From the History Archives: When Rudy Met Hillary

So tonight is the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, one of those anodyne quasi-political events which become news only in years when the politics are particularly inflamed. Since His Eminence Cardinal Timothy Dolan is a notorious trimmer who, some people say, was rewarded by Pope Benedict with the plum NYC residency for hiding Church assets from lawsuits by survivors of clerical abuse, and who has since made a prominent pest of himself encouraging hardcore fellow Talibangelicals to resist civil laws protecting reproductive rights and same-sex marriage, reportorial hopes are high for this year’s event. Per the NYTimes:

On Thursday night, Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump will appear together again for a ritzier gathering, delivering remarks at the white-tie Al Smith charity dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan.

In most presidential campaigns, the dinner, which benefits Roman Catholic charities, functions as a welcome respite, a forum for levity and self-deprecation in the throes of a heated election.

This year’s may be more complicated.

Convened less than 24 hours after the caustic final debate on Wednesday, the event would appear, on paper, to be nothing less than a high-society nightmare for Mr. Trump…

The Clinton campaign has in recent days been forced to navigate its own turmoil after the hacked correspondences of top aides appeared to include messages criticizing Catholic conservatism…

Which reminded me that I wanted to share a remarkable Gail Sheehy article from back in 2000, a Vanity Fair piece on a related NYC event, “When Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani Did Battle for a Senate Seat”:

Tonight is Rudy’s night. It is the annual New York spectacle known as the Inner Circle, where reporters skewer the mayor in cute, amateurish skits, and Hizzoner has the chance for rebuttal with his own skit. Since nobody upstages Rudolph Giuliani, his will be a Broadway-class show, perhaps his final bravura performance before November 2000, when he hopes to be turned out of the mayor’s office by virtue of his election to the United States Senate.

This evening, however, the ravening city media corps is not his chief target. Instead, it is Hillary, formerly Hillary Clinton. The two have been circling each other with the wary menace of prizefighters in the opening round, but it’s been a year now, and still they have not been in the same room. Tonight’s spectacle at the Hilton in midtown Manhattan has drawn an unusually large crowd, 1,300, including poohbahs representing every fissure in New York’s unstable political ground. They are all packed into the grand ballroom, hoping to witness the combatants touch gloves for the first time.
Read more

Late Night Open Thread: “… The Christian Aristocrats!”

As some of us remember all too well, Jerry Falwell Senior made a great profit for himself and his Liberty University project by embracing Ronald Reagan’s most thuggish social policies as the mouthpiece of his very own “Moral Majority“. Now, just as Trump’s campaign has managed to permanently damage the (undeserved) reputations of a number of Reagan-era political holdovers, it looks like he’s going to bang up some of the Religious Reicht’s most valuable second-gen players on his way to flaming out.

From the Washington Post, “Liberty University students protest association with Trump“:

Students at Liberty University have issued a statement against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as young conservatives at colleges across the state reconsider support for his campaign.

A statement issued late Wednesday by the group Liberty United Against Trump strongly rebuked the candidate as well as the school’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., for defending Trump after he made extremely lewd comments about women in a 2005 video. The students wrote that Falwell’s support for Trump had cast a stain on the school’s reputation.

“We are Liberty students who are disappointed with President Falwell’s endorsement and are tired of being associated with one of the worst presidential candidates in American history,” the statement said. “Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him. … He has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins. Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose.”…

Paul Ryan attempted to faith-shame Clinton staffers, got rebuked by actual practicing Catholics:

Read more

Excellent Long Read: “Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker”

Suspect there may be a few here who also admire this spiritual seeker / musician. David Remnick, in the New Yorker:

Leonard Cohen lives on the second floor of a modest house in Mid-Wilshire, a diverse, unglamorous precinct of Los Angeles. He is eighty-two. Between 2008 and 2013, he was on tour more or less continuously. It is highly unlikely that his health will permit such rigors ever again. Cohen has an album coming out in October—obsessed with mortality, God-infused, yet funny, called “You Want It Darker”—but friends and musical associates say they’d be surprised to see him onstage again except in a limited way: a single performance, perhaps, or a short residency at one venue. When I e-mailed ahead to ask Cohen out for dinner, he said that he was more or less “confined to barracks.”

Not long ago, one of Cohen’s most frequent visitors, and an old friend of mine—Robert Faggen, a professor of literature—brought me by the house. Faggen met Cohen twenty years ago in a grocery store, at the foot of Mt. Baldy, the highest of the San Gabriel Mountains, an hour and a half east of Los Angeles. They were both living near the top of the mountain: Bob in a cabin where he wrote about Frost and Melville and drove down the road to teach his classes at Claremont McKenna College; Cohen in a small Zen Buddhist monastery, where he was an ordained monk. As Faggen was shopping for cold cuts, he heard a familiar basso voice across the store; he looked down the aisle and saw a small, trim man, his head shaved, talking intently with a clerk about varieties of potato salad. Faggen’s musical expertise runs more to Mahler’s lieder than to popular song. But he is an admirer of Cohen’s work and introduced himself. They have been close friends ever since…

Marianne’s death was only a few weeks in the past, and Cohen was still amazed at the way his letter—an e-mail to a dying friend—had gone viral, at least in the Cohen-ardent universe. He hadn’t set out to be public about his feelings, but when one of Marianne’s closest friends, in Oslo, asked to release the note, he didn’t object. “And since there’s a song attached to it, and there’s a story . . .” he said. “It’s just a sweet story. So in that sense I’m not displeased.”

