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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Nexus

So the big buzz in the progressive blogosphere yesterday and today is about Ben Smith’s story in The Politico revealing that Rudy Guliani billed a lot of travel and security expenses to the City of New York (processed through a vast array of minor agencies) for trips to the Hamptons that might have been associated with opportunities for Private Time with his then-girlfriend, later-wife, Judith Nathan.
You can read about this virtually anywhere (Josh Marshall has gone into major campaign mode on the subject, which is a clear sign the story has legs), but it’s important first to connect the dots. This is a classic example of a development that links a “personal” scandal involving a political candidate–in this case, Rudy’s semi-public adultery, not to mention his serial marriages, the last of which self-excommunicated him from the Catholic Church–with a legitimate public policy issue. It’s an even more lurid version of the “lying under oath” charge that converted many years of smoke about Bill Clinton’s sexual behavor into the fire that got him impeached.
In Rudy’s case, The Nexus between personal and public behavior is particularly strong because it touches on two of his major rationales for candidacy. The guy who ostensibly cleaned up the most corruption-laden and spending-addicted city in America appears to have corruptly spent public money to feather his own nest, so to speak. Moreover, there’s fresh speculation that his decision to site a doomed emergency management command post in the World Trade Center might have had more to do with sexual than with law enforcement logistics.
And then there’s the whole impact of the story on Rudy’s wife. I personally find the whole obsession Americans have about vetting the families of political candidates atavistic, distasteful, and irrelevant, and God alone could fairly compare the Giuliani family’s ethics to those of others. But the fact remains that Republican primary voters probably won’t react very well to information that seems to depict the Next First Lady of the United States as some sort of hoochie mama.
No matter how much of the details of the scandal turn out to be accurate, this story will likely unleash the hounds of hell on Rudy, precisely because the “personal” stories he’s so far brushed off just got very “political.” At this point, his Republican presidential rivals are leaving it alone, but that won’t last, and unless Giuliani comes up with a solid way to squelch the story, he’s in big trouble.

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