What’s happening to Giuliani now was happening to him long before 9/11Roundup
tags: impeachment, 9-11, Trump, Rudy Giuliani
Jim Sleeper is a lecturer in political science at Yale University. His books include The Closest of Strangers: Liberalism and the Politics of Race in New York (Norton, 1990) and Liberal Racism (Viking, 1997).
In November, 2016, when President-elect Trump considered appointing Rudy Giuliani Secretary of State or Attorney General, Jim Sleeper wrote an essay for Foreign Policy magazine warning against giving him any national power or influence. Prescient then, the essay, slightly updated, is even more insightful now.
As Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign went from bad to worse in the 2008 Republican primaries, he must have been stung by Joe Biden’s observation then that every one of his sentences “contains a verb, a noun, and 9/11.” Now Rudy’s frantic efforts to discredit Biden’s candidacy are stinging his credibility even more as Donald Trump’s third big lawyer/fixer after Roy Cohn and Michael Cohen.
Having observed and written about Trump’s and Giuliani’s New York from the mid-1980s through Giuliani’s first term as mayor, I have something to say about how his career – as a prosecutor, mayor, operatic “hero” of 9/11, and, then, as a “consultant” of dubious repute – led him to find a fellow-fallen soul mate in Trump. Giuliani’s mind and career tell us as much as the impeachment inquiries are likely to do about why Trump’s presidency is so perverse. It has something to do with how and why extreme characters like Giuliani and Trump rise when millions of people are feeling stressed and dispossessed.
It’s been noted often enough that Giuliani underwent an evolution – or devolution — from the commanding, often brilliantly competent mayor of a great city on 9/11 to the terror-obsessed Rudy of 2008, and then to the crooked Rudy who enriched himself consulting for nations whose weapons purchases from the United States he hoped to oversee as Trump’s secretary of state. Observers haven’t been wholly wrong to assume that 9/11 deranged him: If you had gone through what he did, including attending hundreds of first responders’ funerals and hugging thousands of devastated survivors, afterward, you, too, would be struggling with a strain of post-traumatic stress disorder.
But the fuller truth is that Rudy has been struggling with something like PTSD since long before 9/11 triggered a chronic inability to control it. 9/11 simply unveiled, once and for all, demons that had always motivated his public life and fueled his talents. These psychological deficiencies bear a pretty close resemblance to Trump’s own. They also ought to be disqualifying for leaders of a democracy.
The tails of those demons weren’t readily apparent in Rudy at the start of his public career, when he enjoyed a reputation for being commanding and competent. The late, great muckrakers Jack Newfield and Wayne Barrett thought and wrote highly about him as U.S. Attorney during the late 1980s. Even during the 1993 New York mayoral race, in which he defeated David Dinkins, the city’s first African-American mayor, I tried harder than any other columnist I know of to convince my left-liberal friends and everyone else that Giuliani would probably win. To tell the whole truth, I also thought that he probably should win. New York “liberal’ Democrats’ corruption, sell-outs, and follies of New York Democrats back then had been told well enough by Newfield and Barrett in City for Sale.
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