Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Rudy Giuliani's Wife Seen As Liability In Run For President reports:

She has variously been called a "harpy," a tiara-wearing "princess bride" and "a particularly unpleasant combination of Catherine the Great and Britney Spears."

Republican presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani and his handlers always knew they would have a delicate task peddling the charms of his mistress-turned-wife given the scandalous and sensationalized origins of their relationship.

But the reception of a gossip-loving media and family-values-focused voters has been even nastier than expected during every step of this summer's carefully scripted "roll-out" of Judith Giuliani as the first lady the former New York City mayor and 9/11 hero would bring to the White House.

For starters, there was the revelation that Mrs. Giuliani had been married not once but twice before (just like Mr. Giuliani himself.)

Then there was the news that in her job selling medical equipment, she used to demonstrate a surgical stapler on dogs who were later put to death.
Now on the stands sits Vanity Fair's less-than-flattering profile based largely on anonymous sources, which describes her as a social status-seeking, materialistic, busybody who has forsaken going by the name Judi in now insisting on being called Judith, demands a separate airplane seat for her "baby Louis" Vuitton suitcase, forced her husband to retrieve a forgotten sack of health bars during a high-security visit to Mexico and has a hit list of her husband's staffers whom she apparently wants fired.

Mr. Giuliani's spokesman Michael McKeon has reportedly denounced the piece as "vile and venomous," but it seems to only have fuelled the media feeding frenzy, with follow-ups from The New York Times to The Times of London seizing on the neophyte political spouse's faux pas. On blogs and in newspaper columns, political commentators have begun to openly wonder whether Mrs. Giuliani is an asset or a liability to one of the front-running contenders for the U.S. presidency.

Gil Troy, a professor of history at McGill University, said Mr. Giuliani's calculated attempts to showcase his wife have made her fair game. Politicians want privacy to be a one-way street in that they want to determine when and how they employ their family members to seduce the public, he said, but that just isn't realistic in today's celebrity-obsessed culture.

"Rudy Giuliani is playing an extremely dangerous game," said Prof. Troy, whose most recent book is Hillary Rodham Clinton: Polarizing First Lady. "The more he goes on Barbara Walters and talks about them as a couple and them as a team, the more scrutiny there will be and the more of an emphasis there will be from people like [Republican rival] Mitt Romney's camp in the most subtle of ways on the fact that he's trying lead a family-values party with a wife who represents a dramatic departure from family values."

The very genesis of the couple's relationship was bound to be problematic. Mr. Giuliani, then mayor of New York, and Judith Nathan, a divorcée, began seeing each other when he was still married to his second wife, actress Donna Hanover. He famously announced the end of his 17-year marriage in a surprise press conference that ultimately provoked a nasty row over who had the right to live in the mayoral Gracie Mansion.

The Giuliani camp has sought to over-write that first impression by playing up his new wife's supportive role during the candidate's bout with prostate cancer, her contribution as a health care advisor due to her training as a nurse and career in medical equipment sales and her struggles as a single mother raising an adopted daughter.

For the most part, however, those attempts have come across as awkward or backfired.
And it certainly hasn't helped that Mr. Giuliani's children harbour deep scorn for the woman they see as having stolen their father from their mother in spectacularly humiliating fashion.

Mr. Giuliani's 21-year-old son Andrew told The New York Times he won't be campaigning for his dad and is, in fact, estranged from him, and cited as his reason "a little problem that exists between me and his wife."

This week, Mr. Giuliani's daughter Caroline, who is reported to have taken her parents' divorce hard, was outed as a supporter of Democratic presidential rival Barack Obama.

In the electoral game, much rides on a candidate's choice of spouse, said Shannon Sampert, a professor of political science at the University of Winnipeg.
"We've always had a sense of what the good first lady or the good prime minister's wife should act like, and if they don't act like that we're very quick to judge them, " she said.

Fairly or unfairly, Prof. Sampert said, the public and the media see political spouses as a reflection of the candidates themselves, and, in the United States particularly, often bristle at women who do not fit the tradition of a smiling, cookie-baking silent partner - more Barbara Bush than Hillary Clinton or Teresa Heinz Kerry.

"If she's perceived as too uppity, the thinking is, 'If you can't control your spouse, if you can't control your family, how are you going to control the country?' " Prof. Sampert said. "If you want to be a good politician, you should think 20 years before you make the decision to run who you marry because that person will be scrutinized as much as you will.

"Be careful who you marry," she said laughing.