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Katy Burns: The making of Rudy Giuliani (hint: it involves 9/11 and ferrets)

  • Rudy Giuliani, an attorney for President Donald Trump, campaigns for congressional candidate Eddie Edwards in Portsmouth on Wednesday. AP



Monitor columnist
Sunday, August 05, 2018

America’s Mayor is back! He’s campaigning – here in our own little old New Hampshire! – for Republican candidates! Let us all rejoice: Ru-dee! Ru-dee! Ru-dee!

What, you’re not feeling it? Rudy Giuliani isn’t your mayor? What are you, un-American? Or is it that – unlikely as it may be – you can’t quite remember who Rudy Giuliani is? Or why anyone would acclaim him as the nation’s mayor?

A bit of history: Rudy Giuliani was mayor of New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, when a bunch of evil fanatics hijacked and flew airplanes into the two World Trade Center buildings in that city and into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., killing more than 3,000 people and destroying the trade center buildings.

The attacks were a national tragedy, perhaps nowhere more than in New York City, which lost so many of its people, and the world’s news cameras were riveted by the grief and – especially – the anger. None personified that better than Giuliani, who until then had a decidedly mixed record as mayor.

A former prosecutor, he’d excelled at curtailing the sort of low-level crime that plagues life in so many large cities. But his combative nature and insistence on keeping control of the spotlight caused him problems.

Like ferrets. Yeah, those furry, squirmy little critters some people have treasured as pets for centuries. Giuliani banned them in his city. He hates – hates, hates – them. His all-consuming hatred of ferrets is downright incandescently crazy at times.

During his administration an unsuspecting ferret fancier called the mayor’s radio show to defend his pet. Giuliani responded with what one writer called “perhaps the most epic rant on the subject of ferrets in the history of the universe.”

A few excerpts: “You need help.” “There’s something deranged about you.” And, my favorite, “You should go consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist and have him help you with this excessive concern, how you are devoting your life to weasels.” The whole loony tirade – which was what most Americans knew of Giuliani – is still available online.

And it also drew national attention when Giuliani’s wife – his second, and the mother of his children – learned she was going to be an ex-wife. She happened to be watching local TV one afternoon and saw her husband, the mayor, happily introducing his soon-to-be third wife to the world. That Giuliani factoid, too, was something most Americans had likely known.

But when those planes hit the World Trade Center buildings, the ferret-hating faithless husband vanished. Giuliani reacted with his trademark pugnacity and stomped belligerently across the tower site, trailing a bunch of lesser notables and vowing vengeance on those who committed such an atrocity in his city.

Reporters ate it up, cameras beamed it across the country and Americans loved it. It was a great performance, fueled by genuine grief and outrage, one that spoke to the hurting nation. We had our avenging angel!

And so “America’s Mayor” – a sobriquet likely dreamed up by some harried copy editor looking for a catchy headline – was born, and over the ensuing days and months it was repeated endlessly.

Giuliani – always a zealous self-promoter – saw a good thing. For the remainder of his term and in the years that followed, he traveled the nation, always looking appropriately modest as he was happily introduced to eager audiences as America’s Mayor. He decided he’d try for a higher office – the White House, no less! – cloaked (modestly) in his 9/11 fame.

Alas, it turned out America didn’t really want this particular mayor, as it made abundantly obvious over Rudy’s years on the rubber chicken circuit. He was undeterred. In 2008 he put himself in the GOP presidential sweepstakes, and his performance in the Granite State is instructive.

He breezed into town with great fanfare, labeled as the front-runner and, clad in his 9/11 armor, visited places all over the state. Proclaimed far and wide as the guy who was going to sweep the field, he got local and national headlines calling him the immediate front-runner.

As a candidate he took full advantage of that terrible September day when he happened to be mayor of a city that was viciously attacked by people who wanted nothing less than to destroy our country.

His canned one-note pitch got so predictable that Joe Biden, then a senator from Delaware and a candidate in the Democratic presidential primary, famously quipped that “there are only three things Giuliani needs to make a sentence: A noun, a verb and 9/11.” It has stuck to the mayor ever since.

But – while he made a lot of visits to New Hampshire initially – his strategists decided that the game was really in Florida, where Giuliani expected a sweeping victory.

And in the end, Giuliani’s role on that fateful September day got him… nada. Nobody cared. When Granite Staters voted Jan. 8, the former mayor finished fourth in the primary with only 9 percent of the vote. By the time his campaign limped to the polls in Florida, his support was in free fall. He tanked in Florida, and even before Super Tuesday he was out of the race.

Eight years later, Giuliani endorsed candidate Donald Trump in the GOP primary and gave one of the nominating speeches for Trump at the GOP convention. Months after that, the Republican candidate unexpectedly won the election, and there was widespread speculation that his New York pal would become Secretary of State Giuliani. That was followed by widespread relief when the ex-mayor was not named to the post.

Today he’s one of Trump’s White House lawyers – part of a pack of them, really – and his principal task is apparently to give (sensible?) advice to our impulsive president and to translate that president’s idiosyncratic pronouncements and actions for the rest of the country.

The question, of course, is whether he’s really clearing up any of the confusion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – or just adding to it.

Anyway – although Giuliani never really went away – he is now officially back. Maybe that’s good. At least if you’re not a ferret.

(“Monitor” columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)