Rudy is still running - from himself

On Friday a week ago, The New Republic magazine appeared with a big red caption on its cover: "Run Rudy, Run." The Wall Street Journal appeared with an article by William Bennett captioned: "Rudy, Don't Run." Mayor Rudolph Giuliani took Mr. Bennett's advice, but not his reasoning. Bennett, that certified moralist, argued that adultery doesn't make a public figure more human but corrupts the very notion of what it means to be human.

In his announcement that Friday afternoon, Mayor Giuliani never mentioned adultery and only once mentioned family - and then only in response to a question. He wanted us to know that the reason for his withdrawal from the Senate race was health. His concern was that treatment for prostate cancer, a treatment still to be decided, might leave him without enough energy to run a vigorous race.

Giuliani also suggested that he was undergoing an emotional experience in which intimations of mortality were leading him to examine what was really important and what was not. But he made his introspection sound like an essentially self-centered experience in which his long-suffering wife and his two children played little part. He used the word "love" 13 times (a "love virus," you might say), but it was mostly love of New York, love of his job, love of the people who supported him. The new, humanized Giuliani seems to be still a work in progress.

What Giuliani finds difficult to acknowledge is that, whether he admits it or not, he now joins the ranks of those politicians who allow passion for women to overcome passion for public service.

In 1987, after a well-publicized tryst, former Sen. Gary Hart (D) of Colorado tried to get back into the presidential race. At a news conference, he was asked by Paul Taylor of The Washington Post whether he had ever committed adultery. He did not answer. Later, he told his press secretary, "This thing is never going to end, is it? Look, let's just go home."

Giuliani might have chosen to brazen out his dangerous liaisons. After all, George Stephanopoulos, former Clinton aide, has said, "New York is France," meaning tolerant of such goings-on. But the mayor chose to stick with cancer. "This decision is a health decision; my personal life is my personal life," he said when a reporter broached the question. And in the great tradition of Gary Hart and Bill Clinton and all those who don't like what they read, he deplored "the intensity of the media interest" in his personal life.

But the public, especially the New York public, remains fascinated by what makes Rudy not run.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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