Too much travel to be fully on top of the Giuliani “shag fund” story this weekend, but one thing I haven’t seen remarked upon is the sheer irresponsibility of it all. This sort of petty corruption happens in politics (though the money sleaze and sex sleaze twofer is impressive) but normally one advantage of your hard-changing ruthless ambition types is that they have the self-restraint necessary to avoid these scandals. It’s not good for your career and it’s not good for your party. Serious politicians have their eyes on a bigger prize.
The question is where does this spirit of discipline come from. For some, it’s a bona fide character trait that happens to be politically useful. Giuliani’s shown plenty of discipline on the trail, but this sordid episode reminds us of how far it is from hizzoner’s natural state. When he thought his political career was dead anyway, he was happy to pull this kind of stunt despite the death blow something like this could deliver to a “law and order” politician. And his career’s always been marked by various outbursts, tantrums, and other episodes of responsibility. The discipline he’s shown up until now in walking the ideological tightrope doesn’t come naturally to him. As GFR says he’s less the working class kid made good than someone like “the self-indulgent, troubled, well-to-do dads of Gossip Girl, right down to the bad relationships with his children and constant wheeling and dealing.”
Meanwhile, one of Giuliani’s core weakness as a politician — he’s an insane sadist — has always also served as a kind of strength. The madness compels opponents to point out how deranged he is, but sometime’s the electorate’s in the mood for a man who’s inclined to push the boundaries and err on the side of a hard line. New York in 1993 was certainly such a place, and the USA in 2008 might be. But nobody’s ever in the mood for a hypocrite who preaches law and order and social stability while using city funds to chauffeur his mistress and her friends around town.