Giuliani: worse than Bush

This is from a few months back, from Matt Taibbi, but it’s well worth reading. As others have noted, anyone who lived in New York under Giuliani, and was paying attention, has to be somewhat befuddled that his candidacy did not implode in its earliest stages. Yes, he was a calming presence in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 — I believe I noted as much at the time — but that was largely in comparison to the leadership of George W. Bush, who finished reading a children’s book and then ran for a hidey-hole, before eventually appearing on television looking — in the words of an NYC man-in-the-street interviewee I’ll never forget — “like a scared little bunny.” Of course, Giuliani was also the guy who put the city’s emergency command center in the fracking World Trade Center — six years after the first attack in 1993…

But anyway:

Giuliani has good stage presence, but his physical appearance is problematic — virtually neckless, all shoulders and forehead and overbite, with a hunched-over, Draculoid posture that recalls, oddly enough, George W. Bush, the vestigial stoop of a once-chubby kid who grew up hiding tittie pictures from nuns. Not handsome, not cuddly, if he wins this thing it’s going to be by projecting toughness and man-aura. But all presidential candidates have to play the baby-kissing game, and here is an early chance for Rudy to show his softer side.

“So,” he whispers to the kids. “What do you all want to be when you grow up? Do any of you know?”

A bucktoothed boy raises his hand.

“I wanna be a doctor,” he says, “and a lawyer.”

The crowd laughs, then looks at Rudy expectantly. The obvious line is “A doctor and a lawyer? Whaddya want to do, sue yourself?” and you can see Rudy physically straining for the joke. But this candidate’s funny bone is a microscopic thing, like one of those anvil-shaped deals in the ear, and the line eludes him.

“A doctor and a lawyer, huh?” he says, grinning nervously. “Uh . . . whaddya want to do, sue the doctor?”

My notes from that moment read: Chirping crickets.

Rudy moves on. “How about you?” he says to the next boy.

“I want to be a policeman!” the kid says.

Rudy smiles. Then the next boy says he wants to be a fireman, and the crowd twitters: Wow, a fireman and a policeman, in the same room! Rudy is beaming now, almost certainly aware that every grown-up present is suddenly thinking about 9/11. His day. As he leans over, the room is filled with popping flashbulbs. Then, instead of capitalizing on the sense of pride and shared purpose everyone is feeling, Giuliani utters something truly strange and twisted.

“A fireman and a policeman, huh?” he says. “Well, the first thing that I want to do is make sure that you two get along.”

Huh? Amid confused applause, Rudy flashes a queer smile, then moves on to the heart of his presentation, a neat little speech about how the election of a Democratic president will result in certain nuclear attack and the end of the free market as we know it. I’m barely listening, however, still thinking about the “make sure you get along” line.

Although few people outside of New York know it yet, there is an emerging controversy over Giuliani’s heroic 9/11 legacy. Critics charge that Rudy’s failure to resolve the feuding between the city’s police and firefighters prior to the attack led to untold numbers of deaths, the most tragic example being the inability of firemen to hear warnings from police helicopters about the impending collapse of the South Tower. The 9/11 Commission concluded that the two departments had been “designed to work independently, not together,” and that greater coordination would have spared many lives.

Given all that, why did Rudy offer this weirdly unsolicited reference to the controversy now? Was he joking? And if so, what the fuck? It was a strange and bitter comment to make, especially right on the heels of his grand-slam performance in the previous night’s debate. If this is a guy who chews over a perceived slight in the middle of a victory lap, what’s he going to be like with his finger on the button? Even Richard Nixon wasn’t wound that tight.