Reporting on Rudy Giuliani's December 9 appearance on Meet the Press, the Politico's Jonathan Martin asserted in a blog post that Giuliani “seemed to even good-naturedly mock and welcome [Tim] Russert's line of questions when the matter of” his business ventures' clients came up." By contrast, in Politico articles about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's September 23 appearances on all five Sunday talk shows, Mike Allen and John F. Harris wrote that Clinton's laugh “sounded like it was programmed by computer,” and Ben Smith described Clinton's laugh as a “cackle.”
Reporting on Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani's December 9 appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, Politico senior political writer Jonathan Martin asserted in a blog post that the former New York City mayor “seemed to even good-naturedly mock and welcome [Meet the Press host Tim] Russert's line of questions when the matter of clients came up. When the moderator raised Bracewell & Giuliani's representation of the Venezuelan-owned oil company Citgo and sought to tie the firm's work to Hugo Chavez, Giuliani laughed and said, 'that's a stretch.' When Russert continued, the candidate kept laughing and even clapped his hands as if to welcome the opportunity to respond.” Martin cited only two examples of Giuliani's laughter in response to Russert's questions -- the Chavez question and an instance in which Giuliani quoted former New York City mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia (R) -- but there were several instances involving equally serious topics. Giuliani also laughed when Russert asked him why he “would do business with people who helped [September 11 mastermind] Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.” Russert cited a report by The Wall Street Journal that Giuliani's consulting firm, Giuliani Partners, has at some point had a contract with the government of Qatar, whose former Minister of Islamic Affairs and current emir reportedly assisted Mohammed in fleeing the United States in 1996 when Mohammed was under indictment for an alleged plot to blow up airplanes. Giuliani also laughed at Russert's assertion that "[a] Las Vegas developer that you worked with ... had a close partnership with [a] Hong Kong billionaire who was close to Kim Jong Il." The blog Talking Points Memo compiled a video montage of Giuliani's laughter during his Meet the Press appearance.
A December 10 New York Times article by reporters Michael Cooper and Marc Santora also noted Giuliani's reaction to Russert's question about Citgo but not the other examples of Giuliani laughing. Cooper and Santora asserted that Giuliani “displayed in the combative interview a lighter side, as he often does on the campaign trail. He even took a page from the playbook of a Democratic rival, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, and laughed off tough questions."
By contrast, as Media Matters for America documented, in articles about Clinton's September 23 appearances on all five Sunday talk shows, Politico chief political correspondent Mike Allen and editor-in-chief John F. Harris wrote that Clinton's laugh “sounded like it was programmed by computer,” and both Politico senior political writer Ben Smith and Times reporter Patrick Healy described Clinton's laugh as a “cackle.” Healy further described her laughter in response to a question on health care from Bob Schieffer, host of CBS' Face the Nation, as “particularly calculated.”
From Martin's December 9 Politico blog entry, titled “Smiling Rudy seems to survive tough 'Meet' ”:
Defusing a steady stream of tough questions with a ready laugh and dose of humility, Rudy Giuliani used his softer side to emerge largely unscathed from his hour-long appearance on “Meet the Press” this morning.
Appearing on the closely watched show for the first time in more than three years, Giuliani was met with a succession of topics that could damage his campaign: his legal and consulting clients, his pre-9/11 security preparations, his resignation from the Iraq Study Group, his ties to Bernard Kerik and his use of security detail to protect his then-mistress, Judith Nathan.
Some of his responses may provide fodder to rival campaigns, but Giuliani did an important thing in keeping his cool and responding to Tim Russert's aggressive style with a mix of humor and contrition.
Similarly, when Russert pressed the former mayor about his lobbying the Bush administration to get his protege Kerik tapped to become Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (“That's a big misjudgment to make when you recommend someone to the president for that kind of a sensitive job”), Giuliani defended his record of performance in New York as related to the people he hired -- but also repeatedly took responsibility for pushing Kerik.
Then, with a laugh, he quoted the famed former New York mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, “I don't make many mistakes, but when I make them they're big ones.”
Earlier in the session, Giuliani seemed to even good-naturedly mock and welcome Russert's line of questions when the matter of clients came up.
When the moderator raised Bracewell & Giuliani's representation of the Venezuelan-owned oil company Citgo and sought to tie the firm's work to Hugo Chavez, Giuliani laughed and said, “that's a stretch.” When Russert continued, the candidate kept laughing and even clapped his hands as if to welcome the opportunity to respond.
“They're not serious,” Hizzoner, still smiling, said of the critics who point out his connection back to the anti-American regime.
Whether he was putting on a show or not, this is, for veteran watchers of New York politics, a Rudy that they hardly knew and a considerable departure from his combative style as prosecutor and mayor in the city. But Giuliani has kept what former mayor and Rudy hater Ed Koch calls his “nasty” side in check through most of this campaign, letting slip his signature Gotham bravado only with a sunny countenance.
