Rudy's New Hampshire: Little Press, Lots of Tough Talk

MERRIMACK, N.H.—Rudy Giuliani polled terribly in New Hampshire and therefore lost every candidate’s apparently God-given right to an attentive press corps; he was mostly down to New Hampshire TV and a handful of New York-based daily reporters.

Who could resist? (Besides most everyone.) I decided to embed.

In the packed spin room after the Republican debate on Saturday, Katie Levinson, his hard blond communications director, said some words. “Tested”! “Florida”! “I think his focus is on increasing turnout”!

His friend Frank Guinta, the mayor of Manchester, chopped away at reporters. “What he has to do is finish—finish strong.” “Dropped crime rate by 70 percent.” “Cut taxes 23 times!” (I did not feel a reason to believe these numbers, given the campaign’s history of bad facts; Mr. Giuliani himself later said he cut taxes 15 to 20 times.) But did Mr. Giuliani feel bad about killing all those people during and after 9/11, one (sorta wingnut!) reporter wanted to know. “I do know he’s a tested, proven leader,” Mr. Guinta replied. A red blotch crawled from the right side of his neck to his cheek.

On Sunday morning, in the Habitrail of a sunken living room in the rural-suburb huge-house sprawl of Hollis, Mr. Giuliani was ready for play. In his fashion, he was driven around in a big black car with dealer plates.

The lawyer host—who said that Mr. Giuliani had been “in the center of the storm”—had been solicited to have this “house party” two days prior. That smelled like campaign crisis.

“I dreamed of a better city” with “lots of tourists,” Mr. Giuliani said to what one attendee ludicrously described as “the people here on Main Street.” He seems to always wear a red tie. He wanted to bring back Reagan’s “peace through strength” and build what he called a Cold War-sized army—a Team Rudy World Police. Mr. Giuliani said he thinks he has never met a soldier or sailor or Marine with “low morale.” A man asked him if he would institute the draft and he somehow didn’t say yes or no.

Later that day he got the endorsement of the New England Police Benevolent Association. They said that Rudy was “the face of America during its darkest hours.” The press was bored and so they pushed Mr. Giuliani about transparency on his big business, Giuliani Partners, which “advises” people and cashes big checks. Mr. Giuliani said the media had done such a good job revealing his clients that now he didn’t need to tell us anything more.

Mr. Giuliani was in a giddy fun mood. “The meds are working!” cried a reporter. “A smiling Giuliani is a scary thing.”

Monday morning, Nashua. “Supply-side theory says you can lower taxes and make money,” Mr. Giuliani said. Reagan got an umpteenth mention. And how do you help the U.S.? You reduce corporate taxes!

In an adorable old building with peeling paint in nearby Hudson, a little after noon, he had the first of three town hall meetings. In Mr. Giuliani’s introduction, New York City was described as “ungovernable.”

Present was Ted Olson, the head of Rudy’s “judicial advisory committee” (and whose late wife, Barbara Olson, was on the plane that hit the Pentagon on Sept. 11). Mr. Olson represented Reagan in Iran-Contra and Bush in Bush v. Gore, the man who prepared the noose into which the Supreme Court popped its stupid head. “Thanks to the people of Florida and Ted Olson, we have George Bush instead of Al Gore,” said Mr. Giuliani. (But what about Katherine Harris?)

Okay, but there are likable things. He is “not big on Constitutional amendments,” as in, making new ones. He goes far out of his way to tell every crowd that he would not work to outlaw abortion. And in a state currently burdened with the presence of Mitt Romney, who is both the vial of snake oil and its salesman, Mr.Giuliani has the advantage of looking like a human being.

He had a second “town hall” at a corporation called PC Connection. (That was weird.) “Nanny government!” he said. He said that he “increased the number of adoptions significantly” in New York City, thereby preventing abortions. (According to ACS data on the 4,009 adoptions in New York City in 1997, those children had a median age of 8. Happy news: They were not aborted in their 35th trimester.)

He had a third town hall meeting, over at a small opera house in Derry. Former Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci did the introductions. New York City was a nightmare, and Rudy survived it and tamed it! All the “squeegee men” would hold you up then, said Mr. Cellucci. But now “the porno shops are gone” from what was “the welfare capital of the world.”

Mr. Giuliani thanked all his guys in the front: Mr. Olson, Mr. Guinta. “It’s a death march,” whispered a reporter. It did look like goodbye.

“I’m not kidding, they want to raise your taxes,” Mr. Giuliani said of the three top Democrats.

Rudy's New Hampshire: Little Press, Lots of Tough Talk