Monday, November 5, 2007

“The Game Done Changed”

And itchy-owee! Guess who doesn't like it?

A tough week is a thing you have to learn to live with from time to time.

I had mine a couple of weeks back—got through it.

Last week was a difficult one for some other folks. Condoleezza Rice had the toughest of anybody—seeing the willfully-neglected on her and her boss's parts Mid-East and Asia begin to devolve into an undulating snake-pit of chaos what with the Turkish incusrions into Iraq, and Pakistan's near-anarchy. Toss the cyanide-dipped cherry on top, in her State Department staffers very publicly telling the administration to go fuck itself with the plans to send them into Iraq against their will. I don't think a store-full of Choos and Ferragmaos salved those knife-wounds at all.

And the anointed Madame Clinton had a toughie as well, via fallout from her cloudy, ass-covering replies to the agenda-fueled “gotcha” barbs of Sally Quinn toe-blower Timmy Russert at last week's debate. She misplayed his bitchy paper-waving snipes into a potentially campaign-damaging parsing-cum-waffle. Then she hunkered down afterwards and yes, played the victim card—pretty skillfully I might add—to deflect from her initial gaffe. (A heady gambit that's only gonna piss Russert off that much more, and put Hillary in the control position against him from here on in—as she's probably gonna slowly freeze his ass out and subtly give him NOTHING, as he embarrasses himself flailing at her even harder) It seems to have worked as she's shown no ill-effects in the polls since.

But the person who had a rough week that may have the most lasting effects and is the most ill-equipped to deal with it is our good friend Rudy Giuliani. Homeboy's got all manner of bugs crawling outta the woodpile on him, as noted in Jesse's roundup of a swelling video-dagger library against Der Rudester yesterday. Last week's problems for the man have yet to make to make the video list...but when they do...

It started innocuously enough with his post-S-CHIP vote, anti-government involvement in health care radio ad. That ad featured Giuliani in his hissing, snipe-ey natural state, venomously bitching from the sidelines about an issue to make himself look tough for his own self aggrandizement:

“I had prostate cancer, five, six years ago. My chance of surviving prostate cancer, and thank God I was cured of it, in the United States: 82 percent. My chances of surviving prostate cancer in England: only 44 percent under socialized medicine.”

Okay...he said that. Now, let me digress for a moment. The thing you must understand about Rudy Giuliani is this—he is that most annoying of people you will ever come across in your life—a “Nerd Bully”. He's the bastard who won't fight you in the schoolyard after calling you out for some perceived slight—he'll contact a friend in the class scheduling office and rig your schedule to make sure you have Gym first period and lunch last period so you starve in between. He'll use his position as a hall monitor to delay you over bullshit just enough so you're late for that hard-ass teacher's science class—the teacher who locks the door of the room 30 seconds after the bell has rung, leaving you to go to the principal's office. “Nerd Bullies” live in their own world of sneaky perfidy where they can lie with impunity and enact all manner of draconian, spiteful revenge on people they have it in for.

But when a “Nerd Bully” is forced out of his little bubble of lever-pulling power, and has to deal with direct confrontation over his pronouncements and deeds...they have serious problems with it. They handle it exceedingly poorly.

Giuliani...after his sweeping pronouncement of England's medical system's being akin to that of “the sticks” in Haiti, was immediately called on his statements by various news organizations—particularly by ABC News, The New York Times , and The Boston Globe—as well as all over the Left Blogosphere.

Not only called on it, but then actually fact-checked—once...
“My chance of surviving prostate cancer in England? Only 44 percent under socialized medicine.”

Not so, according to the Office of National Statistics in Britain, which puts the five-year survival rate from prostate cancer, among men, at 74.4 percent.

Then twice...
Maria Comella, a spokeswoman for Mr. Giuliani, said Tuesday the 44 percent figure came from an article in City Journal, a publication of the Manhattan Insititute, a conservative think tank that has provided Mr. Giuliani with many of his ideas.

“The citation is an article in a highly respected intellectual journal written by an expert at a highly respected think tank which the mayor read because he is an intellectually engaged human being,” Ms. Comella said in an e-mail message.

That article, titled “The Ugly Truth About American Health Care,” was written by David Gratzer, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and an adviser to the Giuliani campaign.

“The survival rate for prostate cancer is 81.2 percent here, yet 61.7 percent in France and down to 44.3 percent in England — a striking variation,” Dr. Gratzer wrote in the article.

In an interview, Dr. Gratzer said the statistic came from The Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit group in New York that specializes in health care policy issues, but acknowledged that it was seven years old and “crude.”

But the Commonwealth Fund said Tuesday that Dr. Gratzer had misused their research by calculating a five-year survival rate based on data on prostate cancer incidence and mortality rates in the United States and Britain.

