Foul Ball


Memo to the good republican folks up in Rensselaer county: don’t even think of trying to book mayor Rudolph Giuliani for a campaign tour of Troy’s Treasures on June 18. He’ll probably need to be dugout-side that afternoon for Emigrant Savings Bank bat day at Yankee Stadium. And if Elmira’s GOP wants Rudy on August 5, well, the mayor might have other plans: every fan attending the Yanks-Seattle game that Saturday gets an insulated cooler bag courtesy of Hormel Foods and Land O’ Lakes. As Rudy would surely explain, until next year, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

Unless Giuliani is careful, this bothersome Senate campaign threatens to cause havoc with the mayor’s beloved sojourns to the Bronx ballpark. With the Yankees favored to make it to the playoffs and the October Classic, the First Fan will probably have little free time to even debate Hillary Clinton in the run-up to November 7 (unless, of course, Gabe Pressman would be willing to shoehorn in a few questions between a seventh-inning stretch). In fact, perhaps now would be an appropriate time to start considering postponing Election Day (only for a few weeks), what with the prospect of Rudy having to organize another parade up the Canyon of Heroes and another private party on the steps of City Hall.

For her part, Clinton could never get away with such, um, blind devotion to a ball club. If Hillary had been the one who stood up a group of 400 Buffalo women (and a group in Rochester as well), her approval numbers in western New York would have plummeted below the Scott Norwood line. She would have been excoriated and had her judgment called into question. Steve Dunleavy’s Post column could write itself.

As it is, Giuliani has taken some deserved flak for his strange election year priorities. Isn’t he a bit old to be sitting there in a Yankees cap and jacket, looking like some doofus headed for one of those fantasy baseball camps in Vero Beach? And, sorry, rooting for the Yanks is still like pulling for U.S. Steel. The squad’s only interesting arc these days is the clubhouse’s mysterious cancer cluster. Those spurned Buffalo and Rochester residents—passed over for a dopey baseball game—would surely have understood had Rudy come up with a better excuse for playing hooky. It’s not like he forgot that it was his wedding anniversary. Or that he wanted to stay home to watch a repeat of The Sopranos finale so he could see that tilefish channeling Big Pussy. Those are excuses Giuliani’s upstate supporters could have easily swallowed.

Giuliani’s problem, of course, is that nobody can talk to the guy. Any political pro would recognize that you should avoid leaving supporters in the lurch. Conservative Party chairman Mike Long called the Buffalo no-show “unconscionable,” and GOP consultant Nelson Warfield noted that “if upstate is being asked to tolerate his liberalism, you would think he’d at least tolerate missing opening day.” But in Giuliani’s camp, Rudy knows what is best for Rudy. And wedging himself between son Andrew and Liberal Party boss Ray Harding was clearly the thing to do last Wednesday. But he has made sure to reschedule the upstate fundraisers: Giuliani will be in Rochester on May 21 (Yanks visiting Cleveland that Sunday) and in Buffalo on June 12 (when Boston visits the Stadium for the opener of a three-game set—now there is a sacrifice).

Last Thursday, a day after he chose box seats over Buffalonians, Giuliani appeared rather miffed, perhaps because of the snipes he had to endure over his opening-day outing. He was also probably still smarting from remarks that Senator John McCain, a Giuliani supporter, made about Clinton. Speaking to Columbia University students earlier in the week, the Arizona Republican noted that, were she elected, Clinton “would be a star of the quality that has not been seen in the Senate since Bobby Kennedy was elected senator from the state of New York.” Oh, how Rudy longs for someone, anyone, to whisper, “You’re a superstar, yes, that’s what you are.”

At a City Hall press conference, when reporters asked the mayor about remarks that Clinton had made on Friday regarding her plan to erase the federal debt, Giuliani had a hissy fit (some might even say he acted a bit precious, a la Ray Cortines). “Oh, come on, Mrs. Clinton, Mrs. Clinton. You guys, you’re unbelievable. You’re, like, knee-jerk, knee-jerk, knee-jerk. Thank you!” As he left the Blue Room, Giuliani suggested that the assembled reporters “join the Democratic National Committee.” All that was missing was the singsongy inflection and the accompanying nyah-nyah-nyah-nyahs.

By now, Giuliani observers are used to the mayor’s frequent public meltdowns and distinctive speaking style. His bizarre repetition of words (“very, very, very” or “knee-jerk, knee-jerk, knee-jerk”) is a curiosity that few reporters fail to regularly include (often gleefully) in their news stories or columns. Usually by the time you hit 50, you stop describing things as “really, really silly” or “very, very sad.” Therefore, decoding Giuliani’s speech habits—which have none of the exquisite rhythms of Gertrude Stein but all the nuttiness of Professor Irwin Corey’s patter—should be left to a highly qualified linguist (and preferably one with a minor in clinical psychiatry).

Giuliani’s frequent outbursts against reporters—and his obvious contempt for the press—have yet to hurt him politically. But now, as the media introduce him to readers and viewers across the rest of the state, his shrill, paranoid, and often hostile responses only serve to reinforce Clinton’s depiction of her opponent as a temperamental time bomb. Despite six-plus years of kid-gloves treatment, poor Rudy believes that he has been unfairly hounded by biased lefty journalists who secretly wish that David Dinkins was still mayor and the streets returned to their purported Dodge City days. You know Rudy secretly wishes he had come up with that “nattering nabobs of negativism” line uttered almost 30 years by Spiro Agnew.

And speaking of that bygone era, Giuliani, already possessing some rather Richard Nixon-like paranoia, appeared to take a page from Tricky Dick’s playbook with his recent private prayer session at Gracie Mansion. Granted, it didn’t have the gravitas of Nixon and Henry Kissinger in the White House’s Lincoln Sitting Room shortly before the eve of the president’s exile from Washington, but it was still very weird.

Only after repeatedly besmirching the character of police shooting victim Patrick Dorismond (and being widely criticized for that brutal assault) did Giuliani decide he needed what Reverend Michel Faulkner called “pastoral counseling.” Faulkner, a longtime Giuliani supporter, is pastor of Manhattan’s Central Baptist Church, and can deliver all of 67 votes. In the wake of the Dorismond slaying, an enraged Faulkner presented his pal Rudy with a particularly unpalatable demand: Repent or resign.

So far, Giuliani has picked none of the above. And City Hall has refused to provide details of the 45-minute Faulkner-Giuliani session, which is probably a good thing. Because the thought of the mayor kneeling down in the Wagner Wing, Bible in hand, Yankee cap on melon, is almost too much to take. Pray with me, Rudy!

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 18, 2000

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