Chris Matthews continued his practice of praising former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as a strong potential presidential candidate in 2008, comparing him to President John F. Kennedy. And when NBC News chief foreign correspondent Andrea Mitchell attempted to bring up criticism Giuliani received for pushing President Bush to nominate former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik to the post of Homeland Security secretary, Matthews interrupted her and changed the subject.
On the July 16 broadcast of NBC's syndicated Chris Matthews Show, host Chris Matthews continued his practice of praising former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) as a strong potential presidential candidate in 2008, comparing him to President John F. Kennedy. Matthews suggested that both Kennedy and Giuliani "prove[d] themselves in moments that matter" -- Giuliani in responding to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York, and "Kennedy before the Cuban missile crisis." However, as Media Matters for America noted, Giuliani's career as a political figure -- both before and after the 9-11 attacks -- has been marked by numerous controversies and incidents that, at the time they occurred, were considered politically damaging. When NBC News chief foreign correspondent Andrea Mitchell attempted to bring up one such incident -- criticism Giuliani received for pushing President Bush to nominate former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik to the post of Homeland Security secretary -- Matthews interrupted her and changed the subject, calling on New York Times columnist David Brooks to explain whether there will be a "real long-term fight" for the Republican nomination.
Discussing Giuliani's strengths as a potential presidential candidate, Mitchell pointed out that during his brief Senate campaign against then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2000, Giuliani "got himself in trouble on a lot of issues." Matthews replied, "Yeah, but 9-11 changed a lot of that." Mitchell then asserted that Giuliani "might have some problem on the vetting" during a national campaign, despite his much-lauded handling of the 9-11 attacks, at which point Matthews compared Giuliani to Kennedy. Mitchell then pointed out that the Kerik nomination could still be problematic for Giuliani, adding: "I mean, it's a national campaign. It's a different process." As she said this, Matthews interrupted "David, you -- I'm sorry, David, you know the anthropology of the Republican Party pretty well," and proceeded to ask Brooks for his opinion on Giuliani's chances in a potentially crowded Republican primary race.
As Media Matters noted, on December 3, 2004, President Bush announced his intention to nominate Kerik to replace outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. Giuliani, Kerik's long-time friend and business associate, reportedly urged Bush to nominate Kerik for the position. Kerik was once Giuliani's bodyguard, and Giuliani later appointed him commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction in 1998 and New York City Police Commissioner in 2000. Following his term as mayor, Giuliani employed Kerik at his consulting firm, Giuliani & Partners. On December 10, 2004 -- just one week after Bush's announcement -- Kerik sent a letter to Bush in which he wrote that "moving forward would not be in the best interests of your administration, the Department of Homeland Security or the American people." The White House announced the same day that the president had accepted Kerik's request to withdraw from consideration for the position. According to a December 11, 2004, New York Times article, Kerik's reason for withdrawing was "that a housekeeper and nanny he had once employed was not clearly a legal immigrant and that he had not properly paid taxes on her behalf." However, not long after Kerik submitted his letter, new information surfaced that shed light on his controversial past, and questions arose as to whether the so-called "nanny problem" was given as the reason for withdrawal in order to draw attention away from Kerik's record. Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk weblog (now known as CJR Daily) listed Kerik's alleged misdeeds, including various lawsuits, allegations of corruption, and potential conflicts of interest.
From the July 16 broadcast of NBC's syndicated Chris Matthews Show:
GIULIANI [video clip from August 30, 2004]: Seriously, neither party has a monopoly on virtue. We don't have all the right ideas. They don't have all the wrong ideas. But I do believe there are times in history when our ideas are more necessary and more important and critical. And this is one of those times, when we are facing war and danger.
MATTHEWS: What applause. Welcome back. That was Rudy Giuliani electrifying the Republican convention last time. This week, Bob Novak reported that Rudy has told people that as of now, he's decided to run for president in 2008. He was out this week in Illinois and key battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Arkansas. What do you think? Here's last month's Gallup poll of Republican voters: Rudy Giuliani, 29 percent; John McCain, Number 2 at 24 percent; Newt Gingrich at 8; [Massachusetts Gov. Mitt] Romney and [Senate Majority Leader Bill] Frist [TN] both at 6; [Sen.] George Allen [VA] at 5. Dan Rather, was he really saying at that convention, "You Republicans, maybe I'm not right with you on abortion or on gay marriage, but I'm right with you on security."
RATHER: Exactly. Bull's-eye. And it was the right message at the right time. And it's one reason, I think, he rides at 29 percent in these polls. We all know that the polls go up and down. But Rudy Giuliani, if he's serious about running, I think would have to be taken seriously, and I wouldn't rule out the possibility he could wind up with the nomination. I know all the arguments about abortion and gun control and so forth and so on.
RATHER: But the Republicans -- they want to win, and there is the Hillary Clinton factor of saying, "Listen, she's strong, she's going to have a lot of money. We need a strong candidate, particularly one that can play well in the larger cities of the Northeast." And I wouldn't rule him out as a possibility at all.
MATTHEWS: So --
RATHER: And, the worst he may say to himself, "The worst I can do is be high up on the list for vice president, even if I don't become president."
MATTHEWS: Which is a great prize, if it's McCain.
MITCHELL: But you know --
MATTHEWS: You want to be on that ticket.
MITCHELL: -- for about a couple of months in 2000, I covered Giuliani vs. Hillary in the Senate race in New York state. And tough, good candidate, but this was pre 9-11, and he really was not that great at the retail politics, strangely enough. He got himself in trouble on a lot of issues.
RATHER: But 9-11 changed a lot of that.
MITCHELL: I think one of the problems - 9-11 did change things -- I think he might have some problem on the vetting. I think that early primary stage --
MATTHEWS: Yeah. But what about Kennedy before the Cuban missile crisis?
MITCHELL: Well, because -- because of Giuliani --
MATTHEWS: I mean, don't some people prove themselves in moments that matter?
MITCHELL: Yes. Plus the Giuliani partners -- remember Bernie Kerik, who he recommended to be homeland security chief, there were some contracts there -- they would have to really be gone through. I mean, it's a national campaign. It's a different process.
MATTHEWS: David, you -- I'm sorry, David, you know the anthropology of the Republican Party pretty well. And if they get out here in the field, and Rudy gives good speeches, and he's up against McCain, who stays healthy, and you've got a cultural conservative like Mitt Romney or somebody out there -- or George Allen, can that be a three-way split? Can that end up being a real long-term fight for a nomination?