Public Displays of Disaffection


When it was revealed last week that Rudy Giuliani’s 17-year-old daughter, Caroline, had described herself as a member of “One Million Strong for Barack” in a Facebook profile, a family spokeswoman quickly issued a statement claiming that the posting was merely “an expression of interest in certain principles,” not an endorsement of Obama. After she grew up for eight years in the Giuliani war zone that was Gracie Mansion, it’s hardly surprising that Harvard-bound Caroline might now be interested in another presidential candidate’s “principles.” The question is: Should we be interested in any of this family intrigue?

Rudy has given us his answer.

On the stump in Iowa, he said he wants “to give the maximum degree of privacy” to his children. “If you want the press to leave the children alone,” Giuliani said, “the best way to do it is not to comment.” What he meant was that if a candidate wants the press to ignore his messy personal life—including facts that might shock even the 50 percent of Americans who are divorced—the way to do it is to label any examination of it an “out-of-bounds” intrusion. And if using the vulnerability of his children will help insulate him from examination, this father is ready to show that he really does know best, especially when it comes to protecting himself.

That’s why he’s said: “Judge me by my public performance—whatever mistakes
I’ve made in my personal life, I’m sorry for them.” It’s a laughable dichotomy, as if one’s personal and professional lives are wholly separable, as if blowing up an 18-year marriage rather than finding a way to end it reasonably says nothing about how a presidential prospect might handle a squabble with Congress. New Yorkers, of course, know that Rudy’s self-absorbed humiliation of his wife Donna Hanover—informing her that he wanted a divorce on television, inviting the press to a “walking my baby back home” stroll over Mother’s Day weekend with newly announced girlfriend Judi Nathan—was utterly consistent with the in-your-face way he governed. His lawyer and friend Raoul Felder called Donna an “uncaring mother” over
that Mother’s Day weekend in 2000, said she was “howling like a stuck pig,” and accused her of “clinging to the chandeliers” in Gracie Mansion. For those used to the tone that Giuliani applied to enemies large and small at City Hall, it was clear that Felder was merely a bullhorn for his client.

Why are the following samples from the Caroline grievance list irrelevant to the character test we apply to our presidential candidates?

Giuliani brought her to City Hall for Take Your Daughter to Work Day in 1994 and 1995, the first two years of his mayoral term, and never brought her again. By 1996, the relationship between Giuliani and his twentysomething press secretary had so poisoned the marriage that all such family events were impossible. In fact, Giuliani took a family vacation in November 1993, shortly after his election, and never took another one in his life. His family was so invisible in his public life that neither Donna nor the kids attended his victory party when he won re-election in 1997, and Donna refused to tell reporters at the polls if she voted for him. On the night of the millennium, with a billion people watching Giuliani drop the ball on a new century, Caroline, son Andrew, and Donna had their own small party in an office tower overlooking Times Square. Though Giuliani was still months away from publicly revealing his relationship with Nathan, he squired her around all evening—to the city facility at the square, the new emergency-command center, and a party he hosted at a nearby café.

Once Giuliani filed for divorce, he brought Nathan to a Gracie Mansion event, which sparked a court ruling barring her from the premises in the interests of the children. The judge branded his lawyer’s public tirades “embarrassing and no doubt painful for these children.” Giuliani complained in court that he wanted to introduce Nathan to the kids on Father’s Day in 2001 and that Donna had blocked it. She might have still have been smarting from Father’s Day in 1995—a day of revelation for her—when Rudy told reporters after a morning event that he was going back to the mansion to play ball with Andrew, but instead went to a deserted City Hall and headed for a basement suite with his ever-present press secretary. An enraged Donna arrived three hours later, only to be stopped from entering the suite by a Giuliani aide.

The breakup was so botched that everyone is still scarred. The kids aren’t listed on Giuliani’s website bio. Donna wasn’t acknowledged in a four-page list of the hundreds of important people in Giuliani’s life at the end of his bestseller Leadership, though the dog Goalie did get a thank-you. Giuliani didn’t go to Andrew’s high-school graduation, and, just a couple of months ago, he insisted on bringing Nathan to Caroline’s. He and Judi wound up sitting in the balcony and leaving without speaking to her. No wonder Caroline told reporters at the graduation: “I am celebrating with my mom, my stepfather, my brother, and our other family members.”

That wasn’t a presidential endorsement either.