Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Getting One for the Price of One

Op-Ed Columnist
The New York Times
August 2, 2007

This week, Rudy Giuliani is focusing on health issues, attacking Democrats’ plans to get the government more involved in covering the cost of medical care. In a campaign tour of New Hampshire town meetings, he used the word “socialism” so often that it crowded out the old nonterror-related record-holder, “Ronald Reagan.” Other frequently repeated nouns were “choice” (good) and “France” (bad).

“Deal with it the American way!” he urged.

His own proposal involves tax credits and repeated analogies to the way the cost of plasma TVs go down when people buy a lot of them. Since the campaign says it will take a few more months to crunch the numbers and make the details perfectly clear, I, for one, am prepared to defer probing any deeper.

Meanwhile, we can consider the disappearance of Judith Giuliani.

You may remember a while back that Rudy Giuliani was touting his wife, a nurse, as an important adviser to him on health matters. This was around the time that he told Barbara Walters that he would be “very, very comfortable” having her sitting in on Cabinet meetings and policy discussions about her area of expertise.

So Judith was expected to be part of the New Hampshire health care tour. But her plans seemed to have changed about the time a new Vanity Fair profile emerged, one that makes her sound like a particularly unpleasant combination of Catherine the Great and Britney Spears. The article, by Judy Bachrach, accuses her of everything from demanding a separate airplane seat for her handbag to putting her husband in harm’s way by forcing him to retrieve a bag of health bars from the hotel during a security lockdown.

It’s a howl from the political and moneyed elite, recoiling from the idea of the social-climbing third Mrs. Giuliani.

“It’s a vile and venomous piece,” said Michael McKeon, a Giuliani spokesman.

Many of the anonymous quotes in the Vanity Fair piece seem to have come from past and present Giuliani employees, who are particularly bitter about Judith’s alleged attempts to elbow out his closest aides and confidants. This is not something you as a voter need to worry about since Giuliani’s closest aides and confidants tend to be extremely expendable hangers-on.

(We will revisit this issue sometime later when we discuss how chauffer-turned-police commissioner Bernard Kerik came to be nominated for chief of Homeland Security.)

The more problematic question is whether Rudy is so gaga over the lady that he will let her do anything she wants. If you elect him president, will you wake up a few months later and discover that Judith is Avian Flu Czar? Inquiring voters want to know.

There are three possible roles for the modern political wife/husband: Partner, Decorative Accessory or AWOL. We’re knee-deep in partners these days, with Bill and Hillary and Elizabeth and John. But there’s nothing to suggest Judith Giuliani can play in those leagues. In fact, although the campaign has tried to launch her several times, she’s showed absolutely no aptitude even for the role of admiring spouse.

She kept one of her divorces under wraps for a long while, trying to convince the world that Rudy was only her second husband. (The first rule of politics is to never lie about things that are quantifiable.)

In a rare speaking appearance at a fund-raiser last spring, she began with an anecdote about when they first met that was both unwise, given his married state at the time, and unlikely. (“The first time we sat down and talked I said: ‘What do you know about infectious diseases?’ ”)

Things did not really improve from there on in.

To protect his wife from unnecessary sniping, all Rudy needs to do is say that he was looking at the world through the eyes of love when he seemed to be envisioning her as a future weapons inspector. (“She gives us a lot of advice and a lot of help in areas where she’s got a tremendous amount of expertise — biological and chemical,” he said in 2003.)

They can jointly announce that while he campaigns, she’s decided to return to her true love and raise money for hospitals. They will need all the help they can get if his health care plan ever goes into effect.

Already, we can detect baby steps in this direction. Asked yesterday to describe Judith’s role in the Giuliani race, McKeon said: “She is involved with the campaign in terms of helping out with the fund-raising.”


Anonymous joan grim said...

I am no fan of Guilliani or any of the Republican candidates, but isn't it strange that presidential candidates wives who do not fit the mold of a Laura Bush, Mamie Eisenhower or Jackie Kennedy are skewered by the media? Eleanor Roosevelt & Hillary Clinton were professional women demonized by right wingers and now we see the same treatment of both Guilliani's & Thompson's wives. The attacks on their clothes, age, past marriages are childish & petty. Male politicians gain status using similar tactics but rarely undergo similar scrutiny.

Why shouldn't women consult in their husband's careers, especially if they are as smart or smarter? Why are we afraid of powerful wives? As women,we should not enable this assault on strong women. We must attack candidates on their positions that hurt women citizens and not on old world expectations of women following meekly behind their spouses.

4:11 AM  

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