Back in the day, before the Republicans had made complete clowns of themselves, Rush Limbaugh was fond of observing that the Democrats had so prostituted FDR’s legacy that now their message was, “The only thing we have to offer is . . . fear itself!”
That used to be funny. But now Rudy Giuliani has reached the point where he out-Dems the Dems in his transparent — not to say loony — attempt to squeeze the last drops of juice out of 9/11 fear manipulation.
Here’s the story, if you’re not familiar with it: Rudy was addressing the National Rifle Association when suddenly, right in the middle of the speech, his cell phone went off. The Wall Street Journal describes the scene:
This was no emergency call. His cell phone rang in his pocket during his speech, which is itself unusual; most public officials turn theirs off during events, if only out of courtesy for the audience. Mr. Giuliani went on to answer it and carry on a routine “love you” and “have a safe trip” exchange with Mrs. Giuliani while the crowd (and those of us watching on C-Span) wondered what in the world that was all about.
His campaign aides spun the episode as a “candid and spontaneous moment” illustrative of the couple’s affection. We might believe that if we hadn’t heard stories of similar behavior by Mr. Giuliani as he has campaigned around the country. During one event in Oklahoma, we’re told he took two calls, at least one from his wife, and chatted for several minutes as the audience waited. That episode followed Mr. Giuliani’s eye-popping disclosure earlier this year that, if he’s elected, his wife would sit in on Cabinet meetings.
Now bear in mind that this is supposed to be one of the sane, sensible Republicans. He’s not barking mad like that “lunatic,” Ron Paul. He’s a Respectable Mainstream Candidate. And so, with all the sensitivity to the nuances of human behavior that you might expect from Kang and Kodos, he engages in some of the most preposterous pandering in many moons. In his bizarre, ham-fisted way, he telegraphs to all the Red-Staters that he’s not some thrice-married Blue-State slicker with a mistress. No sirree! He’s a Family Values™ kinda guy! Indeed, he’s a Bible-quoting Family Values™ guy. So we get the delectable spectacle of Rudy’s First Homily to the Christianists on the Gospel According to John (Revised Giuliani Version). He leads into his theme slowly:
And my personal view of it is I need God’s help for everything, and I probably feel that the most when I’m in crisis and under pressure, like Sept. 11, when I was dealing with prostate cancer, or [when] I’m trying to explain death to people, which unfortunately I’ve had to do so often.
Did you (9/11) catch that subtle (9/11) subliminal message encrypted (9/11) in the Strength for These Days message? It’s enough to make a person believe in Bible Codes. But, of course, all that pandering to the religious could get him in trouble with his own kind, the people who roll their eyes at That Sort of Thing, so he quickly clarifies that he’s not one of those loony Theocrats:
“So it’s a very, very important part of my life,” he said. “But I think in a democracy and in a government like ours, my religion is my way of looking at God, and other people have other ways of doing it, and some people don’t believe in God. I think that’s unfortunate. I think their life would be a lot fuller if they did, but they have that right.”
Well and good. It appears that Rudy has hired the focus-group testing firm of Screwtape & Co., who provide the following analysis of the Giuliani campaign in one of their internal memos:
He can be made to take a positive pleasure in the perception that the two sides of his life are inconsistent. This is done by exploiting his vanity. He can be taught to enjoy kneeling beside the grocer on Sunday just because he remembers that the grocer could not possibly understand the urbane and mocking world which he inhabited on Saturday evening; and contrariwise, to enjoy the bawdy and blasphemy over the coffee with these admirable friends all the more because he is aware of a “deeper,” “spiritual” world within him which they cannot understand. You see the idea — the worldly friends touch him on one side and the grocer on the other, and he is the complete, balanced, complex man who sees round them all. Thus, while being permanently treacherous to at least two sets of people, he will feel, instead of shame, a continual undercurrent of self-satisfaction.
Having established his unreliability to two different constituencies, Rudy then continues with one of his campaign messages, stopping briefly to explain his weird phone stunt:
Giuliani also addressed a cell phone call he took from his wife, Judith, last week during his speech to the National Rifle Association, an important appearance because Giuliani clashed with the group when he argued for tougher gun control as mayor of New York.
“And quite honestly, since Sept. 11, most of the time when we get on a plane, we talk to each other and just reaffirm the fact that we love each other,” he said.
“Sometimes if I’m in the middle of a very, very sensitive meeting, I don’t take the call right then; I wait. But I thought it would be kind of nice if I took it at that point, and I’d done that before in engagements, and I didn’t realize it would create any kind of controversy,” he said.
Translation: “People of Earth! By my ‘spontaneous’ simulation of mammalian affection, you were supposed to see a demonstration of my warm humanity and respond with the appropriate social bonding behaviors. However, your inferior central nervous systems failed to react in the manner predicted by my galactic campaign coordinators. I must therefore remind you that you should be (9/11) very afraid and vote for me (9/11) to keep you safe.”
What does it say that the mainstream of the Republican Party is being represented by a man like Rudy Giuliani?