Jacob Haller (jwgh) wrote,
Jacob Haller

Harper's annoyance

I got the August issue of Harper's in the mail yesterday and read the essay by Kevin Baker titled "A Fate Worse Than Bush: Rudolph Giuliani and the politics of personality". I was interested in reading this, because my opinion of Mr. Giuliani is not very high and I was interested in reading a critique of him. This is what I got.

The article begins: "Rudolph Giuliani has, by far, the most dubious known personal history of any major presidential candidate in American history, what with his three marriages and his open affairs and his almost total estrangement from his grown children, not to mention the startling frequency with which he finds excuses to dress in women's clothing." Oh, give me a break -- I don't believe that he has the most dubious known personal history of any major candidate. More dubious than Jefferson? Also, is the fact that he has worn women's clothing as a joke seriously supposed to make me think he'd be a bad president?

But of course that's just the first sentence, so maybe the rest of the paragraph will put this into perspective. The paragraph continues: "Many of his fellow Republicans despise him for his support of gay rights and abortion rights and immigrants, for the confiscatory gun laws he enforced while mayor of New York City, and for having a personality that is irreducibly New York." Then Baker quotes Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention and James Dobson as saying they would never vote for Giuliani. But these things by and large are all things I likeabout Giuliani. So what's going on here?

The next paragraph says that he is following in the path of Bill and Hillary Clinton, then pauses to say "New York has always been where America happens first. As the nation's most populous city, as its financial and intellectual capital, and as a magnet for ambitious and creative immigrants from all points, domestic and foreigh, it has set the course for most of the nation's history." This New York boosterism continues for a couple of paragraphs, then there's a bit about how New York's problems also presage the country's problems. Then it glosses over the fact that Hillary Clinton is from Illinois -- this is unimportant because "she nonentheless fit perfectly into the city's political landscape, in large part because she was instrumental in creating it."

After that, on its third page, the article settles down for a while. It traces Giuliani's success to his success in getting liberal upper-class white folks to vote for him by exploiting fear of crime and a feeling that the city was being taken over by non-white folks. This thesis is developed for four pages. Then there are two pages that argue that Giuliani didn't do much when he was mayor and that his popularity was on the wane until September 11, after which he still didn't do much and lied about it. Then there's a page in which it is indicated that his approach to the Presidential race is similar to his approach to the mayoral race. Then there's the concluding section, which includes the following argument:

"Just as Bill Clinton was able to silence labor, the advocates of racial and gender equality, and all of the Democrats' other so-called special interests in the wake of his party's repeated presidential defeats, so Rudolph Giuliani may be able to mute the Republicans' religious wing in the wake of George W. Bush's disastrous administration. Yet what will this mean? Many of us would welcome any setback for the Christian right [. . .] Yet to expel evangelical Christians from the body politic would also be to dismiss millions of Americans who are profoundly disturbed by the amoral cynicism that now permeates this nation's elite classes; by the waves of misogynistic pornography and ultra-violence that inundate our popular culture; by the growth industries that have grown out of gambling and hedonism. To dismiss these evangelical Christians would be to dismiss millions of Americans who genuinely believe in something greater than themselves, a whole population that has been slowly but steadily won over to such causes as environtmentalism and social justice in recent years. And where would such people go? The obvious answer would be, into some sort of coalition with all those the Democratic Party has tried to banish from its ranks -- that is, the poor and the working poor, people of color, and all those dislocated by the global economy. This would mean a party of the religious and the disinherited -- exactly the combination that has given rise to the sort of extremism we so deplore in the Islamic world."

Then there's a paragraph that says that today what's important in the president is personality, and that Bush's failure is the result of his personality, and that Giuliani would probably be about the same.

I think it would be fair to say that this is not exactly the article I'd hoped for.
Tags: politics, writing

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