But yeah, some of the ladies still love Rudy in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Men, too -- male and female, some people have always found the Rudy mix intoxicating: swagger that can veer into sociopathic rage, but with those faint undernotes of wonkishness and lisping pseudo-empathy. If politics is Hollywood for ugly people, Rudy, at least at his peak, was Sinatra, a boorish jerk who persuaded a lot of people that he was the ultimate man's man, and quite a few people that he was thoughtful and wounded and cuddly. Sinatra, or maybe Fatal Attraction/Falling Down-era Michael Douglas, the self-pitying, put-upon white guy who, if he kills you, fully expects it to be ruled justifiable homicide because, really, how could he be a menace to society when he's so soft-spoken, and when his victim deserved it?
That's what was working for Rudy, and that's what he seems to have lost. I love the way James Wolcott puts it here:
Rudy's gift for demagoguery, which he filed to a serpent's tooth as mayor of New York, seems to have abandoned him once he became a money-hooverer for Giuliani Partners. A vacancy has taken hold in the executive suite of his brain. I saw him yesterday on CNN trying to shift his message to the economy and it was a pale imitation of the pitbull New Yorkers fondly knew and unloved. His economic recovery plan consisted of pandering to Larry Kudlow's pinstripes, saying he'd cut this top rate from 35% to 25%, this rate from 15% to 10%, and abolish the "death tax," which drew applause from the appreciative, well-to-do cadavers-to-be in the audience. Then came the moment to unveil his simplified tax plan, which would allow most Americans to file their returns on a single sheet of paper. He reached into his left jacket pocket and pulled out a folded paper, but it wasn't the right one. May have been a Chinese menu or something. Then he pulled out another. No, that wasn't it either. Maybe it was a scented personal note from wife Judith, reminding him to smile more, no matter how much it hurts his facial muscles. Then, in his right jacket pocket, he found what he was looking for and unfolded it for the audience's behalf. See, here's the thing. As simple stagecraft, you don't tout a Bold New Initiative and then pull out a sheet of paper that's been folded and unfolded and folded again so many times that it looks like a flyer taken from a laundromat bulletin board, complete with lint. It kind of undercuts the magic of the moment, lacks a certain showmanship. Well, he won't be airing out his pockets much longer.
Yes (as Wolcott notes elsewhere) he also needed to talk more about the recession, and sooner -- but he needed to be Rudy and say he was going to kick the recession's ass. And say it quietly but menacingly, in that way some New Yorkers and New York expats still love so much.
The guy who's become what Rudy used to be is Mitt Romney. I've always thought he was a soft-spoken coiled spring, but it's showing more and more, as in his comments at the last debate about Bill Clinton being in the White House with nothing to do. Romney will never be Sinatra, but he's seeming an awful lot like Michael Douglas -- like a guy who'd kill you and then insist he's too upright a citizen to be in any way responsible for the fact that things got out of hand.
(Thanks, Greg T., for reminding me what I'm missing when I don't read Wolcott.)