Four years ago, Rudy Giuliani took to the stage at the Republican National Convention to deliver a shouty monologue about how his friend Donald Trump would usher in a new era of law and order and end the racial strife prompted by police killings of Black men.
Four years later, Giuliani is back at the RNC. He’s still shouty. And this time he’s monologuing about how an unprecedented wave of protests, civil strife, and outrage over yet another new round of police shootings is why we need to re-elect Trump.
Claiming that “my city is in shock” over a rise in shootings since the George Floyd protests began and with “a self described Progressive Democrat” in charge (shootings in New York City are up sharply this year, though still well below the levels they were when Giuliani left the mayor's office in 2001), Trump’s lawyer called Joe Biden, a “Trojan horse” after yelling to the cameras: “Don’t let Democrats do to America what they have done to New York!”
Despite the references in Giuliani’s speech Thursday night to rising urban crime rates and attacks on Democratic mayors, the speech from “America’s mayor,” as Oprah Winfrey deemed him after 9/11, had little to do with cities and everything to do with launching a broadside in the battle of the suburbs.
Polls show suburban women and college-educated whites deserting Trump and leaning towards Biden. The president has responded on Twitter with dog whistles about affordable housing bringing minorities into the suburbs and housewives fearing that low income families would “invade” their communities.
Trump campaign surrogates have tried to seize on the narrative by pointing to dire footage of cities on fire and warn that they’re an omen of an America under Biden—while forgetting to acknowledge that it’s the present under Trump.
The unspoken subtext of Giuliani’s speech tried to resolve that contradiction: Trump can’t be held responsible for what happens in the Democratic-run cities and minority neighborhoods because he’s not the president of cities and Black Americans; he’s your president, the president of white suburbans.
“It is clear that a vote for Biden and the Democrats creates the risk that you will bring this lawlessness to your city, town or suburb,” Giuliani warned.
He ticked off the names of innocents killed in recent months—4-year old LeGend Taliferro in Kansas City , 17-year-old basketball star Brandon Hendricks in the Bronx days after graduating High School, and 1-year-old Davell Gardner Jr. in Brooklyn—before declaring: “For President Trump, and for us Republicans, all Black lives matter and the lives of LaGen, Brandon and Davell matter to us. All lives matter to us.”
A few sentences later, he managed to use those names to blame Barack Obama and Biden, declaring that, “It has been like this for decades and it’s been controlled throughout by Democrats. In fact, shamefully Obama and Biden did nothing at all to quell the carnage. I guess these Black lives”—again referring to people killed this year, during the Trump presidency—”didn't matter to them.”
Perhaps not coincidentally, Biden was the candidate who punctured what remained of Giuliani’s aura when both men were running for president early in the 2008 campaign. The soon to be vice president famously said of then-Republican frontrunner, that “there's only three things he needs to make... a sentence: a noun and a verb and 9/11.”
Speaking directly after Pat Lynch, the leader of the NYPD’s biggest union, which endorsed in a presidential race for the first time this year declared that "you won't be safe in Joe Biden's America," Giuliani again reached into subtext to criticize the Democratic nominee.
The former mayor had spent the lead-up to the convention in a campaign of amateur gerontology in an attempt to suggest that Biden was senile and insinuated his diagnosis again on Thursday, albeit with more subtlety. Biden, Giuliani said, was “an obviously defective candidate” incapable of leaving his basement.
The role of floating trial balloons in poor taste on the candidate’s behalf was once reserved for another Trump adviser, Roger Stone. But since then Giuliani has stepped into the role with enthusiasm.
Giuliani’s most cherished trial balloon was notably absent from his speech and the convention in general. Trump’s personal attorney spent much of 2019 roaming about Ukraine in search of dirt that could put Hunter Biden in the crosshairs of a foreign prosecutor and his father at a safe remove from the White House.
Even for a campaign that’s still in search of attack lines that will stick to the Democratic nominee, no one—not even Rudy—appears to have felt the Ukraine narrative was worth airing. Trump’s impeachment appears to be the only thing Giuliani got for his effort to find what many once thought would be a political deathblow for Biden.