It was only a matter of time before the New Yorker offered up its definitive Rudy Giuliani profile. The in-depth portrait - mixing telling, personal anecdotes with background material, and deep analysis - is a staple of the magazine. But now that it’s here, in this week’s issue, a long, long, long one by Peter Boyer, it’s more than a bit disappointing.
Sometimes a failed profile contains all the clues for what went wrong. With this piece, the fact that Giuliani himself is only quoted a handful of times, and then only in sound-bite portions, is an indication that Boyer did not get much access. We see no revealing scenes of the candidate on the trail, behind the scenes, fixing his hair and interacting with Judi. No. All we get is the proverbial clip job. Boyer dutifully touches all the bases. After a quick run through Giuliani’s early years and his aggressive mayoralty, he jots off a few hundred words on abortion, guns, and immigration, and what makes Rudy such an unconventional Republican candidate. We’ve heard it all before. What we’re hungry for is some new perception about the man. That’s what a profile of this length can do when it’s done well.
At the very least, if it isn’t going to go underneath his skin, the New Yorker could have taken a more critical look at the statements Giuliani regularly makes that are simply taken for granted. To justify his campaign, Giuliani has always pointed to the heroic aura that still emanates from him as a result of his role on September 11th. Few question this premise anymore.
Now, granted, the New Yorker is not the Village Voice and, at this point, anything Wayne Barrett writes about Giuliani needs to be read like Captain Ahab reporting on the white whale, but Barrett’s article this week about Giuliani’s “Five Big Lies” is a marvel of old style reporting. Piece by piece, he takes apart the public persona “America’s Mayor” has created for himself (so much so that Jonathan Chait at the New Republic wrote that, “If the facts in this article were absorbed by the public, or even campaign journalists, Giuliani’s presidential campaign would be over”). And though it tries to do something very different from Boyer, at least it has a point of view. Something the New Yorker can’t claim this week.