HEATHCLIFF WITH A COMBOVER
I know someone who once tried to get a couple of romance novels published. I learned some conventions of the genre from her -- for instance, how common it is for the guy who turns out to be the hero to initially seem, to the heroine, to be an insensitive boor -- but an intriguing insensitive boor. Sometimes the problem is that the guy is very angry, almost out of control -- but it turns out, of course, that that's not a problem (for the right woman).
With that in mind, let's turn to Slate, where John Dickerson writes about Rudy Giuliani in New Hampshire:
When I walked into Rudy Giuliani's first New Hampshire house party, I thought, Somethin's gonna blow.
OK, I'm not going to take a cheap shot by drawing your attention to that.
(Oh, wait, I guess I just did. What Dickinson goes on to say, though, is that the room is overstuffed with clutter and people.)
...It was a perfect setting for Rudy Giuliani -- also a presence too big to fit in his party, meaning the GOP.
Ahem, again. Er, let's just jump ahead a bit.
...If Giuliani wins the nomination, it will be because he has a big shiny thing to distract GOP voters: experience. "I am the candidate in the race who has gotten the most things done," he said to loud applause on the staircase landing in Hampton Falls. This is a boast and a promise. In his stump speech, Giuliani offers a hail of statistics to show that in New York he lowered taxes, cut government spending, and shrank the welfare rolls before the 9/11 attacks. Then he held the city together afterward. "If you can do it in New York you can do it in Washington," he told the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce Tuesday. "The reason I can do it is because I've done it."
Sounds as if this rhetoric really impressed Dickerson. But wait, here's the insensitive-boor part:
Giuliani wisely ignores the more complex picture of his leadership skills, the bloated budget he left his successor, his prickly uncompromising manner, and horrible race relations. But there's reason to be concerned about him even if you buy his tough-talking self-portrayal. The thing about a candidate who gets things done is that he might actually do them. When it comes to opening up a new war with Iran, this might give voters pause. When asked this week about the possibility that Iran could acquire nuclear weapons technology, he offered a sample of what he would tell the country's leaders: "We're not going to let you do it -- no way no how.... There's no way you're getting nuclear weapons. You've got to get it straight." If this threat of military action is more than rhetoric, then given how the Iranians are behaving, we could be lacing up for a new war before Giuliani's first State of the Union address.
That's well put -- in fact, that's the case against Giuliani in a nutshell. (If you don't like the adventurism and "My way or the highway" style of the current administration, why sign on for four more years of it, with a guy who's even more petulant and snappish and sure that he's always right than W?)
Ah, but here's where the heroine starts seeing Insensitive Boor's vulnerable side, and the pulse rate elevates again:
... After the house party, the mayor met with his hosts and a few influential Republicans in the bar at the hotel where he was staying and where a few reporters had also decamped.
... A bar is a good setting for him. It's a venue that can accommodate his buoyant or brawler side. Monday night, as he drank Diet Coke, he told stories and cracked jokes.... Giuliani wears a better class of suit now that he's in the lucrative private sector, but he still seems like the candidate most likely to be comfortable wearing a muscle-T. When he stopped by the table where I was sitting with a few fellow reporters, the conversation turned to his foot doctor, and he took off his shoe to show his well-worn and stained orthotics. (Most candidates are too pent up to admit they have orthotics.) If you think back to the voter sentiment in 2000 that George Bush was the candidate they'd most like to have a beer with, you can imagine primary voters making Giuliani their preferred drinking buddy. But he may want to keep his shoes on.
Yes, I'm thinking of the opening sentences of Peggy Noonan's memoir, in which she imagines cradling Ronald Reagan's foot in her arms. I'm also thinking -- maybe because I'm Italian and grew up in an Italian neighborhood -- that Giuliani strikes me as far too white-collar a guy to wear a muscle T (assuming that all Italian guys wear muscle T's is sort of like assuming that Barack Obama must love chitlins).
But maybe Dickerson just wishes Rudy would wear one -- just for him.
Am I being too harsh? Sorry, but I just don't want to see this thug elected because too many journalists develop man-crushes on him.