The Magazine

A Giuliani trend, Ted Koppel, and more.

America's Mayor has managed to throw the chattering classes into full brow-furrowing mode.

Mar 26, 2007, Vol. 12, No. 27 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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Rankled by Rudy

When it comes to sniffing out trends, THE SCRAPBOOK is a virtual basset hound. And without trying too hard, we have detected one that ought to please Rudy Giuliani, at least. With the 2008 campaign barely under way, America's Mayor has managed to throw the chattering classes into full brow-furrowing mode.

Exhibit number one: A recent column in Newsweek by Jonathan Alter to the effect that, while Giuliani "was a good mayor in many ways," his decisive manner, short fuse, and general disinclination to suffer fools gladly "is out of sync with history's pendulum." That's because our next president, according to Alter, "must be a tough-minded but flexible and humble chief executive with a talent for building bridges, not burning them."

Here at THE SCRAPBOOK we'd be content with a president who avoids pain-inducing journalistic clichés about burning and building bridges. But more to the point: How does Alter know about America's need for a flexible-but-humble chief executive after 2008? Answer: Because it's his own pendulum Giuliani's out of sync with.

Exhibit number two: An op-ed column in the March 6 Washington Post by Jonathan Capehart, which revealed that Capehart had been a columnist at the New York Daily News in 1999, and then-Mayor Giuliani called him up one morning to berate him for 10 minutes about a column Capehart had written. "His skin-peeling tirades against reporters, politicians, community leaders, perceived enemies and those deemed too weak to fight City Hall were legendary," wrote Capehart. "Now it was my turn." The horror.

Either Giuliani doesn't appeal to sensitive journalists named Jonathan, or perhaps there was a good reason for the mayor's phone call. The idea of an American president occasionally directing skin-peeling tirades at, say, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Pyongyang's Dear Leader--or even at a hostile columnist--might strike many voters as refreshing, not disturbing.

So much for the Washington Post Company. A few days later, as if on cue, Joyce Purnick of the New York Times weighed in with a thoughtful, gosh-darn profound Sunday morning essay--"Divining the New Moral Code"--which acknowledged that it's "old news that divorce is no longer disqualifying for a [presidential] candidate," but speculated that, perhaps, other private details (adultery, family tension, multiple marriages) "could spell trouble for Mr. Giuliani."

Well, the Times is entitled to hope, isn't it? For the meaning of this media micro-trend isn't hard to deduce: Journalists are distinctly annoyed that a pro-choice, gay-friendly, thrice-married candidate (normally just their kind of demographic) seems to enjoy Republican support, including among some religious conservatives, and are eager to accuse him of just about anything (terrible temper, contempt for reporters), no matter how preposterous, to persuade a skeptical public that he shouldn't be president. In THE SCRAPBOOK's opinion, this is evidence either of Giuliani's potential strength as a candidate or the giant chip that rests on the shoulders of some political journalists.

In the meantime, as the Times winds up for the next pitch, stay tuned for the Maureen Dowd column that debuts a new sorority-house nickname for Giuliani, and the Frank Rich analysis that draws the connection between the ex-mayor's onetime combover and a classic episode of "Mr. Ed."

Always Look
on the Dark Side . . .

THE SCRAPBOOK may have nattered on too much recently about the media's negative coverage of the Iraq war. So we're outsourcing this week's complaining to Slate's inimitable Mickey Kaus.

Notes Kaus: "U.S. military deaths in Iraq have apparently declined by about 20% since the 'surge' began. It would be a caricature of [mainstream media] behavior if the New York Times, instead of simply reporting this potentially good news, first constructed some bad news to swaddle it in, right? From [the March 16] Times:

The heightened American street presence may already have contributed to an increase in the percentage of American deaths that occur in Baghdad.

Over all, the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq from hostilities since Feb. 14, the start of the new Baghdad security plan, fell to 66, from 87 in the previous four weeks.

But with more soldiers in the capital on patrol and in the neighborhood garrisons, a higher proportion of the American deaths have occurred in Baghdad--36 percent after Feb. 14 compared with 24 percent in the previous four weeks. Also over the past four weeks, a higher proportion of military deaths from roadside bombs have occurred in Baghdad--45 percent compared with 39 percent.