Rudy Giuliani: Urban legend

Urban legends have ever been with us, tales passed along &

word of mouth, or via the Internet &

as factual, often linked to an apocryphal event. Their origins are generally unknown, but given today's instant communication, they can take on an unchallenged verisimilitude, picking up a momentum until they are embedded in the popular culture.

It is indisputable that out of the national tragedy of 9/11, one that shook our nation to its collective core, urban legends were quick to develop. Some might argue that the alternative narratives of the causes of 9/11 (it was a government conspiracy; the buildings were brought down with planted explosives) qualify as urban legends.

One urban legend that literally walked out of the enveloping dust and debris of that terrible day was Rudy Giuliani, face mask pushed aside, giving orders. The fact that the mayor of New York City soon became the mayor of America and is now a candidate for the presidency of the United States is testimony to the power such images can carry and their ability to create a persona of heroic proportions. He will keep us safe, we're told. He will firmly take charge of our global war against terror, as he did the aftermath of that terrible morning. His can-do style has become mythic.

And so Giuliani eyed the White House, recognizing the possibilities, and set out to reinvent himself.

As New York's mayor, pre-9/11, Giuliani had been pro-choice, pro-gun control and pro-gay rights. In fact, for a period of time, during a domestic dustup, he lived with a gay couple in the city. He once endorsed a Democrat for governor of the state. He is a serial monogamist, divorced twice, and it's been reported that he informed his second wife about their imminent split via the media. He is estranged from his two grown children.

Yet, given all of the above, we see the Republicans and the religious right cozying up to him. Recently, he stood at a podium with Pat Roberts, head of the Christian Coalition, and received his unequivocal endorsement for the nomination. Robertson is reported to adhere to a charismatic theology: faith healing, miracles, prophecy and glossolalia (speaking in tongues). He is also antigay and antiabortion.

It was surreal: Giuliani standing shoulder to shoulder with Robertson (and in some ways disturbing). Robertson said the fight against radical Islamic terrorism superseded any differences he might have with Giuliani on other matters. "We need a man who sees clearly how to deal with that issue."

Giuliani recently spoke before a convention of the National Rifle Association and just as he began his comments took a cell phone call from his wife, as if all of the delegates in the room were his dear, close friends, and asked his wife if she wanted to say hello. Rudy, just one of the good old Second Amendment guys who now, in his recent incarnation, would never restrict ownership of an AK-47 with a full clip. After all, guns don't kill people, people ....

Giuliani was a mayor of one of the largest cities in America. He knows the harm that rampant availability of handguns (Saturday Night Specials) can inflict on a populace. He is also fully cognizant of the devastating effects a lack of health care can have on people, especially the poor and children. And yet, the new Mayor of America supported aggressively President Bush's vetoing of the expansion of the children's health care bill (S-Chip), saying, "We're going to take people off private insurance and put them on government insurance," which was a complete mischaracterization of the program.

Tarnishing Giuliani's image are the NYC firefighters who have taken serious exception to the mayor using 9/11 as his campaign fulcrum. Since the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, it was common knowledge that the radios used by the police and fire departments were antiquated. As a result, on 9/11, because of the faulty communications equipment, there were firefighters in the north tower who did not receive the order to evacuate. Had the radios been upgraded and had those first responders, who were still heading up the stairs while office workers were coming down, received the order, they would have had 30 minutes or more to get out of the building.

Giuliani also urged President Bush to nominate Bernard Kerik, his long-standing friend, as secretary of Homeland Security. His name was later withdrawn amid allegations of possible tax fraud. Kerik has now been indicted.

As a candidate, Giuliani has supported wiretapping without FISA notification, endorsed extraordinary interrogation techniques such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation saying, "Talk about sleep deprivation. I mean, on that theory, I'm getting tortured running for president of the United States." Regarding Iran, Giuliani is outhawking the White House neocons.

It's chilling to think that there is a significant number of voters who are fully prepared to bestow the mantle of leadership on this man, who, for some, is thought of as Bush on steroids. How can anyone at this point contemplate four or eight more years of policies that have led to a disastrous war which is projected to cost $2 trillion, a deficit that staggers with China holding our IOU's, the depletion of our all volunteer military, and the horrendous treatment of our returning soldiers who are wounded and need the best of care.

But there you have it: in many polls, Giuliani leads all other Republican candidates for the nomination. Of course, that could change. But for now, it's hard not to wonder who those folks are who stand ready to embrace an urban legend.

Tangentially, firefighters from New York City have a Web site: "Rudy Giuliani: Urban Legend" in which they detail their grievances while insisting that they will do all they can to see that Giuliani never becomes president.

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