NY Times recycled gender "cliché" in puff piece on Giuliani, the "commanding daddy"

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

In a profile of Rudy Giuliani, The New York Times called him "a commanding daddy of a candidate" and described him as "the father" when compared with other presidential candidates, bolstering the characterization of the Democratic and Republican parties as the "Mommy" and "Daddy" parties, respectively, when the paper itself has presented evidence to counter this view and has described it as a "cliché."

In a May 29 front-page profile of Republican presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani -- "To Temper Image, Giuliani Trades Growl for Smile" -- New York Times reporter Michael Powell wrote that Giuliani is a "commanding daddy of a candidate" and "is the father" when compared with other presidential candidates of both parties. Powell's article bolstered the characterization of the Democratic and Republican parties as the "Mommy" and "Daddy" parties, respectively, when the Times itself has presented evidence to counter this view and has described it as a "cliché." The article also reinforced Giuliani's image of heroism and leadership with respect to the September 11, 2001, attacks, even though the Times has reported Giuliani's failures and shortcomings on several terrorism-related fronts.

Powell suggested at the beginning of the profile that Giuliani's demeanor has become less "dyspeptic" on the presidential campaign trail, citing Giuliani's polite exchange with a "gray-haired woman" regarding terrorism that might, in the past, have resulted in "a rhetorical lunge for this woman's jugular." But, according to Powell, Giuliani is still "a commanding daddy of a candidate," who comes across as "the father, the talk-tough-on-terror, I'm-comfortable-wielding-authority guy" compared to other presidential candidates such as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), whom Powell labeled "the nurturer warrior."

But previous Times articles have disparaged these characterizations of the "Mommy" and "Daddy" parties. For example, on February 18, Times reporter Mark Leibovich called (subscription required) the characterization "that voters typically favor Democrats ('mommy party') on social issues and Republicans ('daddy party') on national security" a "cliché" and a "time-worn parental paradigm." A January 29 Times article went further, noting that polls no longer suggest that Republicans hold an advantage over Democrats on national security issues:

Democrats also seem less worried these days about the old charge of being the ''mommy party,'' dedicated to domestic concerns while the Republicans, ''the daddy party,'' are trusted with national security. Democratic women were often warned over the years that the stereotypes of party and sex reinforced each other.

National security remains a threshold issue for voters but is no longer such an automatic advantage for the Republicans because they have lost so much support on the war in Iraq, the polls suggest.

Indeed, blogger and media critic Greg Sargent recently made a similar point criticizing a Times article highlighting the mommy/daddy party narrative.

Additionally, Powell's Times profile reiterated the notion of Giuliani as "America's Mayor," adding, "At the root of his celebrity lies Mr. Giuliani's performance on Sept. 11, 2001." Powell continued: "But conversation usually circles back to that September day. When the towers fell, Mr. Giuliani was certain of what he saw. Defense is for the surrender crowd. He is about playing offense, and with a strong stomach: More electronic surveillance, more Patriot Act, more tough 'but legal' interrogation methods."

Yet, as Media Matters for America has noted, the Times itself has reported numerous flaws in the Giuliani administration's approach in the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center. The administration's handling of environmental concerns during the cleanup at Ground Zero has led to health problems for thousands of first responders, according to the Times, some of whom are suing the city for damages.

Powell further wrote that "Giuliani was a Kennedy Democrat" who "has also proclaimed himself a Reagan Republican." He added: "Ideological consistency is not Mr. Giuliani's groove; leadership and destiny are. So is self-assurance."

From Powell's May 29 New York Times profile of Giuliani:

Oh, baby, here it comes. The gray-haired woman raises her hand and compliments His Honor for his Sept. 11 bravery. Then she asks him:

Why does so much of the world hate us? Haven't we failed to understand Arab grievances? We misinterpret their word "jihad," which is not necessarily a hostile word.

Rudolph William Louis Giuliani III's eyes pop wide. His eyebrows rise. He is blinking rapidly. For veteran Rudy watchers, all signs point to a rhetorical lunge for this woman's jugular.

Except he pauses and looks down at his feet and looks up again and -- smiles.

"Ma'am, I really respectfully disagree," the former mayor tells her. "Maybe I'll answer your question with a question. Respectfully, again, I don't think you understand the nature of the threat."

Respectfully? Ma'am?

The dyspeptic, "not afraid to suggest his opponents have really deep-seated psychological problems" Republican mayor of fact and legend has taken a holiday. What's left on the presidential campaign trail is a commanding daddy of a candidate, a disciplined fellow who talks about terrorism and fiscal order and about terrorism some more.

[...]

He has not sanded down all his edges. At Oglethorpe University here, where he met with 200 voters, he does not hesitate to challenge that woman who asks about jihad. But he does so in a fashion that leaves her ambulatory.

