Between Fear and Loathing

Lying awake the other early morning, I found the twin images of Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton coming into my mind. Maybe it was the Ambien, but inevitably the choice between those two haunts the fevered brow in the dead of night. I realized that beyond the policy arguments, my psyche sees the decision between the two of them as the choice, baldly put, between fear and loathing. I loathe Clinton; I fear Giuliani. Which emotion surges most? Clinton could still pull it out as my least favorite, but right now, my fear of Giuliani is outweighing my loathing of Clinton. David Brooks reminds me today how that didn't use to be the case. I always admired Giuliani, marveled at what he did with New York City, liked his social liberalism, admired his way with bureaucracies, enjoyed his knockabout style. Any pol who's happy to put a dress on for a bit of fun is fine by me.

But that was before 9/11, and before the Bush-Cheney presidency. All the things I admired about Giuliani as mayor loom as liabilities as president. The security state is understandably more pervasive and powerful than before. But the newly empowered executive branch - with powers to seize anyone anywhere without charges and torture them if necessary - makes a man with the instincts and temperament of Giuliani a real danger in the White House. Oddly, then, it is 9/11 that has made Giuliani intolerable to me. His obsessive loyalty to aides, his reflexive defense of the security and police forces, his discomfort with any argument smacking of civil liberties, his mean streak, his desire to extend his own term of office as New York City mayor, his authoritarian, meddling instincts, and his frequent, hotheaded outbursts: all this make giving him the Cheney-style presidency a huge risk. Maybe not immediately - but in the wake of another terror attack, I don't think anyone can feel comfortable with what he might do to the Constitution and American liberty. Maybe this worry of mine will lead to charges of "shrill hysteria" from those already declaring that it's World War IV, but it's my gut sense of the kind of man Giuliani is and the kind of world he would confront as president. We can't risk him under those circumstances. So it's back to dealing with a candidate who, however loathesome, is not quite as dangerous.