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Giuliani: Done in by Ego

Unless the poll numbers are wrong (which, you know, never happens), Rudy Giuliani is going down tomorrow. Needless to say, no one will be trying the “big state” strategy again anytime soon – except I think Giuliani’s crash-and-burn goes a lot deeper than failed election tactics.

Bowing out of the early contests was just one of many bad choices brought about by the central Giuliani problem: arrogance. This is a man who not only believes his own myth but believed the rest of us would easily succumb to hero worship. We haven’t. As a former Giuliani booster, I can say the mayor’s seemingly uncontrollable ego led directly to the withdrawal of my support.

What initially turned me off of Giuliani were the stories of him taking phone calls during speeches. Only a man of rare selfishness would be so bizarrely inconsiderate. Then there was his increasing inability to discuss any aspect of his campaign without invoking 9/11. He was most definitely a very brave, very strong leader that day but his use of 9/11 became a sad comedy, making the moniker 9iu11ani devastatingly appropriate.

Finally, his decision to make no effort in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina made it clear that Giuliani believed he could simply be anointed, that he didn’t have to play the game like everyone else. He’s always been one to demand special treatment (not to mention permitting underlings to act outside the rules) but I think it was 9/11 that propelled him from a typical, egocentric New York City mayor to a disastrously arrogant presidential candidate

Consider this passage fromthe profile of Giuliani in Time Magazine’s 2001 Man of the Year issue.

Giuliani is now cancer free, and [wife Judith] Nathan believes that God spared him so he would be able to lead on Sept. 11. The timing of his ordeals also makes the mayor think about God’s hand. Had the terrorists struck one year earlier, “when I was going through daily radiation, I couldn’t have done it.” Had he not had the cancer, he probably would have stayed in the Senate race [against Hillary Clinton] and might have won–and thus would not have been on the scene to help his city get through the crisis. And if not for the cancer, he says, “I would have dealt with Sept. 11 effectively, but not as effectively. I would not have been as peaceful about it.”

Even the most humble of men would question the role of destiny if they found themselves in Giuliani’s situation. But the mayor was hardly humble to begin with. Now, his ego-centricity is hours away from bringing down his campaign.

Waiting until Florida was an inarguably bad strategic gamble. But when you read pundits blaming Giuliani’s failure primarily on his election tactics, remember what character flaw prompted the mayor to adopt those tactics in the first place. How many voters have been turned off by Giuliani’s arrogance? Impossible to calculate. But his inability to compete for votes without seeming as if he deserved those votes has, in my opinion, done as much to sink his chances as has any strategic blunder. By acting bigger than he is, he’s seemed too small for the job. That’s a shame because he would have made a fascinating nominee.

Cross-posted at Maverick Views

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