Though he is not especially funny, Rudy Giuliani likes to begin with a joke. âDid you know that Iâm running for President of the United States?â
âThis is where we really need a leader,â he told her. âWe need somebody who can do the impossible. Now, I say that because I did this a lot in New York.â
Depending on whether you count his abortive race for the U.S. Senate in 2000, this is either Giulianiâs fourth or his fifth political campaign. In the earlier races, his goal was to persuade New Yorkers to vote for a Republican; this time around, itâs to persuade Republicans to vote for a New Yorker. Gone are the âGodfatherâ imitations, the snapping at the press, and the praise for immigration (âthe single most important reason for American greatnessâ). The candidate who stopped by the Letiziosâ, and before that had coffee at Suzieâs Diner, in Hudson, and before that went on a holiday stroll in Nashua, where he waited in line to buy a Christmas ornament of a moose, is a less ethnic, less impatient, and more conservative candidate than voters in Brooklyn and the Bronx ever knew. This Giuliani invokes Ronald Reagan, smilesâor tries toâat children, and pledges to âsecure our borders and identify every non-citizen in the nation.â
And yet the logic of his new campaign isâmutatis mutandisâthe same as that of the old. Once again, Giuliani is in the awkward situation of wanting to represent a group of people whose views he does not actually represent. Once again, appeals based on âvaluesâ or personal history are closed to him. (Fourteen years agoâbefore he had appeared in drag, or ditched his second wife on TV, or met his third wife at a cigar barâa âvulnerability studyâ commissioned by his staff noted that Giulianiâs âpersonal life raises questions about a âweirdness factor.â â) And so, once again, Giuliani is left to campaign on the basis of a single, strongly held idea: a great-leader theory of history, in which the great leader happens to be himself.