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Jewish World Review July 29, 1999 /16 Av, 5759

Paul Greenberg

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Rudy does Arkansas (while Hillary does New York) --
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- There is a rhythm and pace to certain political events, with their movements as well defined as a classical symphony's.

Rudy Giuliani's fund- and fun-raising stop here was opera. Light opera. It was almost Gilbert and Sullivan, considering the outdoor setting and the very conscious, if not heavy-handed, ironies involved.

A good time was clearly going to be had by all, except maybe those who insist on taking a spoof seriously.

Like the chairman of the state's Democratic Party, who was out on Center Street in front of the Governor's Mansion holding his own counter-press conference before the main event. He kept accusing the visitor from New York of pulling off a publicity stunt. Imagine: a politician seeking publicity! Shocking.

As for Chairman Vaughn McQuary, he was doubtless out on this frying-pan-into-the-fire hot July morning with no intention of being quoted in the public prints. But why would any politician give an interview, whether on the White House lawn or on melting asphalt in a Southern capital, unless he could be assured of publicity? It would be like a tree falling in the forest without making a sound: politically pointless.

My favorite part of these well-orchestrated performances has always been the pre-concert warm-up, with the crowd slowly gathering, the place filling, the sound of instruments being tuned up. Right now a basso profundo voice is being strummed near the fountain like a bass violin: This is So and So of Such and Such from Little Rock, Ark. ... Deep, full-throated, portentous, signifying nothing but another newscast.

A few TV vans are already on the parking lot in front of the Governor's Mansion, and the natural Southerners in the crowd are gravitating toward the nearest shade. Correspondents foreign and domestic slowly drift in, the bank of cameras waits in front of the handsome portico, a sense of anticipation slowly builds ... and there's even a fan club. Some ladies from Memphis have arrived with their home-lettered, made-for-TV signs. The whole setting could have come straight out of our summer music festival at Wildwood Park here in Little Rock. There are costumes from the East and a guest artist from New York.

The press conference itself is routine after all the buildup. Everybody in politics -- governor, lieutenant governor, the headliner from The City -- has learned to stay On Message. Spontaneity can be dangerous in these matters. The ghost of another George W. (Romney) still haunts political campaigns. One unthinking comment and the show could close.

The mayor's parody of Hillary Clinton's campaign in New York has a practiced flair by bow: He's here to listen. He's never been here, lived here or worked here, so naturally he's thinking about running for public office here. Yeah, but how's he going to resolve any conflicts of interest between his home state and his adopted one -- like where federal highway money should go? "I would always vote fairly and equitably,'' he says with a gleam in his eye. (Bill Clinton could have delivered that line perfectly seriously.) The mayor adds that he's been a fan of the Arkansas Travelers since childhood, since everybody in New York needed a AA team, as well as an American League club to root for. ...

The rest is pretty much predictable: This publicity stunt is not a publicity stunt, but a routine swing around the Southern fund-raising circuit. (As if it couldn't be both.) His party is more unified than ever, which is what any party says when divisiveness looms. He may disagree with his fellow Republican and host at the Governor's Mansion (no need to go into detail and mention abortion, civil rights for homosexuals or gun control) but What Unites Us Is Greater Than Anything That Divides Us.

Rudy in front of
Arkansas Governor's Mansion
in Little Rock
The mayor is happy to go into detail about what unites Republicans: reducing crime, reforming welfare, cutting taxes, encouraging business and spawning jobs. ... In short, all the measurable, palpable changes Rudy Giuliani has brought to New York, which no one seems to call An Unmanageable City anymore. Maybe it just had the wrong managers pre-Giuliani.

Once you've out all the predictable pabulum, one impression of Rudy Giuliani remains: A guy who comes from someplace definite. From the accent, you'd know it was New York and might guess the Bronx with Manhattan pretensions atop Brooklyn underpinnings. As a parting gift, he leaves behind still another pronunciation of the protean name of our small, wonderful state: Arkansar.

But before he says goodbye, he's come across as a big-city mayor who has actually made the big city livable. A gangbusting former prosecutor, but no genteel Thomas E. Dewey. He's more Grover Whalen with a dash of acquired Jimmy Walker and a saving splash of Fiorello. Not a bad cocktail.

He talks about the polls in New York (they're suddenly leaning his way) and about how Ronald Reagan transformed the American political landscape. And he gives a couple of us Arkies a short course in New York geography: All of New York is divided into three parts: upstate, The City and its burbs. The latter two mix like oil and water, which is why New York has an upstate, but no downstate, at least not in any clear political sense.

Now that he's left (Hurry Back!), the strongest impression Rudy Giuliani leaves is this: He's not just the non-Clinton in this forthcoming Battle of the Titans, but an authentic figure of his own. Because he's got an authentic sense of place. His principal and possibly decisive advantage in any match-up with First Woman is not that she's a carpetbagger, but that he's a New Yorker. It might be different if she had an accent as distinctive as, say, the late Robert Kennedy's. Then she would come from some immediately identifiable place, instead of out of a series of career moves.

Love him or hate him, Rudy Giuliani has a not-so-secret weapon that he reveals with every word: the accent of a real Yankee fan. In a debate with Hillary Clinton, who's going to sound like the authentic voice of New York? Whom would you ask for directions, and for direction?


