Catharsis or Collapse

Did Cancer or Character Kill Rudy's Run for the Senate?

Like almost everything else about Rudy Giuliani, even his epiphanies can make you mad.

He did a 30-minute press conference to announce his withdrawal from the Senate race last Friday and used the word love 12 times. It was the first time in his mayoralty he'd uttered the word, unless you count when he put tough in front of it and announced a new punishing prescription for poor people.

As often as he talked about how "fortunate" he was to "have very good friends"—another new favorite term of his—"and people that I love and love me," he did not mention his family until near the end of his rambling New Age monologue. And as redundant as he was on the subject of love, he pointedly did not use the term in connection with his family when he finally did mention them. If his brush with mortality, as he described it, taught him what was important in life, family was way down the list.

He invoked memories of his past broken promises to "reach out" to those who felt left out during his administration, and everyone assumed he was talking about minorities, particularly blacks. But when pressed by a reporter, he said he was "just not capable of doing it as a racial, ethnic, religious thing," insisting that "there are people in all different groups" who feel excluded. This left open the possibility that he would assign an even larger share of the city's day care vouchers to Boro Park and call it outreach.

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The mayor does his own monologue and says farewell to Hillary.

The only people who thought Rudy was Superman before this crisis were people he paid to think it. They were also the only people who applauded his courage at the end of these three tumultuous weeks of public spectacle.

His new girlfriend, watching on the tube, cried so much during his press conference—which consisted largely of transparently coded messages to her—that she apparently traumatized an eye. The Post reported that she had to go to Manhattan's Eye, Ear and Throat, where the mayor rushed as well, making sure presumably that she could still gaze at him with wide-eyed awe.

As frequently as he and his cheerleaders said he was just being "honest" about all of this, he got away in much of the postdecision coverage with proclaiming cancer the sole cause of his withdrawal. The fact that he announced it the day after Donna hired a tough divorce lawyer was supposed to go unnoticed, and by and large, it did. As close a confidant as Monsignor Alan Placa, a friend for 40 years who married him and baptized his children, said the family crisis was a factor, apparently unaware of Rudy's official line. Giuliani was allowed out the door without accepting any responsibility for forging "the path," as Donna Hanover put it, that led to his demise.

In an hour with Andrea Mitchell and a half hour with Tim Russert, neither Cristyne Lategano's nor Judith Nathan's name ever came up, though the scandal of Lategano is surely as legitimate a news story as Rudy's sudden desire to get the Dorismond voodoo hex off his back. Make no mistake about it—a primary purpose of the pathos bath Giuliani took before and during his conversion conference was to replace the sex-life stories with sympathy sound bites.

We are all supposed to ignore the bizarre nature of Giuliani's three-week, self-proclaimed epiphany. He took Nathan to the hospital on at least one cancer visit, then away with him on an upstate campaign swing right after the public disclosure. Having begun to realize what was important in life, he next had dinner with her two out of three nights and, when questioned, practically announced their affair. To complete this introspective circle, he dropped a preemptive separation strike on his wife without a whisper of warning. Having chased her and his kids out of town, he needed a reflective weekend walk—with his girlfriend and half the photographers in Manhattan.

Only by setting so low a humanity standard for years could this performance actually be seen as the emergence of a kinder king.


Alan Hevesi got Prostate Cancer Four Years Ago.

He consulted physicians and decided on surgery. He called a press conference to announce it. Reporters were solemn and he cracked jokes. He did not turn it into an opportunity for public transubstantiation. A cheering crowd was not bused in from busy cubicles. He did not talk about "very good friends" he loved and who loved him.

He didn't tell us he'd learned he wasn't Superman. He didn't "confront" his "mortality," realize he was "just a human being," or discover his "limits." He just got seriously sick and went off quietly and got well. He was precisely the same age Rudy is now and, in all likelihood, faced the same options, risks, and side effects. He was back at work in four weeks and called no press conference to trumpet his return. His family was clearly his primary support system, and a marriage rumored for years to be troubled appears to have grown stronger because of his illness.

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