Rudy Giuliani: The Perfect Imperfect Catholic

To the best of my knowledge none of the leading presidential candidates is an opera buff, save Rudy Giuliani. This … Continued

To the best of my knowledge none of the leading presidential candidates is an opera buff, save Rudy Giuliani. This raises the related point that none of our aspirants for High Office is anywhere near as operatic as the former Mayor of New York. Say what you will about him, but Giuliani is never boring.

Of course, when running for President of the United States, boring is good. Boring means that you did not have the New York Press core discussing “other women” outside of your marriage for half a decade. Boring means you don’t have fabulous gay friends. Boring means you didn’t appear on Saturday Night Live and refer to yourself as “freakin’ Giuliani” while made to look like the most perfect approximation of a dimwit in the history of stagecraft. Boring means you and one-time chum Senator Alfonse D’Amato never went out to score drugs in an undercover sting operation. Boring means you didn’t have Yasser Arafat and his entire entourage tossed out of Lincoln Center—where the Metropolitan Opera performs no less!

These are the things that make Mr. Giuliani exceptionally interesting to those of us for whom “politics is theater, albeit with grave implications.” Yet these are precisely the things, so goes the logic, which will fatally doom his candidacy among “values voters.” For it has long been assumed that White Evangelicals and Traditional Catholics–the sinew of the Religious Right–will under no circumstances support such an interesting candidate. Further, it seems an absolute certainty that they will never support a candidate–boring or interesting, no difference– committed to a woman’s right to choose.

And then, from offstage, the chorus taunts us with statistics that flummox all of us in the Faith and Values Industry. Last month’s Pew Survey indicated that 49% of White Republican Catholics said there was a “good chance” they would vote for him. Among White Evangelical Protestant Republicans, 32% gave the same answer, giving Giuliani a 12-point edge over (the unannounced) Fred Thompson in second-place.

It is as this point that a pundit’s face contorts to assume the shape of a question mark. In Monday’s column I will advance my own counter-intuitive theory to explain his present popularity among these groups and other so-called values voters. I so doing, I hope to call attention to something that many of us who study religion and politics have not thought about carefully enough.

By Jacques Berlinerblau | 
July 20, 2007; 4:12 PM ET


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  • Think America for once.

    Giuliani is a GhoulGiuliani is a GhoulWe need him like we need another Bush or Clinton in office, likened to a large hole in the cranium.Neo-Nazi Bush and his lackies have caused enough trouble backing the Fascist State of Israel against the warnings of past Presidents such as G.Washington.

  • Andrea

    Does Berlinerblau have political/religious ADHD or something?

  • Paganplace

    I think what we’d find boring about a Guiliani presidency is that he’s pretty much got nothing but flogging his 9/11 performance for all it’s worth.

  • E favorite

    I’m relieved to see that Prof Berlinerblau started off this essay in a much more boring, tentative and accurate way, compared to the style he used in his two earlier essays this week and in his book, “The Secular Bible” which I recently perused. I’m repeating my remarks from last night about the book, because the link to the essay I posted on (“Secularism: Boring – Part 1A”) currently seems unavailable via the “on Faith” site. In the book, the introduction begins with this assertion: “In all but exceptional cases, secularists are biblically illiterate.” There’s no reference to any survey done on the subject, and no footnote indicating the source of this information, even though he has 54 pages of notes at the end of the book. Thus, I start off distrusting him, because my own experience indicates something very different. I and my atheist friends are more biblically literate than most of the believers I know. I didn’t even think much about the bible or religious history until I started questioning my faith. Since then, I’ve read numerous books and have taken several courses – and find intense study is typical of the non-believers I’ve come to know. They are extremely interested in and knowledgeable about religion and most were raised in a religious tradition. Could I and my friends be the “exceptional cases” he refers to? Possibly, but it’s unlikely that we’d be so clustered, and considering the rash, unfounded statements he made in earlier essays here, I see no reason to take him seriously on this.I have no doubt that the many referenced statements in his book are accurate and dependable. He is a scholar, after all. But given his specious opening sentence, I cannot trust his other non-referenced statements. At the beginning of this essay on Giuliani, he starts with the words “To the best of my knowledge.” Good going, Professor! Keep it up. And in the future, please check the literature before making assertions about issues graver than music predilections, that require more than “the best of your knowledge”

  • Rob

    Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that Professor Berlinerblau appears to derive fetishistic pleasure from classifying everything as either boring or not-boring, but saying little else of substance?I hope at some point (i.e. monday) his posts escape that convention before they themselves become boring.