“Five-year survival rates cannot be calculated from incidence and mortality rates, as any good epidemiologist knows,” the group said in a statement.


Asked if Mr. Giuliani will continue to repeat the statistic, and if the ad will continue to run, Ms. Comella responded by e-mail: “Yes. We will.”

And then, a damning third time...
The American Cancer Society says the survival rates are actually higher and it's misleading to compare the two countries.


The American Cancer Society says five-year survival rates were 95 percent in the U.S. and 60 percent in the United Kingdom, which includes Britain, in 1993-1995, the most recent time period with data to compare.

Rates are even higher today — 99 percent in the U.S. and an estimated 74 percent in the U.K.

American men are far more likely to undergo screening tests that detect the disease in its earliest stages. That means U.S. survival rates include many men whose lives probably weren't in danger — and whose cancers may never have been noticed in the United Kingdom.


Mortality rates in the two countries are closer — 15 of every 100,000 people die of prostate cancer in the U.K., compared with 12 of 100,000 in the U.S.

“Even if you want to quibble about the statistics, you find me the person who leaves the United States and goes to England for prostate cancer treatment, and I'd like to meet that person,” he told reporters in Washington.

Understand what happened there—Rudy went running over hill and dale, loudly parroting bogus statistics, and evidently thinking that no one would call him on his out-and-out pulling facts out of his pasty, wrinkled ass. Giuliani did this because that IS WHAT HE DID EVERY SINGLE DAY OF HIS MAYORALTY IN NEW YORK. The difference is that as New York Mayor, he was able to get away with it because of his iron-fisted control of virtually every aspect of the city. He chilled free speech with his control over who went where and why, using the NYPD as his personal army. He could freeze out entire news organizations (as he did with NY Newsday over their coverage of police brutality) from access to press conferences and city property—and if you challenged him on it, he'd either sue or counter-sue you using taxpayer's money to fund the case. He would leak exclusives to favored reporters and media arms to reward those who played ball, and to punish those who dared question.

The problem now is that he doesn't run anything anymore, save for his mouth. There is no price to be paid for standing up to his words and pronouncements. So when the reporters looked into his crazy claims about England's health care system and found them not just wanting—but flat out untrue...and printed as much—there was nothing left for him to do but hunker down and go to the “asshole card” of calling the rock-solid debunking of his lies “quibbling about statistics” as he tried to walk away from the steaming pile of screw-up he'd just dropped down his own leg at his feet. The scattershot defensiveness he showed on this was pretty damned telling, because what it highlights is a man who's gotten used to not being called on his lies for a long time, finding himself unable to deal with the phenomenon when it visits him presently.

The “Nerd Bully” now has to deal with people who can call down to the program office as well. People who wear school security sashes, too. They've got the ins with the hair-netted lunch lady just like he does...and he's just as liable to end up with a vengeful, questionable and icky, curly hair mixed in with his Tater-Tots as those he victimized.

There are few things quite as entertaining as seeing a “Nerd Bully” on the receiving end of simple “Nerd Bully-blowback”. And that's what we're starting to see here. These are not mere local news arms staffed by soft-soled hump-busters dependent on a Mayor's largesse to do their stories. These are national-level reporters who quite frankly are looking to make names for themselves. And what better way to make a name for yourself than by sticking a finger in the eye of a front-runner when you catch 'em knee-deep in bullshit? It's what Russert tried to pull on Hillary—except he's doing it out of long-standing Beltway “Queen Bee”-ism towards the outsider Clinton camp. Rudy's “enemies” here are sticking it to him for a couple of reasons:

1.): When he lies, it's so over-the-top that there isn't really that much effort expended in pointing it out—his issue isn't parsing, it's fantasism.

And 2.)—this one is the enjoyable one: He cannot help but be the asshole you LOVE to hate. He has what you'd call, “an eminently punchable persona”. No amount of image consulting can save him from his core self oozing through his pores like sweat when he's under stress, or hell, just walking around for awhile. That assholishness is what made him a pariah here in New York for the last two years he was Mayor—until 9-11 saved him—temporarily in NY as he wore out his welcome a mere 30 days later, and more lastingly in the country's consciousness as they didn't have to deal with him every damned day like NY'ers did. His pissy reaction when confronted with the fact that he lied—“...if you want to quibble about the statistics”—statistics HE HIMSELF BROUGHT UP, is the act of a spoiled brat of a man, and isn't gonna play well with a voting public that while spoiled brat fatigued, at least looks for a little bit of charm in 'em when they show up.

Rudy's got all the charm of a just-opened envelope of “What-the-fuck?” white powder.

Now, I know many of you will say, “But I think this country the way it is now, with all the polarization wants an asshole—a real jerk in charge!”, and a certain way, you'd be right. A chunk of the populace does want that. It's that hard-core 24% who are so pissed with their fortunes gurgling down a Minneapolis Airport shitter that all they want is to double-down hard for the guy most likely to piss off their opposition.