His upbeat mien aside, Giuliani surely did not enjoy the grilling. Nearly every unsavory aspect of his public and personal life was raised -- topics that aren't new for those living the race but that may be unpleasant reminders of a seamier side of America's Mayor for others just tuning in.
From the December 10 New York Times article by Cooper and Santora:
Mr. Giuliani, known for testy responses to pointed questions as mayor, displayed in the combative interview a lighter side, as he often does on the campaign trail. He even took a page from the playbook of a Democratic rival, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, and laughed off tough questions.
When the program's host, Tim Russert, asked Mr. Giuliani about the work that his firm did for Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela, who has accused President Bush of genocide, and about other clients, Mr. Giuliani laughed hard, leading Mr. Russert to interject, “These are all accusations being made in a very serious way about your business.”
By contrast, in a September 23 Politico article, Smith referred to Clinton's laughter on Fox News Sunday as “a signature cackle.” In a post published on the New York Times' political blog The Caucus the same day, Healy wrote: “Mrs. Clinton generally did fine -- there were no major gaffes, no flashes of a chilly or combative side. When Republican attacks were mentioned, she stuck to her trademark belly-laugh -- though she overdid it a tad on CBS's 'Face the Nation.' ”
Both the Times and the Politico -- in addition to several other news outlets -- continued their coverage of Clinton's laugh, with Healy writing a September 28 article headlined “Laughing Matters in Clinton Campaign” and a September 30 "Political Memo" headlined “The Clinton Conundrum: What's Behind the Laugh?” In the September 28 article, Healy described Clinton's laughter on the September 23 Sunday shows as “heavily caffeinated at times” and asserted that Clinton “less often but more notably, copes with the pressure by using The Cackle.” As an example, Healy cited the Democratic presidential debate, during which Clinton “laughed [at a question] before responding, as if to minimize the matter.” In both the September 28 and 30 articles, Healy described Clinton's laugh on CBS News' Face the Nation as “particularly calculated.” From the September 28 article:
The weirdest moment was with Bob Schieffer on the CBS News program “Face the Nation” when he said to Mrs. Clinton, “you rolled out your new health care plan, something Republicans immediately said is going to lead to socialized medicine.” She giggled, giggled some more, and then couldn't seem to stop giggling -- “Sorry, Bob,” she said -- and finally unleashed the full Cackle.
The Schieffer moment seemed particularly calculated because Mrs. Clinton has most certainly not laughed, in other settings, when she has been accused of pursuing socialized medicine. She faced that accusation charge during a forum in Las Vegas this summer, for instance; she turned frosty and traded barbs with the audience member who made the accusation. It was clearly no laughing matter in that venue.
Allen and Harris' September 30 Politico article also discussed both Clinton's laugh and the media coverage of it: “Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) last week flew into a sudden burst of media wind shear. After months of mostly rosy portrayals of her campaign's political skill, discipline and inevitability, the storyline shifted abruptly to evasive answers, shady connections and a laugh that sounded like it was programmed by computer. ... The New York Times ran a Sunday story about what it called 'the Cackle' -- it is actually closer to a guffaw -- suggesting that it is the senator's technique for disarming persistent questioners.”
From the December 9 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
RUSSERT: The one thing that you did continue to participate in was your business. And I want to ask you some questions about that because it's received a lot of discussion over the last few weeks, particularly. Your involvement with the country of Qatar.
RUSSERT: And here's an article that was written by The Wall Street Journal. “Giuliani could face questions about his business ties if he wins his party's nomination. The Qatar contract offers a window into the political -- potential complications. While Qatar is a U.S. ally, it has drawn scrutiny for its involvement in the U.S. effort to combat terrorism. In '96, the FBI went to Qatar to arrest Al Qaeda operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, then under indictment in New York for a plot to blow up U.S.-bound jetliners. But Mr. Mohammad slipped away, apparently tipped off by an Al Qaeda sympathizer in the Qatari government, U.S. officials told the bipartisan September 11th Commission. Mr. Mohammed went on to mastermind the September 11th, 2001, attacks.”
Salon.com asked you this question: “Are you aware that the interior minister appointed in 2001 and reappointed this year by the emir of Qatar is Abdullah Al Thani, the former minister of Islamic affairs and a strict Wahhabi Muslim who has been identified in U.S. press and government reports as a protector of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?”
GIULIANI: Am I aware of it?
GIULIANI: I -- I'm, I'm aware of it now.
RUSSERT: Why would you do business with people who helped Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?
GIULIANI: The reality is that Qatar is an ally of the United States. There are a significant number of American troops that are stationed in Qatar. What we did for them and do for them is security for their facilities. And this is a country that is an ally of ours in the Middle East to the extent that it has a very significant number of American troops stationed there.
