Sunday, September 09, 2007


There's some good, skeptical stuff in Matt Bai's cover story on Rudy Giuliani in The New York Times Magazine, although most of it will be familiar to longtime Rudy-watchers -- Bai makes clear that there's very little substance behind Giuliani's claim of foreign-policy expertise, and what substance there is is cribbed from Bush; Bai notes that ex-colleagues talk of Giuliani as a "my way or the highway" kind of guy; and, in the article's best moment, Bai recounts an interview he conducted with Giuliani in which Rudy ducked questions about present-day international issues by prattling on and on about Yasir Arafat, as if the solution to all our problems with jihadists now can be gleaned from Hizzoner's decade-old feud with a dead guy.

But, for all that, Bai can't conceal the fact that Rudy makes his palms a little moist:

After following him to diners and school gymnasiums across Iowa, I had to admit that there was something seductive in hearing Giuliani tout his own competence, in the certainty he brings to complex challenges.

Yup, Bai wrote "seductive."

When I first managed to track down Giuliani on the western edge of Iowa in mid-July, I was more impressed than I expected to be.... He has a penchant for talking to voters as if he were their tough-love therapist, frequently invoking words like "reality" and "denial." Vowing to end illegal immigration during one town-hall meeting in Iowa, Giuliani told the crowd, "Every other country does it, and we can do it.” Then he clutched his heart and spoke softly. "It's O.K. to do it." You could almost hear a collective sigh among the Iowans, who didn't consider themselves bigots just because they wanted to seal the borders, and who now felt validated by America’s mayor. They lined up for autographs.

I can almost hear an individual sigh coming from your direction, Matt.

Oh, and here's my favorite, right at the end:

[Giuliani] bounds onstage to the twangy rhythm of Brooks and Dunn's "Only in America." It's a good song for him, involving stirring images of Manhattan schoolchildren. ("One could end up going to prison, one just might be president....") I heard a better one, though, one night on the Iowa plains. It was after 11, and I was driving 200 miles clear across the soy fields, under an ink black sky, so I could catch up with Giuliani the next morning in Waterloo. Somewhere east of Fort Dodge, a Toby Keith song came on the local country station, and I made a mental note to share the lyrics with Rudy, if the subject ever came up.

"You may not like where I'm going,

But you sure know where I stand.

Hate me if you want to,

Love me if you can."

Yeah, Matt, you really should pass those lyrics on to Rudy -- on perfumed pink stationery with little hearts for the i's. Recommending campaign songs -- yeah, that's your job, isn't it? As a journalist?

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