We Come to Bury Rudy

The evil that men do lives after their mayoral stints—and even 9/11

And there is certainly a chance that the deceptions will not end with the campaign. His apologists have already concocted an explanation for what might be the greatest collapse in presidential campaigns since polling began: They're attributing it to the purported success of the "surge" in Iraq and the consequent resurrection of John McCain. We are beginning to hear—just as we did in 2000, when Giuliani pulled out of the Senate race against Hillary Clinton—that his heart was never really in the presidential run, either. Giuliani ascribed that earlier withdrawal to his bout with prostate cancer, though the city comptroller at the time returned to work within a month after facing the same health threat. Even so, cancer was certainly a better explanation than his televised announcements at the time, one on top of the other, that he wanted a divorce from his then wife and had acquired a new "special friend." In the same spirit of plausible excuses, we may now be told why his plane turned around in mid-flight in December and circled back to St. Louis for a sudden battery of hospital tests, thus shifting the onus for his fall once again from himself to his health.

And Rudy's champions, like MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, who once likened "Giuliani deniers" to Holocaust skeptics, spent the morning after blaming the "hate" that "the New York press" dumped on the former mayor. Scarborough, a former GOP congressman who now poses as a font of chummy nonpartisan wisdom and calls himself a "journalist," may not have noticed that the demise of Giuliani was instead a tribute to reporters all over the country doing their job. Time, for example—which hated Giuliani so much they made him "Person of the Year" in 2001—took him apart more recently for his many 9/11-related failings and his consulting firm's sleazy clients. The Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Concord Monitor, Vanity Fair, Newsweek, Newsday, The Nation, ABC News, Salon, the Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, Politico—and yes, Morning Joe, The New York Times and the Daily News—all produced damaging investigative pieces on Giuliani because, given his front-runner status, the facts required examination. No one gave those revelations more attention on television than Scarborough's MSNBC colleague Keith Olbermann. And it was another NBC giant, Tim Russert, who put together a greatest-hits collection of those clips and threw them one after another at Giuliani on an hour-long Meet the Press on December 9, which became a turning point in the Giuliani campaign.

Giuliani conceded in the Russert interview that he had told the 9/11 Commission in private testimony—as revealed in the Voice—that he'd never been briefed on Al Qaeda until after the attack and that his lack of information was "a mistake." It was an admission that flew in the face of his campaign claim that bin Laden had declared war on America in the 1990s and that he, unlike the Clinton administration, had heard the call. He also had no real response when Russert confronted him about doing business with Qatar, whose emir and interior minister had shielded the very mastermind of 9/11 himself—sobering facts that stories in the Journal and the Voice had established. And when Russert had the audacity to ask if taxpayers would have to subsidize his trysts with a "mistress" when he was in the White House, as they had in the "driving Miss Judi" scandal, Giuliani couldn't even convincingly guarantee that he'd be monogamous, much less parsimonious.

With the Rudy campaign already history, however, its final significance lies in what it says about the American state of mind. It says that the party of fear may have finally drained all the blood it can from the body bags of 9/11. It says that a candidate with more deferments than wives can't chest-thump his way to presidential glory. It says that even in the age of Fox News and George W. Bush, spin can hit a wall in American discourse, and truth can find its voice.

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