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Tilting at Windmills

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December 10, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

GIULIANI MELTS DOWN....M.J. Rosenberg writes this morning about Rudy Giuliani's "halting, nervous, scared, inarticulate performance" on Meet the Press yesterday:

I have been watching Meet The Press since, I don't know, Estes Kefauver days and, I'm sad to say, Rudy Giuliani provided the worst performance I've ever seen by a major Presidential candidate.

....Russert prosecuted the famed prosecutor, enumerating one Giuliani scandal after another. All Rudy could do was giggle. He reminded me of that ancient clip in which Bobby Kennedy grilled some miscreant at a Senate hearing and the bad guy laughed at every question. Bobby finally said: "Are you going to tell us anything or just giggle? I thought only little girls giggled?." Sexist, yes (it was 1959).

But it destroyed the giggly witness.

That was Rudy yesterday. All giggles and deer-in-the-headlights terror.

I didn't see it. Was it really that bad? That would be some of the best news I've heard in a while.

Kevin Drum 11:28 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (55)

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Comments

Yes.

Posted by: Gary on December 10, 2007 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Rudy just made himself the darling of the right and thus the next President of USA.

Posted by: gregor on December 10, 2007 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Rudy will be okay with his Republican supporters. Laughing or giggling only counts against you if you are Hillary Clinton.

Posted by: Slezak on December 10, 2007 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

The more I look at the Republican candidates, the more wonder if only Mitt Romney has a real chance to win the nomination. (Though it's possible that the Republican base is just nutty enough to nominate Huckabee).

Romney is an incoherent, blathering, flip-flopping empty suit.

That puts him head and shoulders above the rest.

Posted by: frankly0 on December 10, 2007 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Romney is an incoherent, blathering, flip-flopping empty suit.

And Hillary is a pandering flip-flopper so afraid of appearing weak that she has yet to find a war or potential war she can turn down.

A Romney-vs-Hillary race may set new records for low turnout at the polls.


Posted by: bob on December 10, 2007 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Rudy's suggestion that he didn't know about the problems with Bernie Kerik was like when Mafia boss Joe Bonnano claimed to be adamantly against drug trafficking and said he never knew his capo, Carmine Galante, as well as other members of the Bonnano crime family were making millions dealing in heroin.

It's ironic, because when Giuliani was a prosecutor, he flew to Arizona to ask the then-retired Bonnano about statements Bonnano had written in his autobiography, "A Man of Honor." It was an incredible display of grandstanding on Giuliani's part, but I guess that's par for the course for him.

Posted by: Lee on December 10, 2007 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Well, Hugh Hewitt writes that Rudy "emerged not only unscathed but the stronger," so looks like Rosenberg's got it all wrong. I mean, if you can't trust Hugh on stuff like this, who can you trust?

Posted by: Jeff on December 10, 2007 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Will the traditional media pick up and run with any scandal or even a meltdown of any Republican candidate? No.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on December 10, 2007 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

Rudy WAS unimpressive but Russert never really followed up. Timmy would ask a tough question, Rudy would mislead and then it was on to the next tough question.

The only sequence in which Russert was actually a professional was where he asked Rudy follow-ups about his KSM/DPRK/Chavez links; giggles were the response.

Posted by: barry on December 10, 2007 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Sully posted a clip, judge for yourself:

http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2007/12/grilling-rudy.html

Posted by: DP on December 10, 2007 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

The two MTP clips posted at Crooks & Liars both show Rudy doing a competent job of talking around Russert's questions. If you're keeping your eye on the ball, remembering what the real issue is and noticing how Rudy isn't answering it, he doesn't look great, but most people aren't going to be doing that, and to them he'll look fine.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on December 10, 2007 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Giuliani's MTP appearance was a typically belligerent performance, with some tolerance- toward-homosexuals grace notes. He refused to score off Huckabee's 1991 remarks.

He faltered badly, though, responding to Russert's recitation of charges against him. He laughed nervously and, yes, even giggled a few times. Russert kept pressing though. Giuliani never had a good answer.

But I'm a liberal Dem and, to me, Giuliani is just plain freaky. How did the interview play to national security conservatives? That's the question.

Posted by: paxr55 on December 10, 2007 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Rudy adopted the Clinton Cackle to avoid an answer. I wish Tim would have said "so what's funny about it?" No topic was funny to ME and I'm the one who has to live under his/her jurisdiction for 4 years. I find both Rudy & Hillary just despicable and hope they're grilled like cheese sammies from here on out. And I'm a Dem! Quit your damn laughing and answer the questions honestly. Oops, that may be too difficult. Nuff on that. Rudy was not altogether horrible given the question base, but it was obvious he was not able to give an answer that made pure sense. A lot of fluff, nonsense, smoke & "they made me do it" responses. Kerik, the mistress security, etc.

