Only in this mad election could a male presidential nominee — a misogynist boor who has been married three times, who has boasted of adultery with his friends' wives, and who has even publicly leered at his own daughter — seek to blame a female candidate for her husband's sexual indiscretions. And only in this election would that nominee outsource the attacks to a surrogate whose marital history is even more embarrassing, because it involved gross misconduct in elected office.
But that perfectly describes Donald Trump, Rudolph Giuliani, and their bizarrely inappropriate attack on Hillary Clinton's marriage. Perhaps we can expect Trump surrogate Newt Gingrich — who notified his second wife that he planned to divorce her while she was hospitalized with cancer — to chime in next.
In the moments following this year's first presidential debate, Trump praised himself for "holding back" — because he had refrained from bringing up Bill Clinton's extramarital "indiscretions," supposedly out of respect for Chelsea Clinton. The casino mogul quickly suggested, however, that he might still go there.
"Maybe I'll tell you at the next debate," he said coyly.
That is "restraint," Trump style. There would seem to be little upside in launching such a vicious tirade against Hillary Clinton, a wronged wife, especially considering Trump's own heavily documented record of marital infidelity and alleged spousal abuse or worse. But such sputtering vitriol against his opponents is Trump's trademark, no matter how badly it reflects on him.
Evidently, they couldn't wait. In the debate spin room Giuliani said that Trump had "restrained himself from saying what I know he would have liked to. ... And that is she enabled and supported a president who is a disgrace to the White House. He was one of the two presidents impeached. He was impeached because he took advantage of an intern, an intern that (Hillary) attacked for six months — and she claims to be a feminist."
Remove the errors and falsehoods from that statement and almost nothing remains except Giuliani's rage. But by now nobody should expect dignity from the former New York mayor, whose ranting interlude on the podium at the Republican convention last summer raised questions about his mental state.
Still, it is odd that Giuliani's image-conscious wife, the former Judith Nathan, would let him revive memories of their relationship's tabloid origins — and how he abused his mayoral privileges to pursue their affair while he was still living with his wife and children in Gracie Mansion.
When Rudy met Judi one evening in a cigar bar on the Upper East Side, according to Vanity Fair, he was already involved with his City Hall press secretary — not an intern yet much younger than the very married mayor, and of course available to him at all hours. Although nobody believed the attractive aide's denials, that scarcely mattered. In May 2000, Rudy and Judi put out a press statement to announce that they would henceforth be joined together — truly a lovely way for wife Donna and the two Giuliani children, Andrew and Caroline, to learn about Daddy's new plans.
Months before Giuliani's marriage disintegrated publicly, he had begun to visit Nathan surreptitiously at her Southampton, Long Island condo, accompanied by a police detail. On every expensive booty call, he brought an assortment of bodyguards and vehicles out to the beach, putting the cops and aides up in local motel. (Not too long after that, he assigned Nathan her own police detail, with officers who reportedly acted as her valets and chauffeurs.) Years later, when he ran for president, reporters discovered just how much his long-distance romance had cost city taxpayers. The New York Post once estimated that the cost of a trip out to his girlfriend's pad amounted to $3,000 per day; Judi's security detail was priced at around $200,000 per year.
So when Rudy Giuliani denounces Hillary Clinton, remember why his son and daughter shunned him for years. Remember that he misused hundreds of thousands of dollars in city resources to "enable" his personal misconduct.
It is a sign of how badly Trump has twisted our political and moral culture that he and his buddies believe that they can excoriate Clinton for preserving her marriage and family, and the values that they so casually discarded. But it is even more troubling that so many "conservatives" would encourage their cruel hypocrisy.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.