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Byline: Michael Wolff
There's no politician more fun to write about than Rudy Giuliani. He's your political show of shows-driven to ever greater public outlandishness by a do-anything compulsion always to be at the center of attention. At some point, when he was New York's mayor, it seemed to stop mattering to him that this attention was, for his political career, the bad kind of attention. Politics appeared no longer to be his interest; to prove, over and over again, that it's his right-his art, even-to be at the center of attention was. Even this does not really explain the implausibility, and entertainment, of Rudy as a politician.
The explanation for what makes Rudy so compelling among people who know him best-including New York reporters who've covered him for a generation, and political pros who've worked for him-is simpler: he is nuts, actually mad.
Now, this line should be delivered with the proper timing (smack your head in astonishment when you deliver it). And it implies some admiration and affection: he's an original. But it is, too, a considered political diagnosis: every student of Rudy Giuliani-indeed, every New Yorker-has witnessed, and in many cases suffered, his periods of mania, political behavior that, in the end, can't have much of a rational explanation.
So, if you are not from New York, if you haven't had the pleasure of what Jack Newfield, that querulous old-school New York City columnist and reporter, called "the Full Rudy"-also the title of his 2002 book about the former mayor-you perhaps cannot appreciate our sense of emperor's-new-clothes incredulity. Despite what's in front of everybody's face-behavior that's not only in the public record but recapped on the front pages every day-becoming president could really happen for Rudy.
No, that is wrong: virtually every Full Rudy veteran expects the implosion to happen any second. It's in some bizarro parallel reality that the Rudy campaign achieves verisimilitude and even-strange, too, when you consider the cronies and hacks who surround him-appears, at times, adept.
It's a Catch-22 kind of nuttiness. What with all his personal issues-the children; the women; the former wives; Kerik and the Mob; his history of interminable, bitter, asinine hissy fits; the look in his eye; and, now, Judi!, his current, prospective, not-ready-for-prime-time First Lady-he'd have to be nuts to think he could successfully run for president. But nutty people don't run for president-certainly they don't get far if they do.
Newfield, who died in 2004, desperately, and to little avail, tried in his short, apoplectic book to demonstrate the existence of a real Rudy as opposed to the post-9/11 heroic Rudy. "Are you crazy? He's just insane," Newfield kept yelling at me over lunch one day, when I was trying to come up with a strategic explanation for Rudy's wild swings of temperament, judgment, and sense of proportion. (Similarly, Newfield quotes the New York politician Basil Paterson as saying Giuliani has "a devil in him," and Giuliani's former school chancellor Rudy Crew as diagnosing a "very, very powerful pathology," and former New York congressman Rev. Floyd Flake as seeing …