From a Whisper to a Scream


Last week Greg Sargent found video of Rudy Giuliani's infamous speech at a 1992 rally when 10,000 cops protested, then rioted, in front of City Hall.

Sargent speculated that "it might tell us something about the reliability and temperament of this man who is asking us to make him our next Commander in Chief—especially now that he's trying to win the support of GOP 'values voters.'" Skeptical (mostly conservative) bloggers thought Sargent meant that the word "bullshit" would alienate conservative voters—Michelle Malkin here, Ann Althouse here. Althouse, in an awesome moment of irony, simply denied that Giuliani was "unhinged" or "screaming."

He's not "screaming" "bullsh*t." Nor has he "come unhinged" (as TPM puts it.)

He's addressing what appears to be a police union rally and giving a rousing speech, which contains the shouted expletive "bullsh*t." Reminds me of one of my favorite TV shows.

If that was Sargent's point, yeah, he'd be wrong. But as he clarifies today, the problem was that he was whipping up emotion at a racist rally. Here's Wayne Barrett's account in Rudy! An Investigative Biography of Rudy Giuliani:

Cops carried signs that said "Dump the Washroom Attendant," "Mayor, have you hugged your dealer today" and "Dinkins, We Know Your True-Color–Yellow Bellied." Drawings on their homemade posters depicted the mayor in a '60s Afro with giant lips, or engaged in kinky sex acts. They broke through police barricades and stormed the steps of City Hall, cheering "Take the Hall!" and banging on windows… They chanted "Rudy, Rudy," in thunderous rhythm, as he worked his way through the nearly all-white mob, beaming, backslapping, posing for photos, pumping his fist. WCBC-TV camerman John Haygood was called a nigger. Una Clarke, a city councilwoman from Brooklyn, was stopped by an off-duty copy with a beer in his hand who said to his sidekick: "This nigger says she's a member of the City Council."

As Sargent points out, this was a disaster for Giuliani: New Yorkers were ready for a tough-on-crime white mayor to replace Dinkins, but they didn't want a thug or a bigot. When Giuliani's campaign comissioned a vulnerability study at the end of the year, the rally was addressed near the top of the document:

When dealing with direct questions about the rally, Giuliani should acknowledge and criticize the underlying racial nature of the protest. The biggest problem most voters may have with Giuliani's participation in the rally is his unwillingness to criticize those taking overtly racial pot-shots at the Mayor. Giuliani has yet to admonish those who attacked the Mayor with racist code words on signs and banners. Why not?

When answering Dinkins' attacks on this issue, Giuliani should never engage in the kind of personal sniping at the Mayor that characterized his responses last fall. Mean-spirited counter-charges will do nothing to disprove Dinkins's [sic] assertion that Giuliani is an out-of-control hot-head incapable of governing the city; they only reinforce what Dinkins is trying to prove.

This was 15 years ago: Is it still relevant to the Rudy campaign or to a possible Rudy presidency? If presidential temperment matters at all, then yes, it is. Giuliani refused to denounce the rally, saying that "one of the reasons those police officers might have lost control is that we have a mayor who invites riots." It took the concerted efforts of a campaign task force to tell him, hey, maybe you should distance yourself from a white riot.

UPDATE: Ann Althouse responds in the comment section:

David, it's very obvious that Sargent's original post, that is the post I responded to, this one, was about Giuliani yelling a bad word and how that would supposedly shock what he called "values voters." If he had meant to bring in the racial politics, he'd have put it in that post, which he didn't. Your criticism of me is completely off mark. He's not "clarifying" his real meaning in the newer post, but taking a different tack, which I also respond to. I think you owe me an apology.

Althouse is right about the first Sargent post: It implies that Giuliani's tone of voice and curse word are the scandal. Sargent and I were both aware that Giuliani yelled "bullshit" during a police rally that was charged with racism and ended with a riot, and he should have added that context for people like Althouse, Malkin, etc, whose Googling fingers were sprained that day.