Posted by: Jett on December 10, 2007 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

"A Romney-vs-Hillary race may set new records for low turnout at the polls."

If this is the best the major parties can offer... it's time for some new parties (long overdue actually). Unfortunately, the system is structured to prevent this from happening.

The only parties that got even close to seriously challenging the two-party hegemony were the socialist/populist parties that rode corruption and anti-WWI issues in the early part of the last century.

If you have studied US history you know that their leaders were arrested, imprisioned and the parties broken up (pretty much in open violation of the law). I think it's likely this would happen to any other challengers today.

Posted by: Buford on December 10, 2007 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Do you really think the Rudy Crowd (Ie. NASCAR dads, minutemen, militarists etc.) actually watch Meet the Press, or care about Rudy's scandals?

Posted by: cboas on December 10, 2007 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately being a blithering idiot doesn't disqualify you from becoming President. Nor does having a criminal past, lying about said past and generally being unresponsive to queries regarding anything of consequence. Giuliani is perfectly suited to become our next President. Since he's appealing to an electorate with the memory of a knat he'll be fine.

Posted by: steve duncan on December 10, 2007 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Laughing at hard questions must be a NY city thing.

Posted by: Orwell on December 10, 2007 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

"memory of a knat..."

I have a memory of a knat. It was my first knat. It was the summer of...

Never mind.

Posted by: snarkworth on December 10, 2007 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Here is a Link to the entire interview. I suggest we all watch it before we write reviews.

Posted by: corpus Juris on December 10, 2007 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, but I didn't think RooDee did a bad job of presenting himself - but my standard was Would he reveal the beast within? and he didn't. To me, the giggling could be seen as nervousness or just good nature. But my tolerance for anything Giuliani gave out after only 15 minutes or so. Maybe the nervous giggling stuff came later.

More optimistically, I thought his self-serving answers to Russert's gotcha questions gave a lot more ammunition to the fact-checkers on the internet. I could't wait for TPM and other sites to get to work. Which of his claims would go down first? The NY police department provided all that "security" without anybody asking? Judee didn't want "security"? The Giuliani firm had no direct dealings with Qatar's favorite Al Qaida supporter? Inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by: Brownell on December 10, 2007 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Here is a link to the transcript:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22170668/

Posted by: Catch22 on December 10, 2007 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

fwiw, I watched the entire interview as it was aired.

Posted by: paxr55 on December 10, 2007 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

My favorite part was when Timmy asked Rudy if he knew about something or other. Rudy's response was, "I do now." Timmy didn't follow up.

Why is he the host of Meet The Press?

Posted by: reino on December 10, 2007 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

As reino and barry suggest, if Giuliani was knocked out, it wasn't because Russert was jabbing his face. Based on the rundown on Carpetbagger Report, I'd say Russert was just going through the motions.

Jeff: "Hugh Hewitt writes that Rudy 'emerged not only unscathed but the stronger'"

Yeah, well, Hugh Hewitt also said that anyone who didn't like Mitt Romney's religion speech shouldn't be taken seriously as an analyst. Yet here I am, still reading Kevin Drum.

Posted by: Grumpy on December 10, 2007 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Romney is an incoherent, blathering, flip-flopping empty suit.

That puts him head and shoulders above the rest.

Shoulders you could land a 747 on, don't forget. That counts for a lot in the Village.

Posted by: DrBB on December 10, 2007 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

It was that bad, he had very little substance to add to any question Russert asked and Russert actually did a fairly good job this time around. Of course, it won't be a known fact unless NBC/MSNBC cover the hell out of it like they do every other Russert Presidential interview so we'll see.

Posted by: Fred F. on December 10, 2007 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Rudy did fine. He's smart enough to know he can dissemble his way out of this latest trough. And why not? The bar for the Republican nomination is low, low, low. The more this carries on, the more likely a McCain comeback looks. He's the best the GOP can hope for. The other big three are unelectable -- much more so than Hillary. McCain actually stands a chance against Hillary or Obama. I think he'll lose, but do so with some shred of dignity, like Dole in 1996.

Posted by: JZ on December 10, 2007 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

"Giggles" Giuliani has a nice ring to it.

Posted by: Tiparillo on December 10, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

My favorite Rudy was his explanation that the police decided all by themselves to provide security to his mistress.

Posted by: freelunch on December 10, 2007 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

1) Yes it was that bad.

2) Yes it will continue to be ignored for more important stories about Hillary's wardrobe.

