I Remember Rudy

A noun, a verb, and 9/11 -- and now not even that

The ridiculous Hunter Biden Laptop Story — barely a scandal even if all its particulars were true (which they are probably not, given the shadiness of their provenance and evidence, and that they have been shopped by the usual rightwing disinformation goons including Steve “Flood The Zone With Shit” Bannon) — reminds me how abundantly my longstanding hatred of Rudy Giuliani, the linchpin of this operation, has been justified over the years. It has sent me scrolling back to my old alicublog Giuliani posts — such as this 2004 bagatelle imagining Rudy as the new manager of the Yankees. Excerpt:

Manager Giuliani orders the arrest of hundreds of fans for flouting the Open Container Law. “Bad enough a beer costs eight bucks,” says one spectator as he is beaten by police, “but this?” “Heads will be broken,” says boss George Steinbrenner, “but if that’s what it takes to win a pennant, okay.”

With the Yankees trailing badly in the American League East, Manager Giuliani exercises his plenipotentiary powers to arrest Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez for pitching inside. “This is why we brought Giuliani to Yankee Stadium,” says boss George Steinbrenner.

Come on, lady, I laughed when you came in! But semi-seriously, Giuliani’s always been an authoritarian, ahead even of the Republican curve; in this regard he resembles the President he now serves.

As Mayor, Giuliani famously demonized victims of police brutality, tongue-lashed anyone who criticized him, and engaged in weird, petty shows of force, like sending swarms of cops to boss around pedestrians at Rockefeller Center during the 1997 Christmas rush (Rudy “called his pedestrian critics ‘anti-car’ and ‘hysterical’”) and sinking anti-jaywalking gates into the sidewalk as a lasting monument to his belligerence. This whole act climaxed with his attempt to get the 2001 mayoral election postponed because of 9/11. (Say, who does that remind you of? Actually, Trump hasn’t even tried it yet!)

In terms of his governance, Giuliani was a traditional Republican politician: Like other Republicans, including Trump, he cut funds to people he disliked and he ran up debts on fuck-ups and donor service for others to pay off later. His vaunted crime-fighting cred came mainly from riding a previous Democratic administration’s program into maturity while he was in office; Giuliani mainly added racial profiling. (It’s very Rudy that, when his notorious stop-and-frisk was shown to be less a necessary practice to preserve order and more a racist sop to anxious honkies, he tried to blame it on his successor.)

When 9/11 hit, Giuliani was laureled “America’s Mayor” for not shitting his pants (that we know of). Conservatives loved having a folk hero on their team — albeit an unattractive, unpleasant one — and many pushed him for the 2008 GOP Presidential nomination, asking only that he cast off his socially-liberal policies, which they apparently assumed he’d adopted in the first place only to con New Yorkers. Giuliani proved them right by mouthing pro-life sentiments for the rubes. (Another Trump trick!)

But soon enough the protective veil of Nineeleven grew tattered and people began to recall what a bully and a thug Rudy had been and how badly he’d handled New York's terrorism defenses before 9/11. His defenders claimed he was being sabotaged by liberal front groups such as the New York City Firefighters Union. Rudy returned the favor by getting even more trad-con in his stump ravings, e.g., promising to “end illegal immigration” (Trump trick! Drink!).

But it didn’t work. The GOP base voters found him unacceptable — in part because as Mayor he’d been a gun-grabber, which is hilarious, but also and I believe mainly because, as I said at the time, those voters had the intuition about Rudy that you’d expect normal people to have:

…citizens who till then had a vague, patriotic memory of America’s Mayor somberly handling the grim duties of that extraordinary time now saw a different person entirely.

They saw a former prosecutor who had never been lauded for his people skills, who had been elected twice as New York Mayor only because his toughness was perceived to be the harsh medicine the beleaguered City needed. But no one was looking for harsh medicine now, and without squeegee men or collapsing towers to justify him to the moment, Giuliani had to sell himself on the going terms. Republicans had swooned for the Great Communicator and the Compassionate Conservative, but here was a short bald man dressed like a successful banker and grinning. They had seen little of that grin in September 2001, and maybe a flash or two on a talk show since. Now they were accosted by it on an almost daily basis and, having the ordinary perceptual skills of human beings, they may have recognized it as the smile of someone who doesn’t actually like people.

And he didn’t have to be smiling to convey that impression.

Much has changed with the Republican electorate between then and the Trump era, alas.

There was an aborted Senate run, years of soaking up lobbyist/consulting money, and then Third-Act Rudy, a disintegration that has been remarkable, indeed much remarked upon — the former Mr. Law and Order hanging out with Lev Parnas!

And if anyone thought Giuliani as Mayor stroked the cops every time they gunned down a black guy only because he believed in their incorruptibility, that illusion has been amply dispelled by Third-Act Rudy, who seems to seek out opportunities to announce his racism. He bitched out Beyonce for her 2016 Super Bowl performance, saying she “used it as a platform to attack police officers” because she was dressed like a Black Panther (I mean, I guess that was why — that’s the only thing about his complaint that makes even a little sense). Later that year, at the VMA Awards, Beyonce briefly paid tribute to some black men who were shot by cops, and Giuliani went on a deranged grandpa rant (“I saved more black lives than any of those people you saw on stage”). His recent claim that the Black Lives Matter protestors on whom those two St. Louis crackers pulled guns were threatening to rape white women will probably not be the last such slurfest he gets into.

Today performative NeverTrumpers and JustTheTip Trumpers blubber that Rudy is Not The Man He Was. But everything he’s doing now was presaged by his behavior as Mayor — it’s just that, back then, these clucks had not yet been horrified by the absolute catastrophe of Trump into the epiphany that the qualities both Giuliani and Trump share — the brutality, the racism, the incompetence, the willingness to proclaim absurdities just to get over — were always there and some of us saw it plain while they were mesmerized.

I will add that one fringe benefit of a Democratic victory, if we are blessed with it, would be the elevation to the Presidency of the man who delivered the coup de grace to Giuliani’s Mr. 9/11 act.