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Identity Politics

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There are people, surely, who enjoy this. He walked into it, you could say.

Still, it takes the most hardened Giuliani hater not to relate on some level. To see him having vulnerabilities is not quite touching, but it is at least reassuring.

For better or worse, you could never understand the family dynamic in the Clinton thing -- what secrets were they harboring? What deals were they making between themselves behind closed doors? The Giuliani family, on the other hand, for better or worse, is entirely transparent. There isn't much of a political overlay. These are just unpleasant people with unpleasant ways.

He sees his job as war (on squeegee men, on art, on adversaries) and undoubtedly has seen his personal life as war, too. His preferred tactic is all manner of public humiliation. Nor is it hard to imagine the private confrontations. Has he ever slugged her? What are the odds on that?

As for Donna, she's an actress. Her rage, her sullenness, her self-dramatizing impulses may be as great as his. Her provocations have had a certain flare: a precariously married woman living off the city in Gracie Mansion getting the courts to restrict who can enter the premises; The Vagina Monologues; and the ultimate slap, publicly indicating during his last race that she wouldn't be voting for him. And really, what is this shpilkes about the Nathan woman? Does Donna think it's a secret? Does she hold out hope for the marriage? What does she think she'll gain?

On the other hand, we really aren't asking for explanations. We aren't shocked by the details. We don't need anyone to confess or apologize. We understand what this is. We get it totally.

This is a bad scene. Life sucks. Most people are unhappy. All bad marriages are the same.

Politics, I think, goes in either of two directions from here. There will be a new litmus test for how a politician deals with his family. If you can't control your spouse's discretion, loyalty, finances, mood swings, then why should we think you deserve the public trust?

What more potent test of character, and management ability, is there?

Or -- and this is where I think we're heading -- it goes in the Hollywood direction. We'll just accept that public people (and politicians are as public as movie people) have lives as messy as private people, and understand that their mess will, from time to time, become public. We might even begin to accept that public lives are, in general, messier than private lives. All that exposure, all that ambition, all that ego, all that attention-craving, is bound to wreak some havoc. Why pretend otherwise?

And as with Hollywood people, we'll even come to enjoy it -- see it as just part of the contemporary morality play.

What is the mayor's future? Besides divorce.

It seems certain the present contretemps will mean no Bush appointment.

I suspect that there is a longer medical battle to be fought. This is another element of public lives that we have yet to accept. There will have to be an allowance for getting sick and being treated -- difficult, unpleasant, precarious treatments.

But let us hope and assume a satisfactory recovery.

Does he then go into the private sector and make a load of money?

Another part of Rudy's anti-charm charm is that such an outcome seems unlikely, or, at least, it seems uncomfortable. It's hard to see Rudy as a corporate guy, a smooth guy, a behind-the-scenes guy.

Do you hire him for his connections? As a rainmaker? As a deal-maker?

Personally, I have a lot of trouble thinking of Rudy as a guy who is going to deliver the big money. (He wasn't so good at it when he tried it the first time.)

Maybe you hire him as your head of security.

Beyond that he has to wait four years before he can run for mayor again (there's only Schumer's seat opening up in the interim -- not that he would want some other office anyway). That's four years for the Democrats to do what it should always be possible to do in New York, which is to make sure no Republican can become mayor -- except by the strangest of flukes.

But let's give Rudy the benefit of a weakened economy, and of a Democratic mayor whose natural reluctance to insult and confront makes him seem like a pawn of the multitude of New York interest groups. And let's say the former mayor manages to get divorced and remarried.

It's always possible. But I can't see this story ending happily.

E-mail: michael@burnrate.com


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