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Rudy Giuliani has given our country a great gift. Laid bare for all to see, he has become the naked embodiment of Trumpian madness, the emperor with no clothes shouting at the top of his lungs.
Thanks to Rudy, our country has what we need to move on: a stark alternative between reality and madness. By defining the Trump lawsuits as pathetic exercises in conspiracy mongering, he has made it easy on Republicans who know they must somehow find a way to move on, and assuaged the worries of Democrats who worried this would become a repeat of 2000.
The lawsuits’ record, if you’re keeping track, is 1 and 25. Contrast this moment with 2000, when a bevy of respectable lawyers on both sides of the election dispute clashed over a mere 537 votes in the state of Florida. That was an election legitimately hanging in the balance. And even if you believe, as I do, that its ultimate resolution at the Supreme Court represented a low-water mark in the history of our nation’s judiciary, still, there was no doubt of the seriousness and gravity of the process.
Not this time. Not only are the cases meritless and free of any evidence whatsoever, but all the sane lawyers have left the room, two resigning on Friday and three more on Monday, the day before Tuesday’s hearing in Philadelphia. For a moment, it looked like the only remaining lawyer on record would be Marc Scaringi, a former aide to Rick Santorum, low-level Trump campaign volunteer, and host of a weekly talk show on iHeartRadio who said on his show last week that the Trump litigation “will not work.”
But in swooped Giuliani, now a tragicomic figure of pathos and absurdity, destroying his occasionally illustrious career in a farcical final act.
In Philadelphia on Tuesday, he was, once again, unhinged. “You give them an inch they’ll take a mile,” he shouted at Judge Matthew Brann. “They’ve already taken a mile, now they’ll take the whole city. They stole an election.” He lurched from claim to claim, alleging that mail-in ballots were “dangerous” (side-note: Republicans normally love mail-in ballots; they’re how Karl Rove engineered George W. Bush’s victory in 2000), then switching to conspiracy theories about Dominion voting machines, then alleging that observers weren’t allowed close enough to the vote counting (a claim already rejected by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court) and raising his voice numerous times to fulminate about “voter fraud” without a scintilla of evidence.
There aren’t any real claims here. Or rather, there aren’t any left. At first, Republican lawyers tried to throw out 680,000 mail-in ballots, because of the issue with the observers. But after losing that challenge, they dropped those claims, and focused instead on a much, much smaller number of improperly filled-out ballots that were allowed to be “cured” so they could count. Yet even if that claim were to succeed—unlikely, since such “curing” happens all the time—it would not affect the result in Pennsylvania or the national election.
Indeed, one of the many benefits of this sideshow is that battered American institutions like the federal judiciary are showing their resilience. Turns out, judicial review often works. Judges, appointed by Republicans and Democrats alike, require actual evidence, not One America News Network hysteria.
But Giuliani himself has become the symbol of this moment. Read the live-tweets from Tuesday’s hearing. It’s truly astonishing behavior that in an ordinary case would likely be slapped down by the judge. He repeatedly brought up claims that are not part of the lawsuit in question. He repeatedly made hyperbolic claims of fraud on a national level, again without evidence. And when the judge actually asked him to justify throwing out thousands of ballots without any evidence of fraud, Giuliani simply did not answer.
For that matter, watch the video of the now infamous, endlessly memed press conference in front of Four Seasons Total Landscaping in North Philadelphia. Deservedly, that event is mostly remembered for its hilariously mistaken location—not the Four Seasons hotel, but a parking lot between a crematorium and a porn shop. But Giuliani’s rant at that event was so profoundly insane as to be self-parody, as if Kate McKinnon had snuck into Philly to give the presser in his place.
Now, there are multiple theories of why Giuliani is doing this. Maybe he’s hard up for money. He has a reported net worth of around $50 million, but The New York Times reports that Giuliani has asked for $20,000 per day to prolong this farce. He denied that allegation, but his alimony payments alone are $42,000 per month. Maybe Trump has something on him. Maybe he’s got troubles of his own as he’s gravitated over the years toward shady characters and fraudsters like Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. Maybe he really is a conspiracy nut, convinced that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the 2016 election; that Hunter Biden is some hardened criminal; and that millions of ballots cast in 2020 were fraudulent, despite, again, absolutely no evidence of that and the numerous statements by election officials that the election was free and fair.
Whatever the reasons, Giuliani the raving lunatic has made it easier for Republicans looking for a way to acknowledge the obvious while not enraging the base. So far, 10 Republican senators have now acknowledged President-elect Biden’s victory, with most of the remainder (Lindsey Graham excepted) probably just waiting for the court challenges to peter out and the states to certify the results.
For Rudy is now the symbol of Trumpism itself: unhinged and consumed by conspiracy theories. Like Trump’s most ardent supporters, he is the embodiment of denial in the face of cognitive dissonance. Half King Lear and half Falstaff, he is the face of this tragic farce, sputtering and gesticulating, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.