But that's only 24%, people. And to appeal beyond that bunch, you have to draw in moderates, and people who might be looking for that special connection to sway 'em. And regretfully for Rudy, being unable to help acting like an über-asshole isn't that “special connection”. If it were, Rudy would have the lead in the polls that Hillary does over her rivals—and he simply doesn't. It's why an affable glad-hander like Romney, and a cornpone porch-rocker like Thompson can numerically contend with Rudy. They actually bring a hint of...I hate to say it, “You can have a drink with 'em-ism” that Giuliani just doesn't have and can't remotely begin to fake. Rudy has ONE thing going for him, and one thing alone.

September 11th.

And just like a fighter who has but one punch—his right hand, and no defense, if you take that one punch away by circling southpaw, and making every time he throws it—which is all the damned time—look awkward and silly, you can frustrate him and expose him...and set him up for the knockout.

That's exactly what Joe Biden did this past week when he compounded Rudy's difficulties by making his “right hand”—9-11, look weak from simple overuse:
“And the irony is, Rudy Giuliani, probably the most underqualified man since George Bush to seek the presidency, is here talking about any of the people here. Rudy Giuliani... I mean, think about it! Rudy Giuliani. There's only three things he mentions in a sentence -- a noun, a verb, and 9/11. There's nothing else! There's nothing else! And I mean this sincerely. He's genuinely not qualified to be president.”

I'm no Joe Biden fan. I think that in many ways he exemplifies the worst elements of the Senatorial stereotype—the entrenched, patrician blowhard with delusions of grandeur. But the son-of-a-bitch is smart. Smart as hell. And though his mouth runs too long about too much at times, he does have an undeniable gift of gab, and can turn a phrase. And that witty bastard fucked Giuliani up badly with that “noun, verb, 9-11” bit. He effectively, in one short paragraph circled southpaw and made Rudy's every lunge with that 9-11 right look like a pawing miss, and badly fouled up his one-dimensional campaign footwork. Rudy didn't dare address what Biden said—because to open debate on that point about his campaign would be to derail his ENTIRE CAMPAIGN. So he resorted to ineffectual and typically bitchy schoolyard jibes about Biden's plagiarism bugaboos from 20 years ago. Plagiarism jokes so lame that as I said “Johnny Carson rejected 'em in '87.” when Biden screwed up.

The “asshole card” got played yet again. Unfortunately, Rudy's got nothing but those up his sleeves, stashed in his droopy ankle socks, and in a sheath under his chair.

I don't think anywhere near a majority of Americans want a bellicose, anti-social asshole in charge of things come '08. We've barely tolerated the bellicose, affable asshole presently running shit into the ground. He has NO appeal to women (and that will go from zero into negatives on the number line once the inevitable profiles about his personal life hit the national media), and nary a sliver of “cool” or cultural sensibility to pull in younger voters. His base of appeal is to the cranky “Falling Downers”—angry, anti-social White men who just can't cope anymore, and see the world changing around themselves with decreasing control over they lash out, alá the frustrated idiocy of a Duane “Dog” Chapman. They can rule in their own personal little fiefdoms—wannabe Colossi astride their model-train cities of Rhodes, but even those places change.

Their families grow away from them—as have Rudy's and Chapman's kids. The places they call home increasingly look upon them as sideshow exhibits. But on the grand stage, they expose themselves as the petty, mono-dimensional, angry idiots they are...and I don't think people are down for more hectoring and scolding from grumpy hypocrites. This is where the damage of a Mark Foley, a Larry Craig, a “Dick” Curtis, and close-to-the-bone(r) for Rudy, a Bernard Kerik comes into play. The new narrative works very much against scolds and martinets. And Rudy Giuliani is nothing...if not a scold and martinet. The base of folks who are willing to celebrate, and reward those traits in a Commander-in-Chief is shrinking every day due to the trait-havers own hypocritical gaffes.

But Rudy is used to being the big fish, splashing about a little pond—whacking all who complained with his spiny fins. Now...he's in a great, big 'ol' ocean, and all his flapping around doesn't disturb anywhere near as many as it once did. That newfound ineffectualness (wounding his ego) plays to his worst trait...the one he can't cover up...the trait where even if you're right, people still hate the shit out of you, and cheer when you catch hell.

Nobody likes an asshole. It's human nature. And if you are one, you can if you play your cards right, get by for awhile. You can bigfoot, and bogart, keen and screech, and spit and fume your way to a level of intimidation-driven success.

But there comes a time when you have to take a diffrent tack if you want to get beyond your little box-o'-power...and if you cannot even pretend to be somethiung other than a jerk—an asshole, as Rudy apparently cannot...well, as we often say 'round the way when things fall apart...

...”That's yo' ass, br'uh.”