The Fringe, Part 2
Presidential candidates you've never heard of.
Updated Friday, Oct. 19, 2007, at 6:30 PM
Blunt instrument: Rudy Giuliani knows how to tailor an anecdote to his audience. At today's Republican Jewish Coalition forum in Washington, D.C., he was introduced as the man who had Yasser Arafat thrown out of the United Nations. Giuliani later clarified: "I actually threw him out of the U.N. concert at Lincoln Center. [Applause] … It bothered me that he came to that peace concert. But what really bothered me was, he didn't have a ticket. He's a freeloader." I was half expecting him to say schnorrer.
On the subjects of the day—national security, nukes, Iran—Rudy was in his element. Maybe it's his ability to say anything, no matter how mundane, with utter conviction. "We've seen what Iran will do with ordinary weapons. If I'm president, we will never find out what they will do with nuclear weapons because I guarantee they will never get nuclear weapons." And just in case he wasn't clear: "The military option is not off the table."
You can understand why, after Hillary and Mitt Romney's alleged vagaries about how they'd respond to a threat from Iran, Giuliani's bluntness distinguishes him. "You can't negotiate with people who want to kill you and your children," he said at one point. "What are you gong to negotiate? How many kids they're going to kill?" Same goes for throwing Arafat out of concerts: "I didn't call for a team of lawyers to tell me, 'On the one hand, you can throw him out, but on the other hand you can't. Maybe you can partially throw him out. Or make him sit further up.' " For Rudy, it's never about compromise. "Weakness invites attack. Strength keeps you safe," he said. As does a total lack of nuance, apparently.
He wasn't just blunt about policy, either. One questioner seemed to say that George Soros was in the audience and asked what Giuliani thought of the liberal billionaire. "I'd suggest uninviting him if he's here in the room." Giuliani also put a Republican spin on Lloyd Bentsen's famous insult: "Barack Obama says Ronald Reagan negotiated with the Russians. ... I say this most respectfully, but you're not Ronald Reagan." Something tells me Obama wouldn't dispute that.
Hair pieces: Every so often, two major newspapers will publish the exact same evergreen feature at the exact same time, confirming suspicions that the media is one giant, pulsating organism that thinks and moves as a unit.
The latest evidence: two pieces in the Sunday editions of the New York Times and Washington Post about South Carolina beauty salons and the African-American women who frequent them. As Barron YoungSmith pointed out yesterday in "Today's Papers," "both pieces follow a twentysomething Obama staffer and both meditate on the identity politics that rend black women choosing between a black man and a white woman." The salon makes a useful framing device, since both Hillary and Obama have dispatched staffers to salons to court black women. (A nasty tactic, if you ask me. Haircuts are already stressful enough.)
The most interesting quotes in both pieces come from women concerned about Barack Obama. "I think basically white people won't vote for him," one salon owner tells the Post. Others fear for his life. "I don't feel the country is ready for an African American," says a woman interviewed in the Times. "He would be killed."
So, have the Times and the Post been peeking over each other's shoulders? Not at all, say the two writers. "I was totally surprised," said Katherine Seelye, who wrote the Times piece. "I had no idea they were doing it." Seelye had wanted to write something about black women voters for a while, and only learned about the other piece on Saturday, when it appeared online. "I think it's kind of serendipitous," said Krissah Williams, the Post's reporter.
Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.
Photographs of: Mark Klein courtesy of Dr. Klein; Jack Shepard courtesy of Dr. Shepard; Rudy Giuliani in the Republican presidential debate by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images; Bill Richardson baseball card courtesy the Richardson campaign; Duncan Hunter by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images. Photographs of Sam Brownback by: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images; Darren McCollester/Getty Images; Mandel Nagan/AFP/Getty Images; Scott Olson/Getty Images; Bill Pugliano/Getty Images; and Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images.