Obviously nobody alive today dashed across the Red Sea as it parted to admit the Israelites to freedom before closing in and drowning the pursuing Egyptians. But the one living person who should best know how that escape feels is Rudolph Giuliani.
Early in the pre-campaign for the 2008 White House, New York ex-Mayor Giuliani was regarded by those who hate him as one of those gaudy soap bubbles that survives just long enough for you to yell to your brother to hurry on into the bathroom and take a look; but you're confident it will pop and leave a little moist remembrance on the white tile floor without you needing to blow it or poke it.
That was many months ago, and far from popping, the Giuliani candidacy is gaining, sinking mud-cleats into solid political support and grabbing traction. Why? I think I know. And if I'm right it will be the first time I've really learned from history. Never too late.
I live in New York. You should have heard them. "Yeah, Rudy's riding high at the moment but just wait until things get real and they go after his three marriages and his cross-dressing for that stunt night and his going to live with two homosexuals after he left his second wife" and on and on and on for three or four more breaths about his personal life before even getting around to his public stances on abortion, guns, illegal immigrants and other issues and attitudes guaranteed to horrify the conservative base of the Republican Party without which, you know how they say it in New York's Little Italy, "Fugeddabouddit!”
We've been here before, and not all that long ago. When the late anchorman David Brinkley retired in 1997 he was asked to recall his biggest mistake in judgment in his career spanning a full 60 years. He was not stuck for the answer. "In 1992 when Bill Clinton won the Democratic nomination for president and I learned he'd dodged the draft I wrote him off," Brinkley said.
He went on to explain that, as one who lived through World War II, he knew anyone convincingly revealed as a draft-dodger could never win anything in America. And, of course, the draft-dodging charge was undenied because it was undeniable.
"What I didn't count on," Brinkley continued, "was that a whole new American population had quietly arisen with a whole new attitude about military service and patriotism." Even a candidate who was revealed by his own writing as "loathing the military" was by no means any longer out of any race up to and including the presidency.
So, what Brinkley suspected would be a thunderclap of scorn turned out to be a butterfly's belch of boredom. And I think those Giuliani-haters who expect his supporters to gasp and go take a pill and lie down when they learn about his personal life and his anti-conservative positions are in for the same disappointment as those who thought Bill Clinton's initial run for the White House was doomed by his draft-dodging.
The art of life is to turn yourself into a toy that floats in the tub rather than a cake of soap that sinks and sits unchangingly on the bottom. I'm soap aspiring to become a floating toy.
My high school didn't have traumas like mass shootings. I remember only two traumas that involved the whole high school. We were in Greensboro, N. C. 48 miles south of Virginia where they sold condoms in coin machines in the men's rooms of truck stops.
They also sold them right there in local drug stores, but not a man-jack among us had the guts to ask a clerk, especially a female clerk, for condoms. The thing to do was borrow daddy's car and drive to Virginia.
Once a boy was toying with his wallet in the school corridor and out dropped a condom right in front of a female teacher!
The shock waves virtually shut down the high school. You younger ones are excused for thinking, "What in the hell is he talking about?" You just have not to have been there, but to be able to imagine being there in the south in the 1940s!
The other "trauma" did shut down the school in a meaningful way. At one of our weekly school assemblies, you know, where the student piano players played the piano and the student singers sang; we happened to have a student magician who put on a magic show.
I'd intended to use their real names but, even though this was in the 1940s something in me won't let me. I'll use their real first names . . . Herbert was the magician. He put on a good magic show which only became great with his final illusion.
He summoned the extremely popular Betty Lou up from the audience to be his foil. He showed us a long string of brightly colored scarves tied one to the other to make a very long string indeed. He then wrapped that long thing around Betty Lou like a snake until she looked almost bound up in beautifully colored scarves.
After an "abracadrdra" or two, Herbert unwound Betty Lou and asked her to hold one end of that scarf-chain on one side of the stage while he marched to the other side and unfurled and held high the string of scarves for all to see. You magicians already know what comes next.
Something new had been added! Right in the middle of all those colored scarves appeared a colorless, out-of-place brassiere that looked like it had been peeled right off Betty Lou right there in front of the whole high school. I'm not sure the crowd reaction showed up on the Fordham seismograph in New York, but if we'd had one at, say Duke University in nearby Durham, N.C., it definitely would have registered as an earthquake in Indonesia.
Betty Lou was excused from school for a week two weeks, as long as she felt she needed to recover and Herbert was suspended for two weeks.
Today, most of the young women in that or any other high school would gladly have been Herbert's "victim" to bask in her resulting new prominence. Back then Betty Lou suffered an unspeakable humiliation. Today the principal of the high school might well ask Herbert if he'd be good enough to come repeat that stunt for his Kiwanis Club banquet. Back then there was serious talk of banning Herbert from school altogether.
To reduce it to a bumper sticker, attitudes change!
You're making a mistake if you assume Rudy merely took advantage of good photo ops immediately after 9/11 to acquire the title of "Mr. Anti-Terrorism." Love him or hate him; accept him or reject him; Rudolph Giulani is a leader.
Long before 9/11, on the night TWA 800 exploded shortly after takeoff from JFK Airport, an airline executive told Giuliani he was going home because he was sure he'd need a good night's sleep, Giuliani thundered back at him, "Who's going to sleep?" Giuliani was headed immediately to the designated Long Island motel in an all-night effort to try to comfort the families.
It would be against German law to show films of Adolf Hitler giving his hate-filled speeches, but Germans I trust promise me that if they were to show those films today, the young people of Germany, far from "heil-ing" and throwing their right arms up and out and their shoulders back and clicking their heels and marching toward Poland; would instead roar with laughter at what they would perceive as a clown act.
Has any candidate ever owned an issue as totally as Rudy Giuliani owns anti-terrorism? Sure, other candidates may choose to be the anti-tax candidate or the family values candidate or the education candidate. Giuliani didn't have to choose anti-terrorism. It chose him. When Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, Soviet dictator Stalin was too shaken to address the Soviet people. Vyacheslav Molotov had to do it for him. When the planes slammed into the towers on 9/11 Rudy was on the scene performing in a fashion that won him the title of "America's mayor."
So, if you're waiting for Giuliani's personal peccadillos and liberal scrapbook to start a wave of anti-Rudy feeling you're waiting to witness the world's smallest tsunami. You'll be lucky if it reaches your ankles. Fugeddabouddit!
The most ambitious and futile manipulation in American political life is the left's attempt to pretend other issues rank right up there with terrorism. They don't; not Guantanamo, not eavesdropping on foreign telephone traffic without a warrant, not the summary firing of federal prosecutors, not healthcare, not Cheney's furtive ways, not Scooter Libby's non-crimes, nothing.
To please our liberal friends and relatives we do not snort derisively when those other issues arise, but in the American gut it's terrorism, stupid.
We may be scared silly of global warming. We're scared serious of terrorism.
You've heard them play political handball on talk shows batting back and forth the argument over whether people vote for or against candidates; is our vote guided by the positive or the negative, do we vote out of support or out of opposition.
It's a bad game. We vote nowadays out of fear. And more Americans fear Osama bin Laden than they fear Rudolph Giuliani.
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