  • Doubting Thomas

    “It is as this point that a pundit’s face contorts to assume the shape of a question mark. In Monday’s column I will advance my own counter-intuitive theory to explain his present popularity among these groups and other so-called values voters. I so doing, I hope to call attention to something that many of us who study religion and politics have not thought about carefully enough.”Congratulations to Jacques on this relatively modest tone, so much more becoming to an intellectual than the Ann Coulterish bombast of his commentaries on secularism. Perhaps the bombast of Giuliani has temporarily pushed Jacques off the stage and into the audience? In any case, welcome to dialogue.

  • tucanofulano

    “Imperfect (ROMAN) Catholic” = oxymoron.If Rudy needs another failed Roman Catholic as a running mate he ought to consider soon-to-be-former Cardinal phoney-baloney Roger Mahoney of L.A. a.k.a. “The Grand PooBah Protector of the Priestly Order of Child Rapists”

  • TJ

    Berlinerblau wrote: “In Monday’s column I will advance my own counter-intuitive theory to explain his present popularity among these groups and other so-called values voters.”I think an article on how the so-called values voters have nearly destroyed our country with their value votes by voting in a gang of crooks with no values whatsoever would be much more interesting. Why are the so-called values voters so damn gullible?Hmmm.

  • Skeptic21

    Rob wrote: “Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that Professor Berlinerblau appears to derive fetishistic pleasure from classifying everything as either boring or not-boring, but saying little else of substance? I hope at some point (i.e. monday) his posts escape that convention before they themselves become boring.”Waay, waay too late to hope that, “little ones” [as Jacques is fond of calling everyone but himself]. There’s no “substance” or anything of interest in his drivel on “boring vs. non-boring.”Is Jacques getting paid for this? I read his flog this time because because I couldn’t believe that the Post would continue to carry him after the embarrassment caused by his piece on Secularism being boring. Au revoir, Jacques. Bonne chance to the rest of you.

  • WILLEM

    IN DRAG OR OUT I LOVE THE MAN!!! BUT NOT FOR PREZ!

  • KC

    “Last month’s Pew Survey indicated that 49% of White Republican Catholics said there was a “good chance” they would vote for him.”Why is this surprising?

  • Anonymous

    Giuliani is a Catholic in NAME ONLY….Vote Ron Paul: anti-war, anti-abortion, anti-death penalty.Ron Paul is a man of integrity, low taxes, life, liberty and happiness!

  • Maure Beck

    WarPimps – He is a pro-death, pro-corporate candidate owned by the money Jews of NYC.What the f..k is this antisemitism with you guys?

  • lambert strether

    Well, it didn’t take long for the Republican agenda to take over from the God talk, did it? I should have made book on it.Please, Sally, can we get this Republican operative out of the [cough] religion section and back wherever he belongs? He’s trashing the place, and it’s not his place.

  • Imran

    No but he’s a divisive character and one not to be trusted with the future of our children!If you wish to live in a polarised society, then vote for him!

  • california condor

    Giuliani? Mussolini. He may not be boring but you dig crazy?

  • Anonymous

    Almaden:Look again. I don’t think that’s a Bible they’re thumping at Georgetown..

  • Stan

    Professor Berlinerblau:Why not do a serious analysis of why Guiliani didn’t investigate the murders of 9/11 and why it might be that he is getting so much ink and being cut so much slack in running for president? And might be valuable to some ‘they’ as president? etc., etc.

  • victoria

    but its really all moot e favorite- since you didnt read his book. how can you have an opinion about someones writings if you havent read them? how is 45 pages of footnotes a bad thing? i dont get your critique here. im not quite getting norrie here either- are you suggesting that atheists are offering salvation and enlightenment through anecdotal incidences? imho- anecdotes are fine for garnering emotional responses- but for rational salvation? honestly, its not logical at all im a religious person, and i dont even try those tricks- so- e favorite didnt like what the professor wrote, so it follows that he would not have liked anything he wrote before (even though he didnt read it) am i missing something? stan- who are you suggesting this nebulous “they” is? i dont care for guliani, i think hes a one trick pony- but how was the mayor of new york supposed to “investigate” the real cause of 911? isnt that the federal governments job?so, i guess we just have to ask, who was the biggest beneficiary of what occurred on 911? who profited the most?are you saying guliani is a neocon? why dont people just speak plainly and openly? personally, im not going to put more effort into deciphering peoples veiled meanings than they put into crafting their responses to begin with.

