I thought last night’s Barbara Walters interview of Judith Nathan went remarkably poorly. It’s bad enough that Mayor Giuliani unbelievably said that his wife would be welcome in cabinet discussions, particularly those involving her expertise, health care. The campaign wisely has already rolled this statement back.
Here’s my sense of what happened. It’s my educated interpretation of public facts. The Giuliani Campaign has had a bad story hanging over its head for some time; that is, the circumstances of Giuliani’s ugly divorce with Donna Hanover and his marriage to Judith Nathan. Watching it on t.v. last night, I remembered how bad Giuliani looked a mere four months prior to the September 11th attacks. The campaign has kept Mrs. Giuliani under wraps.
That worked until a couple of weeks ago when the news of her first marriage was reported. At that point, the campaign realized they had to deal with her. Judith Giuliani admitted as much last night when she actually referred to herself as being “rolled out”. You never want the principal to actually refer to the p.r. operation they are a part of. I saw Giuliani’s statement about her being allowed to participate in the cabinet meetings as being a direct emotional reaction to his wife’s feelings, perhaps her insecurities. I had the sense that she has been hurt somehow by not being more prominently displayed as his wife, and Giuliani was compensating for it. At any rate, it had the feel of that to me.
Prominent t.v. interviews that personalize the subject can be great if you have something to work with. The portions of the interview, for instance, that dealt with Judith Giuliani as a single parent were particularly effective. But much of it was ludicrous. This is fundamentally not a good story. The fact that Mrs. Giuliani declined to delve into the circumstances of how they actually met suggests to me there’s an even worse story to be told. Attempts to dress up her resume as if she were Hillary Rodham Clinton, circa 1992, Teresa Heinz Kerry — who despite her flaws has a long record of philanthropy and public advocacy — or even Laura Bush are preposterous. It’s enough that she was a working mother who survived in New York City and that she’s supportive and loved by Giuliani. The piece further raised another question in my mind. It stated that Mrs. Giuliani has a college-age daughter. That means the daughter was in high school or younger when the parents met. Walters didn’t ask, but that made me wonder what Giuliani’s relationship is like with his step-daughter. The whole thing is a mess, and it makes me appreciate the wonderful spouse, class act, whom I got to know with Mayor Menino, Angela Menino. Mrs. Menino, who married him back in the 1960s, always worked as an accountant. She engaged in philanthropic activity. She’s popular in Boston. And she deserves to be.
On the bright side, it’s smart that Giuliani finally got his wife out there. It’s still early enough that these slight mis-steps won’t have much effect on the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary 10 months from now.