Rudy Giuliani, he may be lost but he’s making good time.
Steven J. Gulitti
22 February 2015