So Fred Thompson's campaign has ended. With any luck, Rudy Giuliani's campaign will end next week.
Watching Rudy Giuliani fall from the top of the polls has been an enjoyable experience. I won't lie. I've enjoyed it because Rudy himself seems like such a miserable, unhappy guy. And I've enjoyed it because Rudy has become a man who is desperately trying to sell 9/11 in order to benefit his pockets, and his campaign. Watching Rudy constantly talk about September 11th is gross.
But the truth is that when Rudy began this campaign, he was the hero of 9/11, the guy who took charge in the chaos of that horrible day. That's how the country saw Rudy; he was Time's "Man of the Year."
But the truth about Rudy turns out to be much more complicated. America found out that Rudy put his emergency management bunker in the place most likely to be hit by terrorists. He did not fix the radios that caused communication delays between firefighters and cops when the terrorists hit the World Trace Center in 1993. He said that the radios were not fixed because of bureaucracy - not a way to instill confidence in the people you want to vote for you because you are a guy who can stand up to a bureaucracy.
And as Rudy kept campaigning, more of his personal problems emerged, the kind of problems that New Yorkers already knew about, but the overwhelming issues that the rest of the country did not see coming.
First, there was Bernie Kerik, Rudy's driver and the man Rudy promoted to run the NYPD; there was Bill Bratton, fired from the NYPD because he was getting too much attention for the reduction in crime; there were Rudy's girlfriends, there were the millions Rudy made as a "security expert" based on 9/11; there were the firefighters who felt that Rudy rushed them to clean up the Towers, at the expense of their own health.
And there was Rudy himself. He could not stop talking about 9/11. As Joe Biden said, Rudy's sentences consist of a noun, a verb and 9/11. Rudy's constant invocation has become a running joke.
Then there are the stories that show that Rudy is a bitter, petty man who often seeks revenge upon those whose merest transgression is to disagree with him. After going through eight years of George W., who surrounds himself with "yes" men (and women), you would have to be a glutton for punishment if you opted for the candidate whose aides had a nickname that says it all: they were called the "Yes, Rudys."
With the benefit of hindsight, it has become apparent that Rudy ignored Iowa at his own expense. By staying away from the first caucus, he failed to stay in the news, he seemed afraid of middle America, and he failed to counteract the negative stories in the press with positive stories of his own campaign.
By putting commercials on in New Hampshire, and then fading there as people got to know him better, Rudy gave people around the country another compelling reason to vote against him: when people first see Rudy, they don't like him that much. When people get to know Rudy better, they detest him.
As time goes on, the Giuliani campaign grows more desperate. Physically, he looks worse for wear. His campaign is taking on desperate overtones: attacking John McCain, even talking more about 9/11.
For Rudy, this campaign will end in a few days. But the damage to his life - that will go on forever. Rudy will no longer be the hero of 9/11. He will be the man who tried to capitalize on 9/11. He will not be regarded as a savior, but as a huckster, a man who took and took from our great day of tragedy to benefit only himself.
There is a line in "Death of a Salesman," spoken by the desperate salesman himself, Willy Loman. Willy says to his wife Linda, "You know, the trouble is, Linda, people don't seem to take to me."
In the end, Rudy took from us, and we did not take to him.