Rudy Giuliani's messianic paranoia

The former prosecutor announces that he is running for president to "save civilization" from Islamic terrorism.

By Glenn Greenwald
November 17, 2007 4:43PM (UTC)
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The right-wing Federalist Society, architects of many of the most extremist Bush executive power abuses, invited only one candidate to speak at their annual event -- "moderate" Rudy Giuliani. That invitation was, as The Associated Press put it, a "testament to his close ties to [Ted] Olson and other prominent members of the organization," many of whom "are advising his campaign." Giuliani, as he has done many times before, promptly "cited Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts as models for the judges he would appoint."

But far more significant was Giuliani's expressed view of what he thinks his mission will be as President. After proclaiming that "America has a special, even a divinely inspired role in the world," Giuliani vowed:

It was this nation that saved the world from the two great tyrannies of the 20th century, Nazism and Communism. It's this country that's going to save civilization from Islamic terrorism.

So Islamic Terrorism is no longer merely "a threat to our freedoms." It isn't even just an existential threat to our country any more. It's been upgraded rather severely in Giuliani's mind: it's now a threat to civilization itself. And Rudy Giuliani is running for President because he is "going to save civilization" -- his words -- from the Terrorists.

In one sense, this isn't surprising. After all, Giuliani -- with barely any attention from the press -- has assembled a foreign policy team led by someone who just wrote a book declaring "World War IV" and whose "prayers" consist of the deranged plea that bombs be dropped now on Iran.

But in another sense, it is truly bizarre that the leading GOP presidential candidate sees his role in the world as "saving civilization" from the Terrorists. Just compare Giuliani's messianic fervor to the warning issued by Historian Richard Hofstadter of the severe dangers from The Paranoid Style in American Politics, from his influential 1964 Harper's essay:

The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms -- he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point. Like religious millenialists he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days and he is sometimes disposed to set a date for the apocalypse. ("Time is running out," said [John Birch Society founder Robert] Welch in 1951. "Evidence is piling up on many sides and from many sources that October 1952 is the fatal month when Stalin will attack"). . . .

He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish.

It has now been largely forgotten that the Giuliani-supporting Fox News and the Wall St. Journal Op-Ed Page actually spent weeks and weeks last year hysterically warning everyone that August 22, 2006 was some secret, special date in 12th Imam Islamic theology when Iran might be planning to attack the U.S. and end the world. The title of one of Sean Hannity's Fox segments: "Could Aug. 22 Be the End of the World Thanks to Iran?" And here is what "Islamic scholar" and revered neocon "historian" Bernard Lewis wrote in the WSJ:

What is the significance of Aug. 22? This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the farthest mosque," usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (cf Koran XVII.1). This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind.

Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson and John McCain are all horrific in their own right. But Giuliani is in a different league in terms of messianic extremism. There really hasn't been someone like Rudy Giuliani -- someone so drenched in plainly authoritarian impulses, merged with such wild-eyed militarism -- anywhere near the White House in modern American history, if ever. It's not some coincidence or political ploy that he chose the most bloodthirsty neoconservative militants to serve him; that is who Giuliani is and has been for a long time.

Yet not only do our journalists make virtually no mention of any of this, but they actually depict it all as the opposite: that he's the non-ideologue, the moderate hero, the one struggling to be accepted among Republicans despite his moderation and even liberalism. There will come a point where this "moderate, centrist" image gets solidified in the public mind and will be very difficult to dislodge. And Giuliani will be that much closer to his mission of leading America's "divinely inspired role in the world," alongside his World War IV warriors, to -- as he put it -- "save civilization from Islamic terrorists."

Glenn Greenwald

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