Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Rudy on Rudy: 'Somebody who can do the impossible'

Though he is not especially funny, Rudy Giuliani likes to begin with a joke. “Did you know that I’m running for President of the United States?”
That's how Elizabeth Kolbert begins a profile of the former New York mayor's presidential campaign, which, she writes is more of the same.
“This is where we really need a leader,” he told her. “We need somebody who can do the impossible. Now, I say that because I did this a lot in New York.”

Depending on whether you count his abortive race for the U.S. Senate in 2000, this is either Giuliani’s fourth or his fifth political campaign. In the earlier races, his goal was to persuade New Yorkers to vote for a Republican; this time around, it’s to persuade Republicans to vote for a New Yorker. Gone are the “Godfather” imitations, the snapping at the press, and the praise for immigration (“the single most important reason for American greatness”). The candidate who stopped by the Letizios’, and before that had coffee at Suzie’s Diner, in Hudson, and before that went on a holiday stroll in Nashua, where he waited in line to buy a Christmas ornament of a moose, is a less ethnic, less impatient, and more conservative candidate than voters in Brooklyn and the Bronx ever knew. This Giuliani invokes Ronald Reagan, smiles—or tries to—at children, and pledges to “secure our borders and identify every non-citizen in the nation.”

And yet the logic of his new campaign is—mutatis mutandis—the same as that of the old. Once again, Giuliani is in the awkward situation of wanting to represent a group of people whose views he does not actually represent. Once again, appeals based on “values” or personal history are closed to him. (Fourteen years ago—before he had appeared in drag, or ditched his second wife on TV, or met his third wife at a cigar bar—a “vulnerability study” commissioned by his staff noted that Giuliani’s “personal life raises questions about a ‘weirdness factor.’ ”) And so, once again, Giuliani is left to campaign on the basis of a single, strongly held idea: a great-leader theory of history, in which the great leader happens to be himself.

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