Posted by: glenintexas on December 10, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

In typical fashion, Russert asked "tough" questions designed to make Giuliani squirm and giggle nervously, but not in a way that really forced the candidate to talk through his history of, or answer for, appalling lapses in judgement and character throughout his career. For most die-hard Rudy-ites out there, he probably looked "tough" standing up to, and indeed laughing at, the annoying natterings of an MSM liberal. For everybody else, it was sort of difficult to decide who was a bigger douchebag -- Giuliani for his oleaginous cryptofascism, or Russert for his idea that merely coming up with sharp questions for a vulnerable candidate, rather than holding him accountable for his answers, constitutes real journalism.

Posted by: jonas on December 10, 2007 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

It wasn't that severe a grilling. When Tim finally got around to the Judity Nathan scandal he repeatedly refered to her as his "girlfriend".
I believe the correct word is "mistress".

This isn't at all surprising because MTP has danced around what they refer to as "NYC Scandals" for some time.

He never hesitated with an answer and never lost a beat. Rudy G is an awkward person whenever he's interviewed.

Take a look at Larry Kudlow interviewing him on cnbc.com - it's the same mannerisms, tone and half baked answers given there also.

This is just Rudy being Rudy. The base went for Bush, they can easily go for Rudy.

-Joe

Posted by: Joe on December 10, 2007 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Someone upthread alluded to the strange ability that conservatives have to be appalled by one person's behavior (e.g. Bill Clinton's womanizing), while completely ignoring the same behavior in a person they like (e.g. Giuliani's womanizing). This ability, which should lead to cognitive dissonance in normal people, obviously does not cause any discomfort in these warped people.

These are also the same people who apparently aren't the least bothered by the notion of innocent people being tortured.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on December 10, 2007 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Conservative Deflator:

I guess what you said just proves the hollowness of the hatred for Bill Clinton. The hatred was based on politics, not moral beliefs. If Clinton had been a Republican but otherwise the same person, the religious right wouldn't have had any problem with his personal life, or at least very little problem with it. He certainly would never have been impeached or even censured--hell, he wouldn't have been asked about Monica Lewinsky in the first place.

Posted by: Lee on December 10, 2007 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Nobody watches MTP.

Laughing at the inane questions of the "liberal" media plays well to Republican voters.

Posted by: luci on December 10, 2007 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, it was terrible, but not because Rudy actually performed terribly in the interview (he was kinda awkward and wierd at times, but not horrible). The load of scandals (Kerik, Police protection for his mistress, quitting Iraq Study Group etc) are just overwhelming and indefensible. What can you really do but laugh inanely when asked if it would be apprpriate for a president to have secret service protect his mistress? Giuliani is in a death spiral. He won't recover.

Posted by: kahner on December 10, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

I am no fan of Giuliani but he did a credible job yesterday -- other than the bug eyes and giggles. He flat-out apologized and took responsibility twice for mistakes. He emphasized that military force was undesirable and a last resort in Iran, and clearly distanced himself from Podhoretz. No wacky, beligerent stuff.

Russert could have moved in for the kill on several weak answers but backed off. This interview won't hurt Giuliani.

Posted by: jb on December 10, 2007 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Just doesn't matter. The MSM has already decided to ignore Rudy's myriad scandals. He'll be TOUGH on our enemies, and the trogs who'll vote for him could care less about his bimbo eruptions. I'm a native NYer, and every other native NYer I talk to can't understand how anyone could take his candidacy seriously.

Posted by: eli on December 10, 2007 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Chris Cizzilla (sp?) over at washingtpost.com's The Fix decided it was amazing. While I doubt that, I've learned to trust him more than myself when it comes to judging how most people will see the performance of a politician. I tend to let my likes, dislikes, and hates get in the way.

Posted by: Scu on December 10, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

eli,

I'm a native NYer, and every other native NYer I talk to can't understand how anyone could take his candidacy seriously.

A lot of Texans were saying the exact same thing about W's campaign for President.

Posted by: Tripp on December 10, 2007 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

When Tim finally got around to the Judity Nathan scandal he repeatedly refered to her as his "girlfriend".
I believe the correct word is "mistress".

Nein! "Girlfriend" is correct.

Posted by: Frau Blucher on December 10, 2007 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Giuliani was greatly helped by Russert's failure to ask follow-up questions at key junctures. Such as when Rudy was asked why his mistress had protection in 1999, and he kept saying it was the police department's decision concerning who did and didn't need protection. Why didn't Russert ask, Well, who in the police department made that decision? Was it Bernie Kerik, whom you promoted to the job? And if you didn't ask them to protect her, and you didn't ask your appointee to protect her, how did they even know about her? So many holes in his answers were let unchallenged. No wonder Repugs go on Russert's show when they want to get their side of the story out. As far as Republicans are concerned, he's about as probing as Larry King.

