Infidelity: A weak line of attack
10/7/2016, 10:40 p.m.
I grabbed my ear lobe and jiggled it in disbelief of the words I was hearing from former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s mouth.
Mr. Giuliani, a surrogate for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, was responding to a very good question from NBC’s “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd on Sunday morning.
Mr. Todd wanted to know whether Mr. Giuliani’s own history of marital infidelity disqualified him to be “the right person” to lead the Trump campaign’s latest tactic — criticizing Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s response to her husband then-President Bill Clinton’s sexual behavior with a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky.
“You have your own infidelities, sir,” Mr. Todd reminded the former mayor.
“Everybody does,” Mr. Giuliani casually responded. “You know, I’m a Roman Catholic, and I confess those things to my priest.”
Those of us who were paying attention during his mayoral years don’t need a priest to tell us that Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Trump — with their three marriages apiece — make an odd couple.
“Just bizarre,” tweeted lawyer-journalist Glenn Greenwald, founder of The Intercept news site. “Trump & Giuliani have 6 wives between them & are sermonizing about marriage to the Clintons, who have been married 41 years.”
And none of that’s a secret. Mr. Trump’s affairs were carried out on the front pages of New York’s tabloids and gossip columns. Mr. Giuliani announced the end of his second marriage in a news conference in 2000 before he told his wife at the time, Donna Hanover.
When she refused to leave the official residence with their two children, the mayor’s divorce lawyer said someone would have “to pry her off the chandelier to get her out of there.”
Yet Mr. Giuliani’s casual attitude toward infidelities today sounds even more bizarre when compared to the shock and outrage of Republicans who voted for President Clinton’s impeachment in the late 1990s.
Compared to those days, Mr. Giuliani’s attitude sounds as suspect as Mr. Trump’s recent and sudden reversal of his five-year-old doubts that President Obama was born in the United States. (It was about time, Donald.)
Even more suspect is Mr. Giuliani’s tone deafness to the irony of his new position. After all, if “everybody” cheats, why make President Clinton’s cheating the focus of an attack against his wife?
But Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani insist they are not rehashing President Clinton’s infidelities. Rather, they are attacking his former senator wife for defending him during the Lewinsky scandal and for her attempts to discredit women who accused her husband of sexual assault.
“After being married to Bill Clinton for 20 years, if you didn’t know the moment Monica Lewinsky said Bill Clinton violated her,” Mr. Giuliani told Elite Daily, a website for millennials, after the first Clinton-Trump debate, “then you’re too stupid to be president.”
This from a man whose own campaign to be president in 2008 flamed out after he came in third in Florida.
Perhaps Mr. Trump himself sensed the weakness of this line of attack when, during a full-steam, ad-libbed tirade against his opponent at a rally Oct. 1 in Pennsylvania, Mr. Trump shouted, “I don’t even think she’s loyal to Bill, if you want to know the truth. And really, folks, why should she be? Why should she be?”
Really? Mr. Trump offered no evidence to back up his suggestion that the former first lady might be cheating, too.
On Oct. 2, Mr. Giuliani dutifully dismissed Mr. Trump’s suggestion of infidelity by the former first lady as a “sarcastic remark.”
“After she called him a racist and misogynist, xenophobic ... I think it’s fair game,” Mr. Giuliani said.
Maybe. But at least Mrs. Clinton actually has something that looks and sounds like evidence to back up her argument. The list of Mr. Trump’s attacks and insults against Mexicans, Muslims, woman and other groups runs long and, by all indications, probably will grow longer.
Does Mr. Trump really help himself by taking us back to Monicagate?
Sure, Hillary-bashing wins applause — which he loves — from his hard-core supporters, but he already has won that group. The remaining slice of moderates and independents who haven’t made up their minds is small, pollsters say, but also likely to be decisive. Team Trump appears to be doing a great job — of delivering that group to their opponent.