Newsweek Reporter Fantasized About ‘Taking Out’ Rudy Giuliani
You’re not going to believe this one. Newsweek reporter Michael Hastings, while covering the presidential campaign, entertained fantasies about “taking out” Rudy Giuliani.
And now he’s talking openly about it, and about his underhanded dealings with the John McCain campaign, as he pretended to be friendly and sympathetic while looking for every negative angle possible.
He doesn’t even seem to be self-conscious about revealing what a dishonest, biased scumbag he is.
The reality is: I quickly realized Rudy was a maniac. I had a recurring fantasy in which I took him out during a press conference (it was nonlethal, just something that put him out of commission for a year or so), saving America from the horror of a President Giuliani. If that sounds like I had some trouble being “objective,” I did. Objectivity is a fallacy. In campaign reporting more than any other kind of press coverage, reporters aren’t just covering a story, they’re a part of it—influencing outcomes, setting expectations, framing candidates—and despite what they tell themselves, it’s impossible to both be a part of the action and report on it objectively. In some cases, you genuinely like the candidate you’re covering and you root for him, because over the long haul you come to see him as a human being. For a long time, this was John McCain’s ace in the hole with the press, whom he referred to as “my base.” Reporters rode along with him, and he joked with them, and that went a long way toward shaping the tone of their coverage. (Last January a group of reporters asked McCain’s staff to make McCain campaign press T-shirts for them.) And because your success is linked to the candidate’s, you want to be with a winner, because that’s the story that makes the paper or the magazine or gets you on TV.
In my case, it was easy to despise Rudy. I’d spent two years covering the war in Iraq. I had a brother who was currently deployed there as an infantry platoon leader, and I had Iraqi friends who were now living as refugees. To listen to a man so casually invoke violence and warfare—a man who’d never set foot in Iraq or in any war zone—was troubling indeed. I wasn’t alone in the press corps. I don’t think I spoke to another journalist who ever said one good thing about the man. What did we say? We made fun of his divorces and his wives, that he’d married a second cousin, that he surrounded himself with corrupt cronies, that he had a piss-poor relationship with his children, etc. We talked about his megalomania and his cynical exploitation of September 11.
Still, I ate meals with staffers and campaign managers. I tried to say things that would make me appear sympathetic to Rudy while not technically lying. (“Wow, he sure seems popular.” “I was in New York on 9/11, and I have to be honest with you, I was glad Rudy was in charge.”) I tried to stay out of any discussion about issues and to just repeat the mantra to myself: I am here to observe and record, observe and record.