By MAUREEN DOWD
The New York Times
September 23, 2007
The press piled into a hall near a pile of N.R.A. swag bags to watch Rudy stride into the ballroom.
Would the tough guy kowtow to the powerful lobby he once lambasted as extremist? Would he pull a Romney and pretend to be an avid hunter of small varmints?
Would he have an epiphany about the Second Amendment — the way he did about the First when he blew a gasket over that painting of the Madonna daubed with elephant dung — and reinterpret the Bill of Rights to suit his needs?
The heat was on.
Fred Thompson had already spoken to the group, recalling palling around with Charlton Heston, shooting skeet with some good ol’ boys from the N.R.A., and hanging out at gun stores and gun shows.
After guns, sports, Moses and a reference to his young ’uns, there was only one other ingredient needed for Flintstone Fred’s testosterone cocktail: a sexy blonde. Introducing his wife, Jeri, he drawled, “I think she’d make a much better first lady than Bill Clinton.”
Rudy was going to have to think fast to keep up with that. He kept it simple, selling himself as the Gotham crime fighter, “because, after all, if you don’t have a reasonable degree of safety, you can’t exercise your other rights: the right of free speech ... even your right to bear arms is all based on a reasonable degree of safety that you have to have.”
It’s an interesting bit of casuistry: I’m going to make you safe by enforcing gun laws in case you want guns to keep you safe.
Also, given that he was criticized for undermining free speech at the first sign of a little dung, his audience might not have been reassured.
Asked about a lawsuit he initiated in New York against American handgun manufacturers, Rudy said that 9/11 “cast somewhat of a different light” on Second Amendment rights. He said that “maybe it highlights the necessity for them more.”
What, exactly, is that different light? You need some assault weapons to shoot at terrorists planting dirty bombs beneath your tulips?
In the end, no one was deconstructing Rudy’s swerving stance because they were too busy obsessing on his strange interlude with his cell. Right in the middle of a disquisition about a legal decision underscoring the doctrine that “a person’s home is their castle,” the tiara-crowned queen of Rudy’s castle called.
“Hello, dear,” he said, with his toothy grin.
To the amazement of the audience, he interrupted his speech to have a lovey-dovey chat with Judi, who was about to get on a plane back from London.
After telling her that he was talking to the N.R.A. — a big speech that you would imagine she would know about, and not want to interrupt — he asked if she wanted to give a shout out to the gun-lovers and then paused while she spoke to him.
After saying “I love you” twice and signing off with another “dear,” he joked to the audience that he would have been in trouble if he hadn’t taken the call, noting that “this is one of the great blessings of the modern age, being always available. Or maybe it isn’t; I’m not sure.”
It almost made Bill and Hillary seem like a model of normalcy. Almost.
The odd interval triggered a fusillade of analysis: was it creepy, cute, staged, spontaneous, rude, awkward or downright weird? Shouldn’t Rudy have left the phone with an aide, or silenced it?
Was this a harbinger that President Rudy would interrupt other important stuff to talk to Judi in the White House? If Ahmadinejad goes crazy — O.K., more crazy — would Rudy be focused like a laser, or would he take a call from Judi about whether she could redecorate Air Force One in Louis Vuitton?
First The Times’s Marc Santora noted that it wasn’t the first time Rudy had interrupted an appearance to take a call from his Princess Bride, as Vanity Fair dubbed her. He did the same thing in June in Hialeah, Fla., with more mushy talk during a rally.
This suggests either that Friday’s call was staged to humanize the dictatorial former mayor, or that Rudy is afraid of Judi’s digital wrath, or that the candidate is still struggling with how to integrate his third wife into his campaign, after her puppy-killing, husband-hiding, cabinet-sitting rough start.
The episode also provided ammunition to Mitt Romney’s camp, which sensed an opportunity to highlight their candidate’s scary-perfect wife and scary-perfect kids. They found video of the first cellus interruptus and sent reporters links to YouTube clips of both calls.
On CNN, Carol Costello grilled the N.R.A.’s Wayne LaPierre about the conjugal intermission. At first he called it “a lighthearted moment,” but then conceded that he found it odd. “I don’t know that I would have a cellphone in my pocket on during a speech,” he said.
Who knows? It might be a valuable lesson for Rudy that guns and marriage don’t mix.