When Rudy Giuliani divorced his second wife, the First Lady of New York City, Donna Hanover, People called the triumvirate of "The Mayor, The Wife, The Mistress" an example of New York's "nastiest split." But to me, a divorce coach and former divorce lawyer, the public unraveling of the mayor's marriage showed not only how ugly divorce can get, it also revealed that Giuliani is a mean person.
The divorce was a vicious, go-for-the-jugular, corrosive slugfest, with Rudy seemingly pulling the sharpest punches of the pair. His ongoing public display of his mistress's affections was certainly unbecoming of an elected official. But watching an uncaring father of two young children consistently display his contempt for his own family on the television news was both shocking and heartbreaking.
It was an unsavory trip down misery lane that ended about six years ago, and Rudy made sure to take all of us New Yorkers with him when it happened. So the question is, knowing how low Rudy can go when it came to his ex-wife, is his previous marital conduct relevant at the ballot box?
Giuliani is certainly a political charmer who speaks with measured authority and carries a big stick. But when it comes to electing a presidential candidate, it seems to me that how a man treats his own family can't be too far afield from how he would treat his extended family--the American public--should he move into the White House. He handled the psychological impact of 9/11 with aplomb, but Rudy Giuliani refused to treat his wife and children with grace and dignity during divorce. Doesn't America need heart in the White House? Don't we need someone who actually feels bad when other people suffer?
If you study the day-to-day press reports describing Rudy Giuliani's divorce conduct, his personality problems (dare I say disorder?) emerge. Let's review the evidence:
Rudy publicly humiliates his wife by announcing his divorce plans to the media, before privately informing her and their children. He then openly admitted having a romance with Judy Nathan, now his third wife, while he was still married.
Next the mayor's attorney, famed celebrity divorce lawyer, Raoul Felder viciously attacked Donna Hanover with Rudy's approval, publicly describing her as "howling like a stuck pig."
Then there's the mayor's well-known pattern of vindictiveness. Rudy relentlessly focused on stripping his wife of her position as First Lady before the divorce was over. At one point the former mayor's chief of staff called the Susan Korman Breast Cancer Foundation, one of the First lady's favorite charities, and without informing her, cancelled her upcoming appearance as hostess of an annual foundation breakfast to be held at the Mayor's Mansion.
Further, it seemed to be a big priority of Rudy's to maintain his own comfort in carrying on his liaison with Judy Nathan at the expense of his children. This was evident when a judge barred her from continuing her frequent visits to the mayor's mansion, ostensibly because of its effect on the children, who were living there with their mother. At one point during divorce proceedings, Rudy was denied joint custody of his son because he insisted on having Judy present during the children's overnight visits at his home.
Where was the mayor's judgment? (Not to mention his third wife's lack of judgment. What a shady First Lady Judy Giuliani would make. She openly and publicly courted a married man with two children.) If he was insensitive to the pain he was causing his kids, can we rely on him to be sensitive to approving programs and policies to ease our pain? Perhaps of all the candidates, Rudy Giuliani's private life provides the clearest indication that he would be incapable of using a human touch to solve the real-life problems of this nation.
With all the examples of his questionable character splashed across the archived pages of the New York Times, I ask: Rudy, how do you have such hubris to run for a national public office and to believe that the past won't come back to bite you? And to my fellow Americans who lived outside New York during his mayoral tenure and missed the daily barrage of news coverage on our sinister former mayor and his divorce antics, I ask, Can we really afford to let such a cold heart enter the White House?
It would be ill advised for us to bury Giuliani's past and pretend that he has a great track record based solely on his 9/11 performance. We must not shortchange ourselves by hiring a Tin man and risk wondering after inauguration what could have been... if he only had a heart.
Footnote: On January 22, 2008, The New York Times published a front page article entitled, "In Matters Big and Small, Crossing Giuliani Had Price," which described how the former mayor ruthlessly retaliated against his critics, challengers, detractors, and even whistle-blowers. The article mentions that many believed his punishments destroyed their lives and reputations. So if Giuliani were to become president, I too may have run the risk of suffering Rudy's wrath just by writing this blog entry. And if the FBI mysteriously shows up on my doorstep, at least we'll know who sent them!!!
Stacy Schneider is the author of He Had It Coming: How to Outsmart Your Husband and Win Your Divorce