Giuliani’s puzzling, tragic fall from grace

‘America’s mayor’ has become its crazy uncle

- Mike Kelly Mike Kelly is a columnist for the North Jersey Record, where this column originally appeared.

Of all the bizarre narratives cascading from the Trump White House, perhaps the most disturbing and unsettling for anyone who lived through the 9/11 attacks is how much Rudy Giuliani has changed.

America’s Mayor has become America’s Crazy Uncle, complete with leaving accidental voicemail recordings for an NBC News reporter in which he can be heard railing against the Bidens and saying he needed money.

Some of you will surely say that you saw this coming. And maybe you’re right. The signs were definitely there.

During his salad days as New York’s mayor — and, before that, as a headline-grabbing federal prosecutor who helped to break up the mob — Giuliani displayed flashes of bellowing anger, infantile petulance, blind selfishnes­s and callous heartlessn­ess.

Remember his news conference to announce his divorce without telling his wife their marriage was over? Yep, that was Rudy in one of his nastiest moments. It almost seemed like the kind of thing a headline-grabbing New York City developer at the time, Donald Trump, might have done. Looking back now, some readers probably are saying it was only a matter of time before Giuliani joined forces with the equally angry, petulant, selfish and heartless President Donald Trump. The likeminded tend to find each other.

Even so, those occasional starbursts of weird bluster and scratch-your-head snarky behavior by Giuliani seemed to disappear — or perhaps were overlooked and forgiven — in those hard months after the deadly terrorist attacks on a Tuesday morning.

In the smoke-filled, fearsome days that followed Sept. 11, 2001, Giuliani seemed to be everywhere with the right words and tone. In the hours after the attacks themselves, as America wondered what had really taken place and President George W. Bush was silent as he was shuttled on Air Force One to a locked-down Air Force Base in the Midwest, Giuliani served as a modern Greek chorus voicing the nation’s grief.

A man we could trust

“Today is obviously one of the most difficult days in the history of the city,” Giuliani said, only hours after the towers of the World Trade Center toppled in lower Manhattan. “The number of casualties,” he added, “will be more than any of us can bear ultimately.”

The words were heartfelt, not heartless. More than any other politician­s that day, Giuliani captured the sense of despair and tragedy that had suddenly enveloped the nation. Weeks later, surrounded by New York City firefighte­rs onstage for the opening of “Saturday Night Live,” here was Giuliani telling America it was OK to laugh again. And we laughed. Of course we did. Giuliani seemed to be a man we could trust.

Now Giuliani is a regular character on “SNL,” portrayed by comedian Kate McKinnon as a sleazy nut job prone to crazy statements in defense of Trump. And people laugh this time, too. Just as Giuliani’s calming words after the 9/11 attacks resonated with America, McKinnon’s depiction of his descent into weirdness also resonates.

What happened? Surely that is a fair and intriguing question. Giuliani was never a fool. Nor was he considered stupid. And yet, how else to explain him.

A New Yorker article theorized that Giuliani, now 75, has “lost it mentally” and that historians may come to regard him as a “one-man wrecking crew” for the Trump administra­tion.

In a recent CNN segment, Giuliani first denied that he asked the Ukrainians to investigat­e former Vice President Joe Biden, then quickly reversed himself and admitted that he actually had asked for such an inquiry. “Of course I did,” Giuliani chortled, seemingly pleased with himself but also seemingly not realizing his flip-flop could contribute mightily to the impeachmen­t of his client, the president.

‘Truth isn’t truth’

Such a convoluted style of thinking and speaking should not surprise anyone who has paid attention to Giuliani as he has grown closer to Trump.

Remember his pretzel logic on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” in August 2018 that “truth isn’t truth”? Socratic scholars across the globe are still trying to unravel that one. Or this mini temper tantrum recently on Fox News: “Shut up, moron. Shut up. Shut up.”

It’s not hard to remember Giuliani’s leadership in the 1990s. He battled the porn hustlers in Times Square, the heroin junkies in Central Park and the oppressive “squeegee men” who wiped your car with dirty rags and demanded your spare change. And mostly, he won those battles. Under Giuliani, New York began to shed its reputation as a vortex of dysfunctio­n.

Worth rememberin­g is that Giuliani was hardly perfect back then, either. During his eight years as New York’s mayor, which ended in December 2001, he slipped into moments of cartoonlik­e calamity. Sometimes his ego seemed as massive as Manhattan. Sometimes his statements on race and poverty seemed unkind. But few doubted his mental makeup.

In the days after the 9/11 attacks, Oprah Winfrey introduced Giuliani during a prayer service at Yankee Stadium as “a man whose extraordin­ary grace under pressure in the days since this devastatin­g attack has led him to be called America’s mayor.”

Giuliani is no longer a man of grace. He’s the mayor who fell from grace.

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