Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Rudy's Phone-iness

Okay, I don't mind occasionally admitting that I was wrong.

A week or so ago, when Rudy Giuliani answered a cell phone call from his wife -- during a speech to the NRA, I assumed that it was a stunt, because he had done the same thing at a previous campaign event. Furthermore, Bob Novak has reported that this is part of his "political bag of tricks."

But, according to the Wall St. Journal's John Fund,
the truth is a lot worse:

Even members of Mr. Giuliani's own staff are appalled at how he handled the incident in which he answered a phone call from his wife, Judith, right in the middle of a nationally televised speech to the National Rifle Association.

What was that about? Columnist Robert Novak cites "supporters from outside the Giuliani staff" who claim that taking phone calls from his wife as been "part of his political bag of tricks all year." But Mr. Giuliani's deputy press secretary Jason Miller told me the NRA incident was definitely not a stunt. Instead it was a "candid and spontaneous moment" that would humanize the tough-guy former mayor with voters.
The quote from the press secretary would lead one to believe that actually, the opposite was true: It was a stunt. You would think that because whenever a press assistant admits that a "candid and spontaneous moment" was designed to "humanize" the candidate, that means that the moment was neither candid nor spontaneous.

However, Fund goes on:

The fact is that people inside the Giuliani campaign are appalled at the number of times their candidate has felt compelled to interrupt public appearances to take calls from his wife. The estimate from those in a position to know is that he has taken such calls more than 40 times in the middle of speeches, conferences and presentations to large donors. "If it's a stunt, it's not one coming from him," says one Giuliani staffer. "It's an ongoing problem that he won't take advice on."

And in trying to explain his odd behavior, Mr. Giuliani has only dug himself in deeper. On Friday he told David Brody of CBN News that since 9/11, when he and Mrs. Giuliani get on a plane, "most of the time . . . we talk to each other and just reaffirm the fact that we love each other." He admitted he had taken calls from his wife "before in engagements, and I didn't realize it would create any kind of controversy." That's hardly possible. Giuliani staffers say he has been warned over and over again that the phone calls are rude and inappropriate and have alienated everyone from local officials to top donors to close friends.
Think about that: More than 40 times he's taken a call in the middle of a campaign event!!

And here's the anecdote that takes the cake for the "ick" factor:

I've been told of many other incidents, from a California fund-raiser to a Florida speech to a gathering with top donors at Bear Stearns in New York. At the Bear Stearns meeting, Mr. Giuliani took a call from his wife and then noting the strained faces of his supporters, he sheepishly tried a joke. "I've been married three times," he explained. "I can't afford to lose another one. I'm sure you understand." (Mr. Giuliani's media office didn't return a call I made to them on Friday afternoon.)
Now, that's a great way to get people to ignore your interesting family background. Truly mindboggling is that Rudy doesn't see the cultural disconnect (pardon the expression) that he is demonstrating with this sort of behaviour.

Far from "humanizing" him, this makes an otherwise tough-appearing guy look like he can't hold off from chatting with his wife for the five or ten minutes it takes to finish a speech. "Judi-Whipped" is the way the Post headlined the NRA incident.

Worse, as much as cell phones have become a necessity of modern life, they also truly tick people off when they go off at inappropriate moments -- or people decide to start using them in inappropriate places. That's why Amtrak has instituted a "quiet car" on its Northeast Corridor (primarily DC to New York/Boston) line.

So, Rudy doing this could be the equivalent of George H.W. Bush's seeming befuddlement at a grocery-store scanner -- a faux pas that has nothing to do with politics, but just turns off people at a very basic level.

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