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We probably should have accepted the plain evidence in 2008 that Rudy Giuliani, despite his seemingly heroic mayoral performance after 9/11, was much less than met the eye.

His campaign that year for the Republican presidential nomination revealed a tone-deaf buffoon.

He led all the polls until he began to plummet by becoming known.

He pulled out of Iowa because a pro-choice history didn't appeal to heartland right-wingers, even as he put his previous position and principle aside to say he'd nominate conservative Supreme Court justices like John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

He pulled out of New Hampshire because John McCain was seen there as the real Rudy Giuliani--famous, courageous, principled, independent. Giuliani actually made the second-highest number of campaign appearances in New Hampshire--to McCain--but he explained after finishing fourth, behind McCain and Mitt Romney and even a quipster named Mike Huckabee, that he hadn't tried there.

He didn't go to South Carolina because--I don't know, maybe he couldn't find it.

Sometimes he'd keep his cell phone on while giving speeches--including to the NRA--and take calls during his remarks. People couldn't figure out what that was all about. He perhaps thought it made him look busy, important.

Reporters uncovered that he'd formed an international "security" consulting firm to cash in on his American celebrity and overstated competence and influence--some people call it living in the swamp--and, in that role, taken money from a Mideast group with some kind of association with al-Qaida. That was, you know, not good.

Giuliani vowed he would make his campaign stand and his mark in '08 in Florida, the big state, the great American microcosm, where all those transplants from elsewhere would demonstrate his broad and heroic appeal and propel him so powerfully that he'd sweep Super Tuesday right after.

He finished third in Florida, dropped out and endorsed the real man, McCain.

Giuliani spent years faded into the smoldering ash heap of legends-turned-myths, and making money pretending to have some credential to advise other countries or special paying interests within those countries.

He made a little news a few years ago when he said Barack Obama didn't love America, which he explained later by saying he hadn't meant to say Obama didn't love America.

Then Donald Trump, a fellow New York media creation who liked Giuliani's celebrity and that he'd been a federal prosecutor, brought him on to play his lawyer on TV.

Others were doing the actual legal stuff.

If you'd take money from a Mideast group with an al-Qaida association, then you may as well take money from Trump.

Giuliani's job is to go on talk shows and spread a general message that the Mueller investigation is a witch hunt and otherwise confuse everyone on the particulars, such as whether truth is truth. It is the first job performance since 9/11 that he has done with effectiveness. He is a natural master of confusion.

Now it turns out that, while he's been playing the president's lawyer on TV, he has continued to "consult" internationally--in one case by signing a letter he was asked to send to the government of Romania advising it to back off its vaunted new anti-corruption initiative.

It turns out the State Department supports the Romanian anti-corruption initiative and that one of its officials called Giuliani the other day to ask him if he had written that nonsense--after it had been reported in the media in Romania. Giuliani replied that he sure did write it and that he got paid for it too.

He said he'd been asked to send such a letter by Louis Freeh, a former FBI head under Bill Clinton who also cashed into the swamp with an international "security" consulting firm.

Freeh reportedly represented a rich Romanian who got sentenced to jail in the new crackdown on corruption.

So, basically, Giuliani is doing in Romania what he's doing in America, which is taking some guy's money to flash his hyped profile to attack a government investigation into the guy paying him the money.

None of that is especially significant in terms of substance. But it does help make clear a few points.

One is that, while Republican primary voters haven't got much right lately, they sized up Rudy well in '08.

Two is that Giuliani takes money to say stuff, from Qatar to Romania to the White House.

Three is that what he says doesn't have to make sense.

Four is that no one should pay him much attention.

Five is that he'd be guilty of a serious conflict--representing the American president while undercutting the American State Department--if anyone took him seriously.

A Romanian official was quoted by The New York Times saying the Romanian government looked forward to hearing next from Trump's chef and barber.

Trump has a barber?

Now there's tough work, more intricate and consequential than playing his lawyer on TV.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 09/04/2018

Print Headline: Rudimentary Rudy

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