Firefighters fry Giuliani over 9/11
Saturday March 10, 2007 11:46 AM
By MARC HUMBERT
Associated Press Writer
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Ronald Reagan was divorced, had chilly relations with some of his children, and still easily won two terms as president. Rudy Giuliani has been thrice married and twice divorced, has chilly relations with his children, and wants to be elected president.
Twenty-seven years after Reagan became the only divorced candidate to win the presidency, the former New York City mayor is hoping that when it comes to family values, voters will be as accommodating.
They may not be.
Republican strategists say Giuliani's troubled family relationships are likely to hinder his standing among conservatives who already have questions about his positions on social issues. They say the estrangement could raise a question in voters' minds: If Giuliani can't keep his family together, how will he keep the country together?
In fact, Giuliani's support for abortion and gay rights, his backing of gun control measures and his very New Yorkness already had given conservatives pause about his candidacy. He has also marched in gay pride parades, dressed up in drag and lived temporarily with a gay couple and their Shih Tzu.
Then came the stories about his family.
``There's obviously a little problem that exists between me and his wife,'' Andrew Giuliani, a 21-year-old student at Duke University, recently told The New York Times.
Standing outside the Los Angeles County sheriff's headquarters on Monday, the former New York mayor faced questions about the estrangement from his son Andrew.
``The more privacy I can have for my family, the better we are going to be able to deal with all these difficulties,'' he said.
America was getting a look at what New York tabloid readers were familiar with from the pre-Sept. 11 world, when Giuliani's planned 2000 Senate campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton fell apart in the face of his prostate cancer and the messy and very public breakup of his marriage to TV personality Donna Hanover.
Judith Nathan was the other woman back then and subsequently became Giuliani's third wife and stepmother to the two Giuliani-Hanover children, Andrew and Christine. Giuliani's first marriage to his second cousin, Regina Peruggi, ended after 14 years in divorce and later an annulment.
That may not wash with today's Republican Party, where religious conservatives hold greater sway than in Reagan's day, said political scientist Gerald Benjamin.
``The mobilization of the Christian right is a movement of contemporary Republican politics,'' said Benjamin, dean of liberal arts and sciences at the State University of New York's New Paltz campus. ``It makes more of a difference now.''
There is another difference.
``Ronald Reagan had a wealth of conservative support based on his record and that made conservative Republicans look beyond any issues with his kids and his divorce,'' said GOP strategist Nelson Warfield. ``Giuliani doesn't bring a wealth of conservative support to the equation.''
Independent pollster Lee Miringoff said Giuliani's request for privacy is unlikely to be heeded given that private lives have become fair game in politics. ``It's become a fact of life,'' said Miringoff, head of Marist College's Institute for Public Opinion.
For Giuliani, the family flap came at a bad time. He had surged to the front of the GOP pack, pulling ahead of Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
``He's probably the most famous, least known candidate for president we've had in a long time,'' said Warfield. ``This exposes a side of Giuliani most voters would have no idea about.''
Southern Baptist Convention leader Richard Land, for example, described Giuliani's breakup with Hanover as ``divorce on steroids.'' Hanover learned her husband was seeking a divorce from television after he announced the decision at a press conference.
``To publicly humiliate your wife in that way, and your children - that's rough,'' said Land. ``I think that's going to be an awfully hard sell, even if he weren't pro-choice and pro-gun control.'' Marital history and family values have been bubbling just below the surface of the Republican campaign for months.
At a GOP dinner in Missouri last month, Ann Romney said the biggest difference between her husband, Mitt, and his rivals was that ``he's had only one wife.''
McCain is divorced and has a second wife. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is considering a presidential run, is twice divorced and on Thursday acknowledged he was having an extramarital affair when he led the charge against President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair.
Miringoff said Ann Romney's comments may also be designed to blunt concerns about her husband's Mormon faith, given the church's past links to polygamy.
And while Andrew Giuliani has said he is too busy pursuing a possible professional golf career to campaign for his dad, one of Romney's five sons is working on his father's campaign full-time. All Romney's sons, their wives and the candidate's 10 grandchildren have been prominently featured by the campaign.
Giuliani's campaign spokeswoman, Maria Comella, declined to discuss how the former mayor's private life might play out in the campaign other than to say, ``This election is about leadership'' and Americans appear to have embraced Giuliani's ``optimistic vision and reputation as a problem solver.''
The last New York Republican to make a serious run for the White House, Nelson Rockefeller, lost the GOP nomination in 1964 to Barry Goldwater - in part because of the then-New York governor's divorce and subsequent remarriage.
``'We need a leader, not a lover,' was the slogan used against him,'' recalled Benjamin, a Rockefeller biographer.
On the Net:
Rudy Giuliani: http://www.joinrudy2008.com/
John McCain: http://www.johnmccain.com/Mitt Romney: http://www.mittromney.com/