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The Thunderbolt

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Her early work on the stump has been marred by occasional gaffes, but he calls her “an experienced public speaker” and says there are no plans to get her a speechwriter. “Her primary role is as a support system for Rudy in a personal way and as a character witness for him in a public way. She knows him as a man, as a husband, and as a good person, and that’s what she’ll be talking about. She’ll be one of our key surrogates.”

Judith Giuliani was introduced to the public by the tabloids. But that experience did not fully prepare her for the current one. Friends describe a woman who is hurt and baffled—“freaked out,” says one—by the barrage of coverage of her first marriage and the fact that long ago, her job had her demonstrating surgical-stapling procedures on live dogs.

Candice Stark, who’s known Judith for twenty years, believes that she’s a target of opportunity. “I read these things in the newspaper trying to trash her, trying to make her seem like something that she’s not, and I think it’s just people looking for anything they can to take Rudy down,” she theorizes. “Everything about his life is so well known they can’t dig much further, so they’re going after her instead. So much of politics is cruel. You’ve got to be strong.”

A confidant of Judith’s from the Hamptons, where the Giulianis paid $3 million for a 6,000-square-foot shingled house in Water Mill, complete with swimming pool, wine cellar, and cigar room, argues that she’s been unfairly caricatured. “This is a woman, a single mother, who has struggled most of her life, and she married somebody not because he was famous or because she thought he would be the president but because she was in love with him,” the friend says. “Now she’s very worried that something she will do or say will hurt his opportunity. She loses sleep over it. Reading in the newspapers that she’s a liability has been very, very hard for her.”

The friend added, “I think Rudy’s the one that’s sabotaging her. He’s out of control. There’s too much hand-holding and kissing on the lips, behaving like a couple of 18-year-olds in their first love affair. She doesn’t have the political smarts, and I don’t think she expected any of this.” (Like many people interviewed for this article, this friend asked for anonymity. “No good deed goes unpunished,” explained Howard Koeppel, declining to share his impressions of the mayor’s then-girlfriend, who was a frequent visitor after Rudy moved out of Gracie Mansion to bunk with Koeppel and his domestic partner, Mark Hsiao.)

Republican fund-raiser and Manhattan hostess Georgette Mosbacher—the ex-wife of Texas oilman Robert Mosbacher, who was Commerce secretary under the first President Bush—is a new member of Judith’s social circle, along with Walters and Beverly Sills. All three were Judith’s guests in December at an intimate ladies’ lunch at the Giulianis’ East 66th Street co-op off Madison Avenue. “It’s a tough role—I’ve been there,” says the flame-haired Mosbacher. “For me, it was horrible, devastating. You don’t want to hurt your husband, and everything you do reflects on him. You become hypersensitive and you try to be what you think the press wants you to be so they won’t come after you. But you learn pretty quick—at least I did—that you can’t win that way. In the end, you gotta be yourself.”

Judith, who had been Rudy’s constant companion during early campaign swings in New Hampshire, has more recently stayed behind and lowered her profile—and Rudy has urged reporters to cut her some slack, pointing out that “I am a candidate. She’s a civilian, to use the old Mafia distinction.”

When I ran into Rudy at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner in late April, he told me Judith skipped the event because “she’s up taking care of our daughter [Whitney] at Skidmore.” The locution “our daughter” was hardly calculated to repair his frayed relations with the biological children he shares with Hanover, especially 17-year-old Trinity-prep-school senior Caroline, who uses Donna’s surname and reportedly didn’t bother telling him when she was accepted recently by Harvard. (“In the next few months, Rudy really has to repair his relationships with Andrew and Caroline,” says a Republican strategist. “He can’t be the Republican nominee and have his kids estranged from him. That ain’t gonna cut it.”)

As for the brickbats Judith has been absorbing of late, “I tell her it’s just like when I was mayor and every day people want to disagree with your policies and criticize you,” he said. “Over time, you get used to it.”

Wren Abbott contributed research to this article.


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