07/26/99: The Balkan bookends
07/20/99: Celebrity and person
07/15/99: Israel's new friend: Hillary, born-again Zionist
07/13/99:50 Ways to beat the heat
07/08/99: Today's tax tip: the Webb Hubbell System
07/02/99: Vision restored: the Supreme Court gets it
06/29/99: What makes Hillary run?
06/24/99: A Cafe Called Time: A Play In Three Acts
06/22/99: Amazing stories from D.C. Comix
06/17/99: George W.'s first mistake
06/08/99: Hail to the chief?
06/02/99: In praise of failure
05/26/99: Betrayal in the making: let's not make a deal
05/20/99: Israel's big switch: new era or just a mood swing?
05/18/99: Free our kids: revive the land of opportunity
05/13/99: This war will end --- or spread
05/11/99: South Sider comes through
05/07/99: There is no substitute for victory
05/05/99: A Tale of two colonels
05/03/99: It's the culture, stupid
04/30/99: Bumpers' 'B.S.'
04/27/99: An American tragedy: the fall of Kenneth Starr
04/23/99: Presidents and the press
04/14/99: A revealing moment
04/14/99: War Day by day
04/12/99: Just a few questions
04/06/99: The problem with the Left
04/05/99: The problem with the Right
03/30/99: But can he convince himself?
03/26/99: Short bursts
03/24/99: Once more into the quagmire
03/17/99: Big time in Little Rock
03/15/99: Our own Roger Taney
03/09/99: A different ‘Waterfront’
03/05/99: Law and disorder
2/26/99: King Richard's revenge
2/25/99: Open season on the fetus, and a good word for the pagans
2/23/99: It never ends: Here comes the judge
2/19/99: After the storm: Going through the debris
2/17/99: Where's the closure?
2/12/99: Hussein the Hashemite: The wiliest player on the board
2/09/99: The social security game
2/04/99: Our own Inspector Clouseau
2/01/99: Night scene, night thoughts
1/28/99: The decay of the art of lying
1/26/99: Impeachment: Short subjects
1/22/99: Bounce, glitz and tedium: The State of the Disunion
1/20/99: Destructive engagement: How to encourage tyranny
1/18/99: Martin Luther King: The radical as conservative?
1/11/99: Why America is apathetic about Bill's date with destiny
1/06/99:The year of Moronica
1/04/99: Clinton’s janitorial crew of two
12/29/98:The Senate will be on trial, too
12/29/98:A look down the avenue
12/22/98: The surreal impeachment
12/17/98: Another moment of truth approaches
12/15/98: The President's defenders: witnesses for the prosecution
12/10/98:The latest miracle cure: CensurePlus
12/03/98: Sentences at an airport Sentences at an airport
12/03/98: Games lawyers play
12/01/98: Ms. Magoo strikes again, or: Janet Reno and the law
11/26/98: The most American holiday
11/23/98: Same game, another round
11/18/98: Guide to the perplexed
11/09/98: A vote for apathy
11/03/98: Global village goes Clintonesque
11/02/98: Farewell to all that
10/30/98: New budget, same swollen government
10/26/98: Of life on the old plantation -- and death in the Middle East
10/22/98: Starr Wars (CONT'D)
10/19/98:Another retreat: weakness invites aggression
10/16/98: Profile in courage
10/14/98: A new voice out of Arkansas
10/09/98: Gerald Ford, Mr. Fix-It?
10/07/98: Impeachment Journal: Dept. of Doublespeak
10/01/98: The new tradition
9/25/98: Mr. President, PLEASE don't resign
9/23/98: The demolition of meaning
9/18/98: So help us G-d; The nature of the crisis
9/17/98: First impressions: on reading the Starr Report
9/15/98: George Wallace: All the South in one man
9/10/98: Here comes the judge
9/07/98: Toward impeachment
9/03/98: The politics of impeachment
9/01/98: The eagle can still soar
8/28/98: Boris Yeltsin's mind: a riddle pickled in an enigma
8/26/98: Clinton agonistes, or: Twisting in the wind
8/25/98: The rise of the English murder
8/24/98: Confess and attack: Slick comes semi-clean
8/19/98: Little Rock perspectives
8/14/98: Department of deja vu
8/12/98: The French would understand
8/10/98: A fable: The Rat in the Corner
8/07/98: Welcome to the roaring 90s
8/06/98: No surprises dept. -- promotion denied
8/03/98: Quotes of and for the week: take your pick
7/29/98: A subpoena for the president:
so what else is new?
7/27/98: Forget about Bubba, it's time to investigate Reno
7/23/98: Ghosts on the roof, 1998
7/21/98: The new elegance
7/16/98: In defense of manners
7/13/98: Another day, another delay: what's missing from the scandal news
7/9/98:The language-wars continue
7/7/98:The new Detente
7/2/98: Bubba in Beijing: history does occur twice
6/30/98: Hurry back, Mr. President -- to freedom
6/24/98: When Clinton follows Quayle's lead
6/22/98: Independence Day, 2002
6/18/98: Adventures in poli-speke

©1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate