Poor David Brooks. By all rights, the moment should have been his.
It was last Wednesday night, the first big hometown fundraiser for Rudy Giuliani, and the Sheraton New York ballroom was resplendent in faux-folksy glory. A thousand Republicans had come to toast (and fund) the candidate whom the New York Times columnist has compared to Teddy Roosevelt, lauded as a “courage politician,” and crowned with his very own “ism.”
Women in pearls tipped back longnecks of Bud and men in crisp suits munched Cracker Jack and hot dogs, the ballpark fare serving as props for the baseball-themed, $2,300-a-head event. The urban elite was trying its best to look all-American. If they were not quite pulling it off, they were at least epitomizing the pragmatic, purple-tinted brand of Republicanism that Brooks fantasizes about in his columns.
And yet, when Giuliani got to the section of his speech that cited a New York Times columnist, the honor went to . . . Nicholas Kristof? The guy whose most recent word on the presidential race was a giddy love-up of Barack Obama? Who swoons for the senator’s antipoverty crusades and worldly ability to appreciate the Muslim call to prayer as “one of the most beautiful sounds on earth at sunset”?
Yep. Giuliani told a roomful of Republicans that, when it came to the crisis in Darfur, President Bush “should pay attention to the advice of Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times. Not exactly a commentator that I agree with all the time, or I imagine agrees with me. But he wrote a column the other day . . . that displays something that we all have to embrace.” Kristof had suggested that Bush lead an international summit on Darfur, and Giuliani rhapsodized about what a nifty idea he thought that was.
After the speech, Times reporter Richard Pérez-Peña, the paper’s main man on the Giuliani beat, could only stammer that he was “surprised” by the bizarre shout-out. He later blogged about it with even more befuddlement.
Kristof was as shocked as anybody, he said the next day. But it turns out the Giuliani-Kristof love does not flow only one way. In the summer of 2004, Kristof suggested that Bush would have a better chance at re-election if he dumped Dick Cheney for someone like Colin Powell, or, if Powell wouldn’t do it, then Rudy Giuliani. “He’s strong on national security and crime, but soft on abortion, which is what you need with swing voters,” Kristof wrote.
He concluded by telling his regular readers not to worry that his advice might help bring on four more years of W, since Bush always did the exact opposite of whatever he suggested. But now, with Giuliani leading in the polls, Kristof suddenly faces the possibility of having a guy in the Oval Office cribbing policy from his columns.
“It would be very unsettling for any pundit to find officials who actually listened and followed one’s advice,” Kristof said, unconvincingly.