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Tilting at Windmills

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August 2, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

RUDY....I know this isn't an original observation or anything, but as I was writing the previous post about Rudy Giuliani's healthcare proposal it struck me yet again that Giuliani might be the first presidential candidate whose entire candidacy is based literally on optics and nothing else. I don't think he's offered one single substantive proposal in the entire time since he announced his candidacy. Rather, he's marketed himself exclusively as a tough guy who knows how to kick butt and put liberals in their place. That's it. There really isn't anything more to the man.

Like I said, nothing original about this. But still. The purity of his persona-based candidacy is almost majestic.

Kevin Drum 12:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (55)

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"he's marketed himself exclusively as a tough guy who knows how to kick butt and put liberals in their place. That's it. There really isn't anything more to the man."

There never was. There never will be.

Posted by: CJColucci on August 2, 2007 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

The purity of his persona-based candidacy is almost majestic.

An astute observation. It really is a remarkable phenomenon.

Which is why, as Greenwald pointed out, Rudy will have far less trouble than many predict in getting the religious right to vote for him.

Posted by: shortstop on August 2, 2007 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think he's offered one single substantive proposal in the entire time since he announced his candidacy. Rather, he's marketed himself exclusively as a tough guy who knows how to kick butt and put liberals in their place.

For his clientele, that's all you need.

Posted by: Vincent on August 2, 2007 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

All true, but Ol' Fred's going to give Rudy a run for his purity-of-persona money.

Posted by: penalcolony on August 2, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

"...candidacy is based literally on optics and nothing else." So true and yet, he is #1 in the Republican polls. A sad state of affairs indeed.

Posted by: lamonte on August 2, 2007 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

>...it struck me yet again that Giuliani might be the first presidential candidate ever whose entire candidacy is based literally on optics and nothing else. I don't think he's offered one single substantive proposal in the entire time since he announced his candidacy.

Ronald Reagan?

Posted by: Gar Lipow on August 2, 2007 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

optics
noun
the study of light and of instruments using light

Is Rudy blinding us with science?

Posted by: zeke on August 2, 2007 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

I completely agree, and, strangely enough, I don't blame him for this fact. I blame the media for trumpeting him as some sort of savior. This idea was blasted into the public, and they are going off that image instead of his atrocious handling of race relations in NYC, his consistent philandering, and his complete lack of substantive policy statements. Maybe this is why he's in the lead: because he's a huge bully.

Posted by: Ace on August 2, 2007 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

"persona-based candidacy"

I'm afraid that's all it is anymore.

Substance is so overated.

Posted by: Tim on August 2, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Was it Harding or Coolidge in Blink?

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot on August 2, 2007 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Giuliani might be the first presidential candidate ever whose entire candidacy is based literally on optics and nothing else. I don't think he's offered one single substantive proposal in the entire time since he announced his candidacy.

And boy is Huckleberry Fred pissed that Rudy stole his platform.

Posted by: Roger Ailes on August 2, 2007 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Is Rudy blinding us with science?

SCIENCE!

That felt good.

And boy is Huckleberry Fred pissed that Rudy stole his platform.

Good one!

Posted by: shortstop on August 2, 2007 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

"The purity of his persona-based candidacy is almost majestic."

This is one of the greatest lines, ever.

Posted by: dan robinson on August 2, 2007 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Substance didn't help Gore beat Bush: Bush's proposals made no sense, but the Press was much more interested in whether Gore was 'a phoney'.

Nor did it help Kerry much. It just allowed Bush to attack him.

I don't think policy substance helps much with the broader electorate. That's one of those Democratic delusions.

People want to know they'll have strong leadership, and that things are going to be alright. Not how they are going to be alright.

Posted by: Valuethinker on August 2, 2007 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

and that's why Rudy will win.

attack his proposals for being substance-free. go ahead, attack them all day long. it's irrelevant. he's still the Tough Guy, and people like the Tough Guy.

by comparison, he'll make Hillary or Obama look frail and meek. and that's all that will matter.

Posted by: cleek on August 2, 2007 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Well, we already know Rudy's running mate.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on August 2, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

The "Cult of Personality" is what gained Bush his Presidential Appointment. It's not like it's new or anything.

Posted by: bcinaz on August 2, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

he's marketed himself exclusively as a tough guy who knows how to kick butt and put liberals in their place. That's it.