Posted by: sullijan on December 10, 2007 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

What spooked and disgusted me about Giuliani's performance was what he said about homosexuality. He said that homosexuality is not a sin (which it certainly isn't) but that it's the "acts people perform" that's the sin. What the fuck does that mean? It sounds like gays are performing some kind of grotesque crime if they have sex. This was a blatant attempt to pander to the religious right, to the people who would say that maybe it isn't wrong to be gay, but it's wrong to "act on it"--as if it's reasonable to ask anyone to not "act" on their sexual orientation. Russert should have immediately asked Giuliani what he meant by this comment--but being the numbskull he is, he said nothing.

Posted by: Lee on December 10, 2007 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Why wasn't Giuliani charged with fraud for providing his mistress with protection? I doubt there was a law on the books to provide police protection for her. So, basically, Giuliani just spent money he had no legal right to.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on December 10, 2007 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

The reason Rudy laughs is that he sits there incredulous to the repeated attempts to make him explain the same thing over and over again. Obviously, the opposition is trying to make him look complicit and each time he has rational, unassailable explanations for what happened. The bottom line to Rudy is that he gets things done when others can't and the dems are rightfully scared to death of him.

Posted by: Mark on December 10, 2007 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Are you kidding, Mark? Rudy is the Democratic dream come true. We should be so lucky. Have you noticed how his poll numbers are tanking?

This is the scandal that has launched the tipping point. Forget about Tim "Cheney-Ass-Wipe" Russert. This latest outrage - and have no doubt more/better is yet to come - has finally attracted the outrage of the MSN.

Posted by: MaxGowan on December 10, 2007 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

To follow up on my last post: So Giuliani, that devout follower of Catholic dogma, is now going to lecture gays on what sexual behavior is acceptable? So it's okay for heterosexuals to ignore what the church says about divorce and adultery, but gays have to obey church teachings, even though doing so would mean never having sex?! This man should be ashamed to show his face in public! Any dictionary that lists the word "chutzpah" should simply insert Rudy's picture next to the term and let that suffice for a definition!

Posted by: Lee on December 10, 2007 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not a big fan of Giuliani and I'm a modest fan of Russert, but boy, is this ever a matter of people seeing things through their own bias.

Overall, aside form the culmulative effect of questions about his personal life and questionable relationships, I thought he did well and Russert looked frustrated. Rudy was particularly good on Iraq, explaining how no war can be fought on a timetable and how you had to set the strategic objective and try to achieve it until your military people said it could not be achieved. He has a tendancy to laugh/gigle when questions surprise, annoy or amuse him. The one laugh was when Russert asked about his firm representing Chavez, which I think probably was a silly question [since the firm represented CITGO]. I'm sure the laugh is something that is viewed as outrageous/rediculous by those biased against him, and as insignificant by those partial toward him.

Chris Cillizza in the WashPost described it as follows:

"In an appearance yesterday on "Meet the Press," Giuliani went a long way toward answering those questions with a virtuoso performance against -- to our mind -- the toughest questioner in the business: Tim Russert."

Cillizza's assessment is also subjective, but presumably without any bias that would help Rudy. So, while his performance many not have been quite as good as Cillizza thinks, it is pretty clear that those with with extremely harsh criticism of his performance are letting their own bias greatly affect their judgment. Very interesting.

Posted by: brian on December 10, 2007 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Bobby's remark was not sexist. Others try to giggle, but only little girls giggle. If you don't know the difference, you have not been giggled at.

Posted by: Bob M on December 10, 2007 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Tim "Cheney Ass-Wipe" Russert is a favorite Bush/Rove/Cheney stooge. That came out in the Lewis Libby trial. It's an established fact. He harranges Democrats; look at his preposterous behavior during the debates, including, you might recall, the NY Senate race in 2000, where he played an unflattering video of Hillary, which promptly backfired. So much for an unbiased moderator. Then he sticks his nose so far up Republicans' assholes you can see his eyes every time they talk.

Posted by: MaxGowan on December 10, 2007 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

The important idea to take away from all of this is not that it was a bad performance or a memorable performance. This was a true ass being asked about all the ass things he has done. Rudy had nothing to say because he was talking about himself, and there is nothing good inside him.

Posted by: reino on December 10, 2007 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

Max,

Be careful what you wish for. It may come true.

Posted by: Mark on December 11, 2007 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Rudy was dancing on the head of a pin on lots of these "tough" Russert questions. Now had Russert had the common sense to do any real follow-ups, Rudy would have fallen off the head of the pin quite badly. But of course, GOP hacks go on Russert precisely because he does not do real follow-ups. Informed folks know Rudy looked bad - but then what percent of Russert's viewing audience represent informed folks?

Posted by: pg on December 11, 2007 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Hope you never stop! This is one of the best blogs Ive ever read. Youve got some mad skill here, man. I just hope that you dont lose your style because youre definitely one of the coolest bloggers out there. Please keep it up because the internet needs someone like you spreading the word. Happy New Year.

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