RUSSERT: But the emir of Qatar praised Hezbollah for their victory over Israel in Lebanon.
GIULIANI: The emir of Qatar also supports the United States, supported the United States, is one of our friends in the Middle East, is taking the grave risk -- the country of Qatar is taking the grave risk of having American soldiers there. When you go to Qatar, when you go to Doha -- and I have for security work -- you see a significant number of young Americans there. If you walk the streets of Doha, you can meet them, you can talk to them. They need security; the government there needs security. We're dealing with the same Islamic terrorist threat there as we do all over the world. It gave my company a great deal of expertise in Islamic terrorism, which is really necessary all over the world. So the reality is that we need to develop friends. We need to develop friends in the Middle East. We need --
RUSSERT: Robert --
GIULIANI: -- to -- we need to develop friendships with the Emirates. We need to develop friendships with Qatar, with Kuwait. These are countries that we have to get closer to. We should trade more with them, we should be involved more with them as we stand up to Islamic terrorism. And if they -- if they're asking an American company to help them deal with the Islamic terrorist threat in a more secure way -- and the people involved in this are people that are some of the biggest experts on Islamic terrorism who had been with the FBI, these people who were involved in this effort. This is a good thing to do. This is a thing that helps us kind of work on the other side of, “How do you remain on offense against Islamic terrorism?”
RUSSERT: Robert Baer, a CIA officer who had tracked Mohammed Khalid [sic], said that you are taking money from the same accounts that protected --
GIULIANI: That's --
RUSSERT: -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who then went on to mastermind September 11th.
GIULIANI: That's just totally wrong. And it's completely, it's completely distorted. The relationship is not with any of those people. The relationship is with a ministry that does training --
RUSSERT: Of the interior --
GIULIANI: No, it isn't.
RUSSERT: -- which Al Thani is the head of.
GIULIANI: It is not. The relationship is not like that.
RUSSERT: No involvement with him at all?
GIULIANI: We have never had any involvement with him at all, of any kind. None of the people that work with me have. No involvement with him. We have had significant involvement -- they have -- with people in that government. And the purpose of it again, Tim -- here's the purpose of it, generally speaking -- it's to secure that country against attack by Islamic terrorists. This is a kind of relationship -- I don't just mean for my company now. I'm out of the day-to-day operations of it. But this is the kind of relationship Americans want to have with Middle Eastern countries, working with them to protect them against possible Islamic threats. This is a country that's modernizing. It's a country that's moving in a direction that we want it to move in. Every single step like that in the Middle East is a dangerous step. You could look at the same kinds of things happening in the Emirates, and I'm somewhat familiar with that, also. This is the microcosm of what we need to happen in the rest of the Middle East. Countries like the Emirates and Qatar have loosened a lot of the things that we're uncomfortable about. You and I can have dinner there. We can have dinner there, and we can dress normally. There's no interference with the way in which we want to practice our religion or our customs or whatever. They're moving in a direction that is a modernizing direction.
RUSSERT: But Mr. --
GIULIANI: That creates a threat. That creates a threat. They did have a bombing a while back, and what they want is American expertise, American help in how to deal with that threat with some people who have been -- the people in the past, they're now retired -- who have tracked down some of these very Islamic terrorists.
RUSSERT: But it --
GIULIANI: It's kind of a very positive relationship.
RUSSERT: People are calling into question your judgment. They also cite that your law firm did work for Hugo Chavez, the head of Venezuela. They've now quit that, but they did represent Citgo, which is run by Hugo Chavez.
GIULIANI: Tim, that's a stretch.
RUSSERT: It's not.
GIULIANI: No, no, no --
RUSSERT: One more -- no, one more, and then I'm going to give you a chance on this. One more. A Las Vegas developer that you worked with who had a close partnership with Hong Kong billionaire who was close to Kim Jong Il. These are all accusations being made in a very serious way --
GIULIANI: They're not serious, Tim.
RUSSERT: -- about your business.
RUSSERT: So in order to deal with all this, why not say to the American people, “These are all my clients. This is who I work for --
GIULIANI: OK. Let me --
RUSSERT: -- so you can know who I've been involved with and who might be trying to influence me if I ever became president.”
GIULIANI: OK. First, let me see if I can address both of those. The relationship you're talking about with the Singapore company, it's a partnership that this company had independent of what we were doing for them, and I think the person involved, if it's correct, was a 1 percent owner that had no involvement with us, we never worked for, had nothing to do with. When you deal with clients and you take on the problems of clients and you try to help them, it may be that somewhere, someplace they did something that was questionable or arguably questionable. These are things people aren't even convicted of. So you can't vouch for every single thing they did. The thing that -- the things we have done with them are honorable, ethical, useful, and helpful.