Well, this has been the basis of conservative electoral success since Reagan. Newt elevated it, and Rove made it into a science. All of hate-radio is based on it. It's a formula. It's tired. It's old. But for 27% of voters - it works! All the time! Another 22%, sometimes. With the help of The Mighty Wurlitzer(TM).

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on August 2, 2007 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Rudy is the new Benito Mussolini. I can hardly wait till Bernard Kerik replaces Alberto Gonzales as AG and Michael Corleone becomes Sec of State.

Posted by: c4logic on August 2, 2007 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, which of his policy positions would you have him run for the Republican nomination on: pro-choice, pro-gay, or pro-gun control?

Posted by: Cheney's Third Nipple on August 2, 2007 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

What is the deal with Rudy this morning? It must be a slow news day.

My view of Rudy is that he is a lot like GWB, except he lacks Bush's firm grasp of important issues.

He is trying to run a "man on a white horse" campaign. He thinks he should be elected President because of an image of him on one day 6 years ago. He isnt' the first popular "hero" to run for President, but I don't think anybody has ever succeeded running a totally one dimentional campaign.

Posted by: corpus juris on August 2, 2007 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

But as some astute academic pointed out a few weeks ago (I think on the Freakonomics blog), people vote a lot more based on personality than on policy prescriptions...if you don't like a candidate and/or the candidate doesn't connect with you, you won't vote for them even if you agree with many of their policy prescriptions....that's what did in both Gore and Kerry....they both lost simply because Bush was much more likeable and did a better job connecting emotionally with people, even people who didn't necessarily agree with his policy choices.

Posted by: mfw13 on August 2, 2007 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

When did optics become a perjorative? It's a sound science and transmits substance (optical information is a key diagnostic tool). It seems unnecessary, cute even, maybe pretentious. Many other terms are available. You mean light as opposed to heat, it seems. If so, say that.

Posted by: Mudge on August 2, 2007 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

and that's why Rudy will win.

Obama and Edwards are beating Rude-ee and fellow tough-guy Thompson in the polls.

Posted by: Disputo on August 2, 2007 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, which of his policy positions would you have him run for the Republican nomination on: pro-choice, pro-gay, or pro-gun control?

Pro-drag-queen-philanderer, of course.

Posted by: Disputo on August 2, 2007 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

The purity of his persona-based candidacy is almost majestic.

Were you paying attention in 2000? All Bush had was the beginnings of the current personality cult then, too.

Posted by: Gregory on August 2, 2007 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

What'd I say earlier this week? Rudy doesn't want you to vote for him, he wants you to vote against the Democrats.

Fear has always been what put Republicans in office. Except that back in the day, they also had to at least make an attempt at talking issues. What GWB has taught the Republican Party is that fear sells on its own, that there's no need to talk issues anymore.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on August 2, 2007 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

What is the deal with Rudy this morning? It must be a slow news day.

Yeah, it's not like we've got bridges collapsing because republican governors veto transportation bills so they can justify their tax-cuts to the rich.

We're afraid of terrorists?

We should be afraid of the ECONOMIC TERRORISTS; Republican politicians.

I've driven over that bridge. I have family that lives in Bloomington, that uses that bridge every day. They're telling me that the buzz BEFORE this bridge collapse was; "we gave the Republicans a chance at running our state, they blew it. . ." - guess what they're feeling NOW?

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on August 2, 2007 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

I'm guessing Kevin is using this meaning of optics:

Optics (ὀπτική appearance or look in ancient Greek)

via wikipedia

Posted by: Joe on August 2, 2007 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Greenwald is wrong. Evangelicals are fuming at his current position, and many will sit on their hands to show the

Only a candidate whom the fundies *wholeheartedly* embrace can have a shot in the general. No chance that is Rudy or Romney.

