Giuliani's dangerous weapon - his mouth - strikes again

It's time all kindhearted Americans got together to protest the senseless shootings going on in New York City. How long can we just sit by and watch the carnage? When will we say enough is enough?

I'm speaking, of course, of Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who again last week discharged that most dangerous and misaimed weapon - his mouth - and hit his favorite target - himself.

Last Wednesday, after a routine political event, Mr. Giuliani was asked if he wanted to make a statement about the extramarital affair in which he was reportedly involved. The mayor said he did - and then announced he would be leaving his wife of 16 years, Donna Hanover.

The news didn't shock the press - rumors of affairs had dogged Giuliani for some time, and it was widely believed that at this point his marriage was a political act - but the sudden way the mayor delivered it was startling.

Ms. Hanover didn't even know about the imminence of the impending split. But once she heard about it, she hastily called a press conference in which she basically announced the split was all Rudy's fault.

This was not a good campaign day. And it followed numerous verbal misfires by the mayor earlier this year, mostly concerning the actions of the New York City Police Department.

In fact, Giuliani's mouth has gone off so much lately, with such poor aim, that it's only a matter of time before there is a march in Washington in his honor. Maybe the Million Mayor March, to show support. Or the Million Mime March, to advocate less verbosity.

Of course the mayor's latest outburst didn't happen in a vacuum. It's probably due to the reprioritizing Guiliani says he's doing since learning he has prostate cancer. (It was caught early and is treatable, he says.)

But the question now is whether he'll continue in his Senate race against Hillary Clinton. And regardless of what anyone tells you, this issue is not as cut-and-dried as you think. There are obvious problems for Rudy the candidate at this point.

First, his marital dysfunction means he's lost one of his best issues. Spoken or unspoken, one of the big questions before New York voters up to now has been, "Don't you want to put all that messy Clinton stuff behind you?" That question is now moot.

Second, even though Rudy has prospered from his straight-talk reputation, there comes a time when shooting from the hip looses its charm. Once is a chance occurrence, twice is an interesting coincidence, but three or four times and you start to get into nasty-habit territory.

If the relatively courtly Senate isn't thrilled with John McCain, you can only wonder what it thinks of Rudy Giuliani, whose need for the spotlight and blunt dramatics could take on Gingrichian proportions.

On the other hand, if Rudy quits, New York's GOP faces the difficult question of who to run instead - and quickly, because the state Republican convention is in two weeks. Gov. George Pataki's name has come up, and he's an obvious choice. His cool demeanor and moderate politics have already won him the governor's office twice. But his name has been floated more from the media than the governor's mansion.

There is some talk of Long Islanders Rick Lazio and Peter King, both middle-of-the-ideological-road Republican congressmen. They know Washington and are respected in Congress. And even though they don't have the star power of Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton, some Republicans think that's not such a bad thing.

A nonstar takes the race out of the "battle of the personalities" realm and makes the debate about "Hillary the carpetbagger" again.

In fact, some people want a virtual no-name to run, figuring the less people have heard of the candidate the better. I'm not so sure of this thinking, however. Yes, Hillary is a carpetbagger - the only reason she could answer those "what is the state bird" questions on Letterman is she got a sneak peek at them. And yes, many people would like to remove all things named Clinton from Washington.

But New York is still New York, a state that loves big personalities and big voices representing it - Mr. Pataki is a big exception, not the rule.

Outgoing Sen. Pat Moynihan (D) carries with him wit, intellectual weight, and an open invitation to "Meet the Press." Current Sen. Charles Schumer (D) has made a name for himself on gun control. And former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R) once sang "Old MacDonald" on the Senate floor to protest pork-barrel spending.

Regardless of what you think of any of these men's politics, you can't say they are colorless.

New York is a big stage. It takes a big person to fill it. And if he decides to stick around, Rudy may still be the best bet. If he can keep his mouth from going off again.


Godfrey Sperling, whose column usually appears Tuesday, is on vacation.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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