Barton Gellman and Amy Wilentz

Barton Gellman and Amy Wilentz

An email conversation about the news of the day.
May 15 2000 11:38 AM

Barton Gellman and Amy Wilentz


Dear Amy,


I find myself oddly unsettled by the Rudy Giuliani saga. Probably it's the camera scrum outside my door.

Last week I came back from overseas -- far, far away from Hizzoner's illness, marriage, and extracurricular affairs -- and my daughter Abigail informed me, "Daddy, we're famous!" This, she felt, was a good thing. I blame myself for my kindergarteners' fixation on fame. When they drew finger sketches on the fogged-over windows of the Guggenheim last winter, I told them they had had their first exhibition.

Turns out Abigail takes vicarious pleasure from the TV crews who have been double-parked outside our Third Avenue apartment building and lurking in the Timothy's World Coffee next door. I asked my bride, what camera crews? She said, didn't you hear? Judith Nathan, the mayor's "very good friend," lives in our building.

My kids are not the only ones enjoying the attention. Antonio, the youngest of our doormen, has been on the news five times. There are rumblings from some of the older guys about equal time. Their professional discretion fights and loses with the compulsion to dish: one guy behind the front desk allows he has seen the mayor drop by, but only twice.


It's all over the radio that this may be the day Rudy delivers his verdict on the Senate race. My sense is that any time a politician says (1) "Of course I've cried," (2) "I haven't made up my mind whether I have the energy and capacity to run," or, the clincher, (3) politics is not my first or even my second priority right now -- he's out of here. Emotional states, and disclosures of same, are seldom consistent with public life, American style.

Some of the Republican pundits have been urging, wishfully, that the trend humanizes Rudy. But look, human is not what people love (or hate) about Rudy. I think the whole rationale of his public life is melting down.

Without the Rudy-haters to mobilize, the Hillary-haters loom larger in this race. Can you say Senator Lazio?


P.S. If the mayor's gal pal is an Upper East Side socialite, as she is generally described, do I get to be in the Social Register now?

A former Pentagon, Middle East, and diplomatic correspondent, Barton Gellman is special projects reporter for the Washington Post. Amy Wilentz is the author of The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier. She writes frequently about the Middle East and is finishing a novel about Jerusalem.