Posted by: Frank C. on August 2, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Were you paying attention in 2000? All Bush had was the beginnings of the current personality cult then, too.
Posted by: Gregory on August 2, 2007 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah - Bush didn't actually decide to run for President. He was "picked" by the PNAC goons who had taken over the Republican Party. He was selected, (and McCain was told: "you'll have to wait your turn, try again in '08") for the simple fact that he had the perfect characteristics for pissing-off liberals:

- he's the scion of wealth and power.
- son of George W Bush - war profiteer, oil baron.
- he was a c-student in his best years.
- he didn't serve in Viet Nam.
- he has no skills, no talent, and has only amassed wealth from insider-deals and smarmy opportunism, based on his privileged position and connections.
- he defeated a liberal, female governor, using the dirtiest smear tactics.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on August 2, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Greenwald is wrong. Evangelicals are fuming at his current position, and many will sit on their hands to show the

World how they feel? GOP how powerful they still are? Lord that they're His soldiers?

Never mind; I take your point. But I think you're wrong. Bush played the fundies like a violin, giving them almost nothing of what they wanted in the first term, and they fell all over themselves voting for him again.

Some of them will stay home, yeah. Most won't. They love authoritarians who fight the liberal menace and the unchristian enemy overseas just a little more than they love fetuses, Terri Schiavo and strictly two-gender marriages. They'll bitch about Rudy's pro-choice history and stay conspicuously silent about his infidelities and multiple marriages. And then they'll vote for him.

Posted by: shortstop on August 2, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, Frank C., how come you're not including Huckleberry Fred in your assessment, what with all his pro-choice lobbying?

Posted by: shortstop on August 2, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

joe,

"Optics (ὀπτική appearance or look in ancient Greek)"

You've given us the derivation, not the definition. Kevin is using the word incorrectly.

Posted by: zeke on August 2, 2007 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Pro-choice lobbying is small peanuts.

Fred is going down when the GOP base discovers that he killed his daughter in order to marry a woman younger than her.

Posted by: Disputo on August 2, 2007 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin is using the word incorrectly.

Oh, good lord, Kevin is not using the word incorrectly.

"Optics" is a common jargon term in politics and PR used to mean "appearance".

Posted by: Disputo on August 2, 2007 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

"I know this isn't an original observation or anything, but as I was writing"

Quit apologizing for your posts. It's bumming me out. "Blah blah blah, BUT blah blah" leads every one.

"This is surely not the most important part of Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes, a history of the CIA, but it's unquestionably the funniest part"

Posted by: Cranky on August 2, 2007 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Not true, William Henry Harrison. And he won, at that.

Posted by: Senescent on August 2, 2007 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Please, don't use "optics." Appearances is a perfectly serviceable word, and not at all ambiguous. The fact that the PR industry uses a term as jargon doesn't mean that it's valid usage for a journalist. Talk about slippery slopes...

But otherwise, you're right. It's all appearances. Put Rudy under a lens in the bright sunlight, and let the optics go to work.

Posted by: thersites on August 2, 2007 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think he's offered one single substantive proposal in the entire time since he announced his candidacy.

Giuliani sounds like a shoo-in.

Posted by: ckelly on August 2, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think he's offered one single substantive proposal in the entire time since he announced his candidacy.

But boy, would I like to have a beer with the guy!!

Posted by: The Electorate on August 2, 2007 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop, the math means that even if "some" stay home, they're done for.

if i had typed correctly, i would have said, "to show them who's boss." You're right - Bush was "ok" but they want more. And they will not tolerate being force fed a candidate that is not their idea of a good Christian.

And yes, there is already ample word that fundamentalists are much happier with Fred than Rudy. Dobson, for example, has said so. Fred has had plenty of women, but there is no nastiness there.

Posted by: Frank C. on August 2, 2007 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Frank, I don't want to be right about this. Let's hope you're correct. In the meantime, I'm certainly enjoying the discomfiture of the religious right at their candidate lineup.

I'd have to go back and look to see whether Dobson has revised his view of Thompson since Fred's pro-choice lobbying career became a topic of public interest. My recollection is that he has--but I could well be wrong about that.

Posted by: shortstop on August 2, 2007 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

I'd have to go back and look to see whether Dobson has revised his view of Thompson since Fred's pro-choice lobbying career became a topic of public interest. My recollection is that he has--but I could well be wrong about that.

What disturbs me is all those pictures I've been seeing of Thompson ogling his daughter's breasts, taking her out to parties, even making out with her in public...it's gross, that's what it is.

Oh, wait, that's not his daughter. That's his wife....

Posted by: Stefan on August 2, 2007 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

You can tell the family-values guys. They love families so much that they've usually had more than one.

