In late 2001, when then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was chosen as Time’s Person of the Year, his cover photo shoot was done on the roof of what was once called the RCA Building, later the GE Building, still later the Comcast Building. This grand Art Deco widow of a skyscraper, passed from one well-heeled partner to the next like the Countess De Lave in George Cukor’s film The Women, is better known as 30 Rock, which must make the folks at Comcast feel like cucks, to use a term favored by trolls.
There Rudy stood, high above Rockefeller Plaza, when photographer Gregory Heisler, looking to create an iconic image, asked America’s Mayor to step up onto the parapet. Rudy was game, not to mention an opera lover with a drag fetish, so he got in touch with his inner Tosca and hopped onto the ledge.
Imagine if a sudden wind had kicked up as Hizzoner stood there grinning on the edge of oblivion with his back to lower Manhattan. In that awful event we would not now be able to marvel at his novel legal defenses of Trump from the couch at Fox and Friends across Sixth Avenue.
Instead of a horrifying plunge, Giuliani simply reverted to his familiar smallness. His intemperate attacks on the Justice Department despite being a former federal prosecutor, along with his unhinged rant at the 2016 Republican Convention, suggest that his shining moment after the 2001 terrorist attacks was past retrieval. His harshness as mayor; his posthumous smear of unarmed Haitian, Patrick Dorismond, who was shot by police in March 2000 after rebuffing an undercover drug sting; his callousness in informing his wife of their separation via television; and his bizarre attempt to remain in office past his term—all suggest that his inspiring performance on 9/11 (which obscured his own mishandling of security concerns) was at best a decent interlude. Defending another bully is more consistent with his squalid record.
Rudy desperately tries to convince us not to believe our lying eyes. While his mad client takes credit for an economic turnaround actually led by his predecessor, and calms his nerves amid the Paul Manafort trial with a riff about rigged witch hunts, our nation clings to reality like someone on an out-of-control roller coaster.
It is open season for mischief. As I write, Lawrence O’Donnell is at 30 Rock with the Empire State Building behind him, just like Rudy all those years ago. The QAnon conspiracy nuts have constructed wild narratives on less.
As a cable news viewer, I cannot decide whether I am happier with CNN reporter Jim Acosta rebuking Sarah Sanders over calling journalists enemies of the people, or with Jeff Flake galavanting off to Zimbabwe when Mitch McConnell needed him in Washington to confirm right-wing judges. As an impenitent newspaper writer, I am wondering how I look in the glow of my iPad to the ICE police scanning through my blinds for undocumented immigrants.
You can find conspiracies everywhere with enough determination and credulity. Incidentally, does 3D printing of AR-15s count as a blow for freedom of the press?
Trump’s $12 billion bailout for farmers hit by his trade war is like a guy who steals your car, ties a big bow around the tires, and makes a gift of them to you. He gives himself a ‘10’ for his hurricane response in Puerto Rico, which he barely recognizes as part of the United States. His EPA says rolling back greenhouse gas emission standards will save lives. We are in a golden age of gaslighting.
Meanwhile, Robert Mueller quietly continues his Russian investigation despite 45 saying he’s conflicted over a dispute involving golf club fees. You would think Trump makes things up.
Inhabiting one’s own reality can bring swift and brutal correction in the case of, say, someone high on drugs believing he can fly, or an executive ignoring an engineer’s safety concerns about a Space Shuttle rocket. The consequences for an inadvertent confession by tweet, or a fading attorney ineptly defending a charlatan, may take a bit longer. But they will surely come. A clown can’t dance on a ledge forever.
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2018 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.