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Jewish World Review May 24, 2000/ 19 Iyar, 5760


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The "new" Rudy
takes a powder -- I'VE HAD MY FILL of Rudy Giuliani's private life, how about you?

Before examining the atrocious press coverage of the Mayor's withdrawal from New York's Senate race, let's get one thing straight: Giuliani didn't want to quit. In the trite parlance of this Sopranos/Godfather-obsessed stinker, he was forced out of the race by the Republican Family: like Paulie in The Pope of Greenwich Village, his superiors knocked him around, then cut a finger off as a reminder. I'm not privy to the cabal's exact roster, but they did what was necessary: stave off certain defeat in this fall's election against the insufferable Hillary Clinton.

I happened to be working last Friday morning at 3 a.m. when a friend instant e-mailed me: he'd just returned from a night on the town, and was willing to gab. At that point, Rudy was still sending signals that he'd indeed challenge the First Lady; the night before, all-knowing pundits on the plethora of cable shows that I subject myself to were full of "Don't count Rudy out!" predictions. The whole calamitous mess was weird, but the logic seemed so simple: under Giuliani's peculiar set of circumstances and his flight from reality, his was a lose-lose-lose-lose-lose proposition.

The Daily News on Thursday had reported the Mayor might undergo a radical form of cancer treatment for a man his age, one that would give him more energy in the short-term, but could possibly shave years off his life in the future. What consideration for his young children. Given Giuliani's giddy insistence on turning his health and marital difficulties into an embarrassing circus, it was clear that Clinton would best him, and probably handily, in November. That, in turn, would make him Public Enemy Number One with the Republican Family and anybody who cares about dignity in the United States government. Helping elect one of the later 20th century's most loathsome women to the Senate is an unspeakable legacy; providing a forum for a presidential run in 2004 is strictly Rod Serling material. Finally, with all that self-imposed baggage, the Mayor could kiss his hopes for a successful 2002 gubernatorial run goodbye.

None of it made any sense.

Later that Friday afternoon, I took a brief nap, despite my understandable pique upon reading Editor & Publisher's cover story of May 8, which honored The New York Times' Arthur Sulzberger Jr. as "Publisher of the Year," complete with cover photo. Journalism awards are rigged, as any sentient person in the business understands, but it still rankled me to read Sulzberger, who's made a bad newspaper even worse during his eight-year tenure, described by his Washington Post competitor Donald Graham as "a five-star publisher."

Sulzberger Jr.
Bottom-feeder Dean Singleton, president/CEO of MediaNews Group (I have nothing against scavengers, by the way: Singleton's JOA between his Denver Post and rival Rocky Mountain News was brilliant), was even worse: "[Sulzberger] took a great newspaper and made it even greater... His strategy to go national has proved brilliant. It's just an outstanding company, and you have to give most of the credit to Arthur because he's leading it."

I accept at face value that Sulzberger has been an effective publisher on the financial end, exploiting the boom economy for record-setting profits. That his newspaper was so outrageously hypocritical in chastising the Los Angeles Times for its flagrant sale of editorial content last year-as if The New York Times doesn't indulge in the same sleazy practices, although slightly more subtly-is beyond the pale. I have no problem with Sulzberger getting credit for an ability to crunch numbers, but the Beltway gospel that the Times, which is the Democratic Party's unofficial newsletter, has improved on his watch is a joke.

In any case, I awoke an hour later and heard the news that Giuliani would soon hold a press conference to announce his exit from the Senate campaign. Only the Times-on its webpage, with a "Late News" story-could interpret the upcoming events in the following partisan way. The article by Daniel J. Wakin and Adam Nagourney (Hillary's court jester) claimed: "Beset by cancer and marital strife, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said today he would drop out of the race for United States Senate, clearing an obstacle for Hillary Rodham Clinton and setting off a scramble by the Republican Party for a substitute."

Talk about propaganda. First, far from "clearing an obstacle" for the woman who has Alzheimer's when it's convenient, Giuliani's sayonara has presented an entirely new set of hurdles to overcome if she's to win the contest this fall. And second, there was no "scramble" by the GOP for a candidate by Friday: Rep. Rick Lazio's anointment by the Republican machine was blessed before Giuliani was forced by the bosses to withdraw.

As I've written before, Rick Lazio's not my first choice to oppose Hillary Clinton: his boorish performance last summer in an attempt to force the Mayor's hand (and set himself up for challenging Chuck Schumer in 2004) was obnoxious at best, and, at the time, seemed almost self-destructive. What right did this snot-nosed kid from Suffolk County have to mess with Rudy in his prime? That kind of naked ambition doesn't sit well after eight years of Clinton. You could just imagine the teenaged Lazio pulling a stunt similar to the President's, when the latter jumped the line at that famous photo-op with John F. Kennedy because he saw the camera and a future campaign ad.

But no matter. Lazio's the man and he has an excellent chance at succeeding the overrated Pat Moynihan in the Senate. (Although I must point out that Moynihan is finishing his career in agreement with George W. Bush on his hardly "risky" plan to modernize, and thus save, Social Security. At least that partially exonerates Moynihan from his cowardly vote to acquit Bill Clinton on the House's impeachment articles last year.) Pundits are putting far too much stock in a Quinnipiac poll from last week-pre-Giuliani withdrawal-that showed Lazio trailing Clinton by a 50-31 margin. Guess what? Those numbers will close up almost immediately now that voters finally have a concrete choice to contemplate. Already, just a day after Lazio announced his candidacy, a John Zogby poll conducted for Post/FOX 5 News showed that the gap had narrowed to a Clinton lead of 45.7 percent-32.2 percent, with 17.4 percent of voters undecided.

It's true that Lazio isn't well-known, but he will be by November: the GOP will pour money and manpower into this campaign. Also, like Giuliani, he's a somewhat moderate Republican, pro-choice save partial-birth abortions and even favors moderate gun control, as well as (shudder) affirmative action. What should really have Democrats worried is that the city's turnout of minority voters, especially with the lackluster Al Gore at the top of the ticket, just won't be the same without that demon Rudy to vote against. And with Clinton's negative ratings so prohibitively high-vs. Lazio's blank slate-this is an election that will be too close to call. Yes, Democrats will tar Lazio as a Gingrich Republican, but that will be hard to make stick. And Hillary's already complaining: On Sunday, in Albany, the First Lady said, "I'm sorry my opponent couldn't even get through his announcement without going on the attack." But the smart money has to be on Lazio.

In fact, one ultraliberal journalist, to whom I lost $100 on a bet that Clinton wouldn't run, won't give me a chance to reclaim that C-note in the general election.

Demagogues like Al Sharpton and David Dinkins (a lot of gall he has in even commenting about New York City after his nightmare tenure as mayor) were quick to dismiss Giuliani's "humanizing" conversion. In a way, I don't blame them, since I find it hard to believe myself. Still, you know that a huckster like Sharpton soiled his ample drawers upon the Mayor's exit from the race. He's now a man with no country-all Sharpton could feebly say after Giuliani's press conference was, "As a minister, I've seen a lot of people come down the aisle and join the church, and two weeks later, they were missing in the pew."

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2000, Russ Smith