Like anyone of his age, Cohen counts the losses as a matter of routine. He seemed not so much devastated by Marianne’s death as overtaken by the memory of their time together. “There would be a gardenia on my desk perfuming the whole room,” he said. “There would be a little sandwich at noon. Sweetness, sweetness everywhere.”

Cohen’s songs are death-haunted, but then they have been since his earliest verses. A half century ago, a record executive said, “Turn around, kid. Aren’t you a little old for this?” But, despite his diminished health, Cohen remains as clear-minded and hardworking as ever, soldierly in his habits. He gets up well before dawn and writes. In the small, spare living room where we sat, there were a couple of acoustic guitars leaning against the wall, a keyboard synthesizer, two laptops, a sophisticated microphone for voice recording. Working with an old collaborator, Pat Leonard, and his son, Adam, who has the producer’s credit, Cohen did much of his work for “You Want It Darker” in the living room, e-mailing recorded files to his partners for additional refinements. Age and the end of age provide a useful, if not entirely desired, air of quiet.

“In a certain sense, this particular predicament is filled with many fewer distractions than other times in my life and actually enables me to work with a little more concentration and continuity than when I had duties of making a living, being a husband, being a father,” he said. “Those distractions are radically diminished at this point. The only thing that mitigates against full production is just the condition of my body.

“For some odd reason,” he went on, “I have all my marbles, so far. I have many resources, some cultivated on a personal level, but circumstantial, too: my daughter and her children live downstairs, and my son lives two blocks down the street. So I am extremely blessed. I have an assistant who is devoted and skillful. I have a friend like Bob and another friend or two who make my life very rich. So in a certain sense I’ve never had it better. . . . At a certain point, if you still have your marbles and are not faced with serious financial challenges, you have a chance to put your house in order. It’s a cliché, but it’s underestimated as an analgesic on all levels. Putting your house in order, if you can do it, is one of the most comforting activities, and the benefits of it are incalculable.”…

Open Thread: We’re With Her, Too

This is what being ‘people of faith’ is supposed to look like: These Mormons take their religion’s teachings seriously, and attempt in their daily lives to live up to its ideals. And when it comes time to vote for civic leaders, they look for those who’ve also tried to live by their common virtues, even if their punchlist of “issues” isn’t in total alignment. (As a nun once told me, We’re looking for guidelines here, not for loopholes.) Good for the people in this ad… and for the people on HRC’s media team that put it together!

Open Thread: Mike Pence, STILL Just As Deplorable


(Jack Ohman via

Remember, there’s a theory that Mike Pence accepted Trump’s undercard offer because it seemed like a shortcut to the Oval Office. Even if Trump didn’t suffer some kind of medical incident within six months of taking office, he’d surely be bored enough to let Pence act as a godbothering version of Dick Cheney, right? Some evangelicals even professed to believe that God, or someone in a long relationship with Him, planned to call Donald home once the White House was in the bag. (And it’s not as though Indiana voters wanted to keep Pence in the governor’s seat.) Now we all can hope that Mike Pence will be as thoroughly destroyed by the Trump Reverse-Midas Touch as, say, Billy Bush…

Open Thread: Righteous Anger


“Issues like my ability to milk the angry rubes who can’t understand why beating up women / people of color / gays / their kids is no longer considered acceptable. C.R.E.A.M. for Jeebus!

Note from a hardcore religious-not-evangelical conservative Republican…

Or at least had the good sense to preserve the hypocrisy of ‘plausible deniability’.

Shut Up, Pence; Babies Are NOT Commodities

Not even the healthy pale-skinned newborns you imagine would be “welcomed” by “so many families”. Nor are women’s bodies civic resources, like coal mines or arable lands, where the state can rule on best use for the community.

Good for Tim Kaine for resisting Pence’s bland, anodyne, evil statement. Per Real Clear Politics:

TIM KAINE: Elaine, this is a fundamental question. Hillary and I are both from religious backgrounds. Her Methodist church experience was very informative for her as a public servant. But we both feel you should live fully and with enthusiasm for your faith. But, let’s talk about abortion and choice. We support Roe v. Wade. We support the constitutional right of American women to consult their own conscience and make their own decision about pregnancy. That is something we trust American women to do. And we don’t think that women should be punished, as Donald Trump [said], for making the decision to have an abortion. Governor Pence wants to repeal Roe v. Wade. He says he wants to put it on the trash heap of history. Before Roe v. Wade, states could punish women if they made the choice to abort a pregnancy.

I think you should live your moral values, but the last thing governments should do is to have laws that would punish women who make reproductive choices. That is the fundamental difference between the Clinton-Kaine ticket and the Trump-Pence ticket.

PENCE: It is really not. Donald Trump and I would never support legislation that would punish women who made the heartbreaking choice.

KAINE: Then, why did he say that?

PENCE: Look, he is not a polished politician like you and Hillary Clinton…