"They hate you," he says of the Islamic terrorists, bringing his hands up to his chest. "They don't want you to be in this college, or you, or you -- --."

Mr. Giuliani wheels around and points toward another middle-aged woman in the front row, who looks momentarily startled. "And you can't wear that outfit because you're showing your arms."

"This is reality, ma'am," he continues, his voice streaked with just a touch of exasperation. "This isn't me making it up. I saw reality after 9/11. You've got to clear your head."

His answer meets with sustained applause.

If Hillary Rodham Clinton is the nurturer warrior and Barack Obama the college idealist and John McCain the tough but irreverent flyboy, then Mr. Giuliani is the father, the talk-tough-on-terror, I'm-comfortable-wielding-authority guy.

In dress, he plays to type. Other candidates go open-necked or pull flannel shirts out of the closet for New Hampshire.

Not the former mayor. He dresses in the one-size-too-large suits he has favored since his days as a federal prosecutor, with the top shirt button fastened and tie knotted tight. It is difficult to imagine anyone asking him a "really dopey" (two favorite Giuliani words now in abeyance) question about his favored style in underwear, as someone once did of Bill Clinton.

Mr. Giuliani has made upgrades. The comb-over, his decades-long insistence on combing his hair across a substantial expanse of cranium, is history. His remaining hair is slicked back and comes to rest in a tight nest of graying curls.

[...]

In Atlanta, Mr. Giuliani offers to take questions, and a stout blond woman in a red pantsuit shoots straight up, raising her hand and nearly shouting, "I think you are sooooo handsome."

(In 1994, a woman in Queens translated the same compliment into New Yorkese; she peered carefully at Mr. Giuliani and acknowledged, "You look a lot better in person.")

At the root of his celebrity lies Mr. Giuliani's performance on Sept. 11, 2001. The shadow of that day is inescapable; he is prayed for, applauded and asked to reminisce. And the refrain from those who listen to him is the same: When President Bush was flying to and fro, when Vice President Dick Cheney went to his bunker, Mr. Giuliani was the eloquent voice and face of America.

In Tuscaloosa, a county chairman spoke of his anxiety that day, and how listening to the mayor comforted him. In Atlanta, Debbie Lange said she was no rock-hard Republican. But her adult child lived in Washington. If she pulls the lever for Mr. Giuliani, hers would be a premonitory vote.

"We haven't seen the last of all the horrible things that could happen to us," she said, her voice becoming a whisper. "I want someone who could look the worst in the face when it happens."

Mr. Giuliani gets tagged as a late-middle-aged obsessive dining out on his grand moment. That seems overstated. He talks about competition in health care. ("The Democrats want socialized medicine." His lips play with a smirk, and he asks: "How many Americans do you know go to Europe for health care?") He holds forth on the need to cut taxes and to require foreign visitors to carry ID cards.

But conversation usually circles back to that September day. When the towers fell, Mr. Giuliani was certain of what he saw.

Defense is for the surrender crowd. He is about playing offense, and with a strong stomach: More electronic surveillance, more Patriot Act, more tough "but legal" interrogation methods. Mr. Giuliani peers at the smiling residents of Tuscaloosa.

"Right now, as we sit here enjoying breakfast, they are planning on coming here to kill us," he warns them. "I don't blame people for not getting it before 9/11. But I do blame people who don't get it now."

He circles his hands around his head, as though to bat away America's cobwebs.

"The Democrats want to take us back on defense," he says. "You can feel it; you can hear it."

The former mayor sat in a cavernous ballroom on May 21 and listened as New York Republicans showed him the big love. Happiness flowed so profusely an observer might forget that most in attendance wanted to flay Mr. Giuliani when he endorsed Mario M. Cuomo, a Democrat, for governor in 1994.

Guy Molinari, the diminutive and white-haired former Staten Island borough president, shot a sideways glance at Mr. Giuliani, who is in full grin. "I love this guy," Mr. Molinari said.

Only someone really rude would recall Mr. Molinari's take in 1994: "The only thing that makes sense is that he becomes a Democrat."

Mr. Giuliani was a Kennedy Democrat who has allied himself with Bill Clinton on issues like banning assault weapons but has also proclaimed himself a Reagan Republican. Ideological consistency is not Mr. Giuliani's groove; leadership and destiny are. So is self-assurance. Ask Mr. Giuliani how to impose fiscal discipline on Washington, and he notes: "I'm an expert at it." Mention New York and he says: "The turnaround was massive, palpable; nobody can really deny it." Quiz him about presidential qualifications, and he says that there is no way to prepare, but that "being mayor of New York" comes as close as it gets.

As for terror, "I understand terrorism in a way that is equal to or exceeds anyone else," Mr. Giuliani says.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Gender, Elections
Network/Outlet
The New York Times
Stories/Interests
Rudy Giuliani, 2008 Elections
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