I really tried to read Michael Wolff’s hit piece on Rudy Giuliani with an open mind. Vanity Fair claims “Wolff writes that almost anyone who’s ever worked for Rudy Giuliani expects his presidential campaign to implode at any moment, thanks to his propensity for periods of mania, outbursts, and frequent forms of behavior that generally don’t win elections.”
Okay, so there’s almost always a bit of hyperbole in press releases. But the sub-headline on the piece declares, “Many New York political pros believe Rudy Giuliani—former mayor, hero of 9/11, and now presidential candidate—is, quite literally, nuts.”
Even those of us favorably disposed toward the former mayor will acknowledge some unusual behavior – the messy marriages, the firing of former police commissioner William Bratton, and the… let’s call it “abrasive” behavior that David Freddoso lays out.
So what’s Wolff’s evidence that Rudy is psychologically imbalanced? Well, he cites a pre-2004 lunch with the late Jack Newfield, a columnist and reporter, in which Newfield yelled, “Are you crazy? He’s just insane,” regarding Rudy.
He then quotes various folks who fought with Rudy while he was mayor as saying Rudy “has a devil in him,” very, very powerful pathology,” and that he has a “”mean streak.” Some of the critics indeed worked for the mayor like schools chancellor Rudy Crew, but the two had a bitter falling out over school vouchers. It isn’t terribly shocking to hear one’s critics declare, “he’s nuts.”
In critiquing Newsweek and New York magazine profiles on Rudy, Wolff writes:
Neither reporter—both of whom accompanied Rudy on his campaign trips—appeared to have asked the obvious question (it’s a reasonable question for all politicians, but it’s professional negligence not to ask it of Rudy): whether he’s on antidepressants or any other pharmacological mood stabilizers.
It’s obvious to ask if Rudy is on meds? Professional negligence to not ask, as opposed to say, national security, health care, education, or anything else the mags asked?
Wolff does quote a strident and personal exhange then-Mayor Rudy had on his radio show with a man who wanted the city to legalize owning ferrets as pets. Basically, Rudy calls the guy “sick” and “deranged” and while harsh, all that proves is that Rudy has a strong and well-established position on the hot-button issue of… ferret legalization. (“If you outlaw ferrets, only outlaws will have ferrets?”)
Rudy’s complaint about the Virgin Mary-in-dung work at the Brooklyn Museum is labeled “jihadish”; considering how the mayor refrained from beheading anyone, or calling for armed resistance against the museum, that seems pretty hyperbolic.
Finally, Wolff grew up near Bernie Kerik’s house in Paterson, N.J., and says that if he “heard stories” about Kerik being “mobbed up”, Rudy should have. Eh. The Kerik thing is a mysterious mess. It would sink an ordinary politician, but ordinary politicians don’t have a huge and sustained drop in crime and major metropolitan renaissance on their watch.
In the end, Wolff doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. While many of us may look at Rudy and say, “Eh, got some flaws, messy home front, big ego, demands attention and doesn’t like sharing credit… but a guy who knows how to get results,” Wolff looks at Rudy and concludes, “Oh, he must be insane.”