Updated: May 2, 2021
I caught the end of Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece Raging Bull a few nights ago and immediately thought of my former boss, Rudy Giuliani. Once a proud political prizefighter, Giuliani’s latest gimmicks come off as groan-inducing trope best relegated to the seedy dive bars of New York City.
Giuliani pissed away every last shred of his credibility attempting to deliver an October surprise in the presidential campaign. Watching as Joe Biden continued to pummel Donald Trump in polls across the county, Giuliani wanted to step in and save his patron with a haymaker of his own. He swung, missed, fell through the ropes and out of the ring, hopefully to never return.
Less than two weeks before the election, Giuliani hyped smoking gun materials he claimed to have taken from Hunter Biden’s laptop. He did so with all the bombast of legendary fight promoter Don King. But to turn King’s catchphrase, nowhere in America – or at least the broad swath outside the narrow target audience of the New York Post, Fox News and OANN – were Giuliani’s claims given even a modicum of merit. The emails don’t support his story, the reporting was shoddy and there is better than a puncher’s chance that Giuliani fell victim to a Russian disinformation scheme.
Hitting the mat three times in one round means an automatic TKO for Giuliani.
Giuliani’s clumsy attempt to mimic James Comey’s 2016 body blow to Hillary Clinton’s campaign came off like a limp-wristed jab. Apparently the only thing more limp was Giuliani on the set of the new Borat movie.
That brings me back to Raging Bull, and not only because Giuliani apparently shares Jake LaMotta’s penchant for 15-year-old girls.
The movie opens with the slow-motion dance of a champion fighter shadowboxing as he awaits an opponent. That exemplified the Giuliani I once revered, the one I nearly dropped out of college to support for U.S. Senate and later moved across the country to work on his presidential campaign. Full of vigor and menace, Giuliani once fought mob bosses and the New York Press corps for heavyweight title belts.
After 9/11, he stood like a young LaMotta in the ring, a defiant champion with a head of stone who couldn’t be knocked down no matter how hard he got hit. But as Scorsese remarked when explaining the Raging Bull opening sequence, “The hardest opponent you have is yourself.”
It’s a lesson Giuliani should have learned as an Italian-American growing up in the streets of a city where LaMotta was worshipped.
The opening sequence of Raging Bull cuts abruptly to an older, obese LaMotta in an ill-fitting tuxedo, his puffy-face accented by the swollen bridge of a nose broken too often and the cigar he is smoking. He stands alone again, but this time in a dreary dressing room lit by a single incandescent light. Pursuing a new career as a standup comic, LaMotta tentatively recites the build up to a joke, “I still remember those cheers … they ring in my ears … for years, they remain in my thoughts …”
This is the late-stage LaMotta, the one searching to regain the limelight he enjoyed in the ring. He doesn’t understand that he is the joke. And neither does Giuliani.
By the end of Giuliani’s presidential campaign, his past mistakes began catching up with him. Much of his resounding electoral loss could be attributed to failing to deal with personal foibles. Dogged by reports over the misuse of city funds to transport his mistress (and future ex-wife) and corruption charges against his associates, Giuliani floundered. Once the overwhelming favorite for the nomination, he lost the title after a devastating blow in Florida required the fight to be stopped.
Giuliani has spent the past twelve years trying to regain the bright lights of the political ring.
He flailed away for years until better lawyers shied away from Trump and provided an opening. Sure enough, Giuliani’s first act as legal counsel for his embattled client was to pivot to the closest, most friendly cameras. His isn’t an attorney-client relationship with Trump, it is a symbiotic one. Giuliani needs to bask in the bright orange light cast off by Trump to pretend he is once again under the floodlights of the center ring.
For Trump’s part he hasn’t seemed to get much out of the deal. Trump didn’t lay a glove on Biden using Giuliani’s info dump during the last debate. To the contrary, Trump opened himself up to devastating counterpunches over his failure to disclose taxes and a Chinese bank account.
In less than a two weeks Trump looks destined to hit the canvas, bloodied and beaten. And he can thank Giuliani for much of the punishment.
Raging Bull ends with the back in the dreary dressing room, shadowboxing again, but in a frenetic manner, and chanting, “I’m the boss, I’m the boss, I’m the boss.” If you squint, you can see a punch-drunk Rudy Giuliani doing the same thing right now, a picture of raging bullshit.
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who worked as senior research analyst on Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign. Nicolais is now lead legal counsel for The Lincoln Project. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq