Rudolph Giuliani, the Reverend Al Sharpton and U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli are very different politicians with very different styles, but they have one critical trait in common: a narcissistic arrogance so pervasive it may well end their careers.
None of the three believes the rules of law or civility apply to him. Mr. Sharpton seems to think he can break the law without paying the appropriate penalties. Mr. Giuliani acts as though we would never hold him accountable for the treatment accorded the mother of his children. And Mr. Torricelli apparently lives by an indecipherable code of ethics that, it seems fair to say, bears little relation to most voters’ sense of propriety. All three are so self-absorbed and self-important, so convinced of their own absurd righteousness, that they have little idea how foolish, mean and petty they seem to the rest of us.
The Mayor is Exhibit A. In what must be the most painful chapter of his life, his narcissism and arrogance have ruined his judgment and clouded his thinking. He is determined to humiliate his estranged wife, Donna Hanover, in public, regardless-or so it seems-of the consequences for their two children. Mr. Giuliani has expended no small amount of energy over the last seven years hectoring New Yorkers about civility, respect and common decency. And he’s been right more often than he’s been wrong. But in this hour of extreme personal pain, Mr. Giuliani has been anything but civil, respectful and decent.
Before they were muzzled, Mr. Giuliani’s allies saw fit to slander Ms. Hanover as an uncaring mom, which is among the most vile charges a man can hurl at the mother of his children. And even when a public truce of sorts was called, Mr. Giuliani continued to maneuver. Most recently, he stripped Ms. Hanover of her ceremonial role as co-host at city receptions, and he is cutting back on her city-paid staff.
With only seven months remaining before Mr. Giuliani leaves office, the Mayor’s actions seemed particularly nasty and unnecessary. The Mayor no doubt believes he has his reasons for acting this way, and because he is so self-absorbed, he sees no reason to justify those actions. He has his reasons, and therefore, by definition, they are beyond reproach.
So he doesn’t see what so many of us do: a spiteful, mean-spirited husband ridiculing his wife, even as he conducts an extramarital affair. This kind of behavior will likely preclude Mr. Giuliani from ever holding elective office again and, for all intents and purposes, makes him almost unemployable come Jan. 1. Given how insensitive he has been to a woman who once shared his life and dreams, given how he has let his ego get in the way of his judgment, wouldn’t any business or professional enterprise think twice before offering him a job?
Mr. Giuliani’s self-destruction in the waning days of his administration parallels our ex-President, who was too blind to anticipate the reaction to his last-minute pardons.
As for Mr. Sharpton, he too is so impressed with the glory of himself that he can’t see how silly he looks with his latest publicity stunt. He flew to Puerto Rico to protest the U.S. Navy’s training exercises on the island of Vieques. Fair enough; we all have the right to protest government actions. But Mr. Sharpton, as is his nature, carried his protest to the next level of publicity-seeking and got himself arrested.
At this point, a person with character would submit to the justice system he or she flouted. But not Mr. Sharpton. Faced with a sentence of 90 days in a federal lockup in Puerto Rico, Mr. Sharpton asked to be brought back to New York to do his time at the Metropolitan Detention Center. His allies protested the sentence. And U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton-whose husband did nothing to stop the bombing of Vieques when he had the chance-naturally visited him in prison. The latest dispatch from Mr. Sharpton’s jail cell, dutifully recorded as if it were actual news, contains word that he will commence a hunger strike to force an end to the bombing in Vieques.
Mr. Sharpton has compared himself to Nelson Mandela. That comparison is ludicrous, for reasons that should require no elaboration.
As a repeat offender, Mr. Sharpton deserves his sentence. He wants us to believe that he is another Martin Luther King Jr., but he is nothing more than a loud-mouthed troublemaker whose financial dealings leave open a host of unanswered questions. When he is confronted with the consequences of his behavior, he whines and complains, never guessing that the public regards him not as a leader, but as a civic joke.
Senator Torricelli, the third and final exhibit in this parade of narcissists, carries on as though he is a victim of zealous government prosecutors and investigative journalists. The Senator’s campaign is under investigation for an assortment of alleged shenanigans, from dubious fund-raising practices to the acceptance of unreported gifts. Yet the Senator continues to insist that he has never done anything to disgrace the public’s trust in him. Meanwhile, this slippery pol dodges and weaves behind the cover of a U.S. Senate seat, and quite simply doesn’t believe that he can get caught.
He may soon find out otherwise, just as Mr. Giuliani will discover that there is a price to be paid for cruelty, and Mr. Sharpton will find out that there is nothing so pathetic as an aging clown.