Gut Check

Last week, Department of Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff announced his “gut feeling” the United States is in for another ter’st attack on U.S. soil this summer.

Thus began a failed and finished administration’s desperate, final hour upon the stage.

The reality is the Bush administration wrote the script for its own demise in the earliest days of its very existence, though the smart money understands the die to have been cast earlier still.

Given the players and the principles involved, things could hardly have turned out differently – and yet – choices and decisions still to be made will define our recovery as a nation and a culture in the wake of Mr. Bush’s malefactions.

To what may we reasonably aspire in the post-Bush era? If one finds the work of the good folks at Political Compass credible, then the answer is largely “more of the same.”

For those presently enamored of the man known as America’s mayor, there’s an enlightening must-read article in the August issue of Harper’s Magazine (link may require subscription to read online).

There were similar articles available prior to the 2000 election, the outcome of which is a telling indication of the depths to which reading and anything more than superficial inquiry have dropped in recent times.

For what it’s worth, a cogent section of Kevin Baker’s piece in Harper’s reads:

Yet as we have learned once again in Iraq, the ends can never be separate from the means. There is an important difference between the Democrats and Giuliani’s twenty-first century Republicans, and it revolves around the man himself. In the new politics, the candidate is everything. The post-ideological party distinguishes itself from its rivals not through any program or deep moral conviction so much as by the character and the charisma of its particular leader – its Sarkozy, or its Berlusconi, or its Clinton – and by its brand-selling strategies. Guiliani would like to add his own name to that list and he may well succeed, for the “brand” with which he is indelibly linked in the American mind is “strength.”

The fecundity of this observation is not to be underestimated. Rudolph Giuliani’s image in the public mind, his brand of strength is derived primarily from two things: a five minute speech made from atop the pile of rubble in downtown Manhattan in the aftermath of 9/11, and his claim to have “cleaned up” New York during his tenure as mayor.

While Mr. Giuliani indeed projected an air of leadership in the uncertain hours and days after the terrorist attacks of September 2001, we should not lose sight of the low bar set by the president’s own deer-in-the headlights response to the tragedy.

Those interested in actual facts as opposed to the superficial memory of myth-making imagery, would do well to consult books like Grand Illusion, The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11, which details the mayor’s incomprehensible disorganization and stubborn authoritarianism that made the crisis worse than it might otherwise have been.

Or 102 Minutes, a book released in 2004 by a pair of New York Times reporters, who show how Mr. Giuliani lied to the Federal 9/11 Commission about communications between the city’s various emergency response departments on that day, in order to protect his image as a leader in control.

Likewise, the former mayor of New York’s claim to have cured the ills of a city thought since the 19th century to be “ungovernable,” is patently false.

As Mr. Baker details in the Harper’s article, of the many woes that afflicted New York throughout the 1980s and into the early years of the 1990s, “nearly every accomplishment that Giuliani points to today either had already been achieved or was well on the way to being achieved by the time he became mayor.”

What he in fact did was run an overtly divisive, race-baiting campaign, inducing just enough fear in the city’s nominally liberal Upper West Side white voters to give him a narrow victory over the black incumbent, who was actually responsible for the falling crime statistics Mr. Giuliani would later claim as his own.

What he actually did – in a pique of jealous rage – was summarily dismiss the police chief (hired by his predecessor) whose forward-thinking approach to running the city’s police department landed him on the cover of Time magazine as the architect of the city’s victory over violent crime.

The great irony behind Mr. Giuliani’s politics of personality is that he is a thrice-married, cross-dressing, openly adulterous egoist, whose grown children despise him and who is on the wrong side of any number of issues vitally important to the Republican base that has kept George W. Bush in office for nearly seven unlikely years.

Should he gain the Republican nomination for the 2008 general election, Mr. Giuliani will stand as a testament to the distance our nation has strayed from any semblance of a reality-based existence.


  1. Bubbles - July 22, 2007 @ 11:01 pm

    LD if the Republican party sticks with this war through the fall there won’t be 40 of them in the Senate come January 2009. That would make the Democrats filibuster proof. And in the House they’ll lose 30-50 seats. They’ll be hanging George Bush in effigy for a generation. Giuliani who? You must be joking.

  2. deep throat - July 23, 2007 @ 12:26 am

    Once again I marvel at the wisdom and writing of your column. My take – Americans love their “heroes” – their John Wayne’s, their shallow Ronald Reagan’s.. I love de-mystifying this fake hero. Is it always going to be style over substance when it comes to politicians? I’m afraid so – since the voters are so shallow and under informed – and so attracted to the 5 min. speech of the hero of the moment vs. the lifetime and body of work as a whole. Politicians seem motivated by power for powersake – under the guise of community service. I am wholly unimpressed with them as a body of human beings. I’m much more impressed and have much more respect for the school teacher and the firefighter – who really command a hero’s day of work.

  3. lonbud - July 23, 2007 @ 10:55 am

    Bubbles – you may well be correct about the coming bloodletting for the Republicans in congress, however, as the Political Compass link in the main post makes clear, a Democratic super majority may not translate into significan shifts in policy. The likes of you and I may find the notion of a Giuliani candidacy inconceivable, but his fundraising ability and his profile in the media make his campaign worth keeping an eye on.

    deep throat – thank you as always for the kudos, and for giving the lie to the notion that any of the things I write about on this blog really matter when it comes right down to it. we should all go hug a teacher and take a tin of homemade cookies to the nearest firehouse today!

  4. harshmoon - July 23, 2007 @ 5:52 pm

    Teachers don’t like it when you hug them. The one I finally caught had pepper spray. Not good. All I’m sayin’ is, if you got to do it – don’t let ’em see you coming.

  5. lonbud - July 27, 2007 @ 3:25 pm

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