  • Beverly Williams

    Rudy appears to have problems maintaining marital relationships. That says a lot about him as a person. Is he trustworthy, truthful, patient, kind, empathic, insightful as to others concerns and needs? Is he overly aggressive and verbably abusive? Will he have patience in dealing with other world leaders and will he attempt to understand their cultures and internal pressures?

  • E favorite

    Victoria – Yes, you are missing something. I did not write a critical review of Berlinerblau’s book, without reading it. I commented on aspects of the book that are factual and quick and simple to observe (type of opening sentence, quantity of notes). My comments are both positive (overall seemingly well researched and documented, given 54 pages of notes) and negative (begins with an unreferenced assertion that secularists are biblically illiterate). Anyone interested in book reviews can find some at Amazon – all positive, by the way.Norrie – To each his own preferred sport. Meanwhile, I suggest one more pass at the aforementioned post to notice how it was signed.

  • Norrie Hoyt

    E Favorite,

  • E favorite

    Hello again, Norrie – got the footnote article — and just think the forum site was acting up today – doubt they were actively censoring.I’m for citations in publications when making assertions, and when referring to studies or someone else’s work. It’s important to give credit where credit is due and to allow the reader to assess the author’s interpretation of the facts.Of course, not all assertions require citations – e.g., things that are common knowledge or not controversial: The sky is blue; Picnics are fun; Madison is the capital of Wisconsin; and so forth. But I think an assertion such as “In all but exceptional cases, today’s secularists are biblically illiterate” requires citation just as much as this assertion: “In all but exceptional cases, today’s BELIEVERS are biblically illiterate.”Many fine books and articles are completely footnote or end-note free, because they represent the author’s opinion, experience, analysis, imagination, or are about the author’s own research, which is cited in the body of the document.

  • Kelly

    While Americans may have earned themselves the reputation of siding with “boring” candidates when asked about values, I disagree with Berlinerblau’s statement that this trend has made much of a difference in the presidential races. Maybe Giuliani has a colorful past, but it pales when compared to that of Mr Bush. How much do we really care?Most people can easily state a laundry list of personal values, retrievable from religion, family upbringing, etc. Yet perhaps more often people vote for reasons more difficult to explain- something more nuanced than a black-and-white stance on “moral” issues (especially when there are more serious issues of global importance). I know I do. At the same time, voting is an even simpler matter for others: my Catholic grandfather, given the option of a Catholic candidate, would not even need a moment to decide, however blemished this candidate’s background may appear.Call him an “imperfect Catholic,” but I find it difficult to believe that this country would welcome anything closer to a perfect one.

  • Jenna

    According to Professor Berlinerblau’s assessment, Giuliani’s personal life will “fatally doom his candidacy among “values voters.” While Giuliani may not fit the “ideal” value voter’s profile of the perfect candidate because of past issues with women, and his openness to the gay community, he candidacy amongst the Christian Right is surely not “doomed” because of the level of political intelligence amongst the value voters. Giuliani’s personal politics, as opposed to his personal life, seem to fit into some of the stringent requirements issued by the value voters in choosing a candidate to support. While his support of a woman’s right to choose is a major hindrance to their support, he seems to hold other pieces to the puzzle. First, let’s start with his strong support of Israel, which Prof. Berlinerblau draws attention to when he mentions that Giuliani kicked Arafat out of the Lincoln Center. This is a key issue for the Christian Right and is something that other candidates cannot claim as strongly as Giuliani. Second, Giluiani’s outreach efforts to the value voters seem to be working. In a recent speech to Regent University, the college founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, Giuliani cited his strong support against “Islamic terrorism” and delineated twelve moral commitments to the American people. By focusing his words around terrorism, what he declares the “major issue” of the campaign, he evokes patriotism in order to make up for his abortion stance. So while Giuliani may not be the perfect fit for the value voter’s support, he is not as far off as some may believe, which helps to explain the recent Pew Forum poll. So rather than allowing their faces to twist into question marks, the political pundits should start to realize that the value voters may not be as strict in their requirements for candidacy as we believe, and that amongst a candidate pool that is a varied as the one today. They are not choosing the overtly religious Sam Brownback or Mike Huckabee with the same enthusiasm as Giuliani. I think the pundits need to recognize that the poll numbers that show an oddly large amount of support for Giuliani, despite his abortion and same-sex marriage stance, show the political savvy of the Christian Right in their search for a candidate who supports their values, but whom can actually win the general election.