Posted by: thersites on August 2, 2007 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

And yes, there is already ample word that fundamentalists are much happier with Fred than Rudy. Dobson, for example, has said so.

I thought that Dobson said that he didn't consider FT a Xian -- did that change at some pt?

Posted by: Disputo on August 2, 2007 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

"he's marketed himself exclusively as a tough guy who knows how to kick butt and put liberals in their place"

That would easily get my vote.

Posted by: BlaBlaBla on August 2, 2007 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo,

Two wrongs don't make a right.

Posted by: zeke on August 2, 2007 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Well said, Kevin.

rollingstone.com had an article in issue 1028 6/14/07 "Guiliani: Worse Than Bush" by Matt Taibbi that started with the headline
"He's cashing in on 9/11, working with Karl Rove's henchment and in cahoots with a Swift Boat-
style attack on Hillary. Will Rudy Giuliani be Bush III?
...The money for the smear ad comes from the same Texas sources behind the Swift Boaters, including T. Boone Pickens and Houston home builder Bob Perry."
Taibbi describes Giuliani as a shameless opportunist...a tireless cad willing to pose all day long for photos, who will accept $100,000 to talk about heroism for an hour, who has the balls to take a $2.7 million advance to write a book about himself called "Leadership."

Posted by: consider wisely always on August 2, 2007 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

"The Socialists ask us for our program? Our program is to smash the heads of the Socialists."
-Benito Mussolini

Giuliani is not an original...

Posted by: Adam on August 2, 2007 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

thersites writes: "Please, don't use "optics." Appearances is a perfectly serviceable word, and not at all ambiguous."

I agree thersites, though I prefer the equally serviceable, non-ambiguous & slightly more succinct word "image".

Nonetheless, whatever 'optics', 'appearance' or 'image' the Giuliani campaign was attempting to construct, it was dealt a rather substantial blow by the widely syndicated, deeply unflattering, Vanity Fair piece on his 3rd wife Judith. Apart from her emergence as a craven profligate, ruthless sociopath (who demands a 1st class seat on planes for her purse!)- Rudi himself comes across as an easily duped & subsequently bullied old fool. Bamboozled, then whipped. Not exactly the ideal 'optics'/appearance/image for a potential Commander in Chief.

Posted by: DanJoaquinOz on August 3, 2007 at 2:51 AM | PERMALINK

As I remember Rudy in the aftermath of September 11, he was low-spoken, somber, and in command of the facts regarding NYC's response to the chaos. This is not at all his persona as he runs for president. Perhaps someone (more technical and talented than I) should made a video.

Posted by: Lindata on August 3, 2007 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

shortstop: Bush played the fundies like a violin, giving them almost nothing of what they wanted in the first term, and they fell all over themselves voting for him again.

Some of them will stay home, yeah. Most won't. They love authoritarians who fight the liberal menace and the unchristian enemy overseas just a little more than they love fetuses, Terri Schiavo and strictly two-gender marriages. They'll bitch about Rudy's pro-choice history and stay conspicuously silent about his infidelities and multiple marriages. And then they'll vote for him.

Bingo. One of the other things Greenwald has pointed out and bears noting is that for many Xtian Right types, the WOT (which they see as a literal holy war against Islam) has become Issue #1. Rudy's real or projected toughness there will mitigate against his moral and/or religious impurities for many.

Posted by: Wally Ballou on August 3, 2007 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Well, he sounded reasonably intelligent on Charilie Rose...

Posted by: Neil B. on August 3, 2007 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

What else, actually, would a small-government rightist want? Rudy is prochoice, which worries them, but he'll never appoint a prochoice SC justice. Never. He doesn't hate gays, but he'll never allow legislation that gives them anything.

This is the way America is: roughly half of you hate people; roughly half don't. Of those halves, about half will always turn out to vote. So there's another half that needs invigorating, turning out.

Giuliani and Thompson don't need "proposals". Proposals are only of any interest to the half that are already voting. The invigorating is done purely on the basis of personality.

Anyway, the right is strongly authoritarian. It's part and parcel of their dislike for their fellow man. So they are into giving their guy power and only then finding out what he proposes to do with it. For people who hate people, that Giuliani is a shithead is actually a selling point.

Posted by: Dr Zen on August 5, 2007 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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