Politics always has been populated by sleazebags, but every generation or so one comes along who is so vile that he stands out from the pack. So it is with Rudy Giuliani.
The stories of Giuliani's sleazyness are legion, and that is quite an accomplishment since he came into most of our lives on the highest of notes -- as "America's Mayor" who took charge after the 9/11 disaster.
But from there it has been all downhill.
Giuliani liked to brag that as mayor of New York City, he spent more time at Ground Zero than rescue and clean-up workers, which was a lie. Actually, his administration had failed to address the flaws in the response to the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, which came back in spades on 9/11, and he knowingly sent workers into the toxic hell of the collapsed Twin Towers.
Then there are Giuliani's ample personal shortcomings, including being an admitted serial adulterer who broke the news to his wife that he was getting a divorce during a televised press conference, and his embrace of a succession of creepy characters from televangelist Pat Robertson to Bernard Kerik to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, about whom more later.
Had Giuliani been nominated by the Family Values Party aka Republicans and then elected president in 2008, Kerik would have missed his inauguration.
This is because the former NYC corrections chief, promoted to police commissioner by Giuliani, was doing prison time for just one of his multiple legal entanglements, which included glomming onto $165,000 in free renovations to his Bronx apartment by a construction company with mob ties, shacking up with his mistress in a Manhattan condo reserved for cops with post-9/11 traumas, and that timeless toe stubber, failing to pay taxes on an illegal immigrant nanny whom he was boinking on the side.
None of this prevented Giuliani from drawing on his vast reservoirs of good judgment and recommending that Kerik become Dubya's first homeland security czar. Dubya wisely demurred.
Giuliani is a gold medalist in flip-flopping. He was for gay rights before he was against them. He was for gun control before he hearted the National Rifle Association. He was for forgiving illegal immigrants eking out honest livings in the Big Apple until he wanted to deport them. He was once a hawk on Iran, but . . . more about that later, too.
Giuliani flailed at becoming the GOP presidential nominee again in 2012 and yet again last year, but was on the A-list to become Cheeto's secretary of state while helpfully bragging that he had advised the newbie president about how to impose his patently illegal Muslim ban "legally."
But it turned out his conflicts of interest were too enormous and the top job at State went to Rex Tillerson, who recently was in Moscow delivering a toothless ultimatum that Russia withdraw its support for Syrian strongman Basha al-Assad, which was kinda strange since Tillerson and Russian President Vlad the Impaler are personal friends and Tillerson made tens of billions of dollar or rubles or something from Russian oil when he was CEO of ExxonMobil.
Giuliani has assuaged his grief over not serving his country in an official capacity by becoming filthy rich representing misunderstood oligarchs. His latest client is Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian businessman who faces federal charges in Giuliani's old stomping ground.
Zarrab has struggled through life getting his hands dirty counting money. The multi-billionaire owns 20 houses, seven yachts and a private jet, is married to one of Turkey's biggest pop tarts, and counts among his friends that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is Turkey's now stronger than ever strongman thanks to the kind of magical thinking by Turkish voters that made Cheeto emcee of the biggest reality show of all. And of course has now become one of Cheeto's new best friends because, you know, it takes an authoritarian to know one.
The U.S. government busted Zarrab in Miami last year at the request of the Obama administration (remember those guys?) while he ostensibly was en route to Disney World with the pop tart and their daughter. He was held on charges that he masterminded a huge operation to help the Iranian government evade economic sanctions put in place to hinder its efforts to build nuclear weapons. This is how it worked: Gold would be shipped to Iran from Turkey in exchange for Iranian oil and natural gas, and the feds say that at the peak of the operation Zarrab was buying a metric ton of gold and packing it off to Iran every day.
Zarrab has been moldering in the federal lockup in Manhattan despite the efforts of Erdoğan to spring him, but now Giuliani and Michael Mukasey are on the case.
Mukasey was the last of Dubya's three attorney generals and proud author of what I call Mukasey's Law, which was promulgated at the height of the outcry over the torture of suspected terrorists and goes something like this: Lawyers cannot commit crimes when they act under the orders of a president and a president cannot commit a crime when he acts under advice of his lawyers. Got that?
It may not mean much (cough, cough), but Zarrab is in the slammer because of federal prosecutor Preet Bharara, who slapped a beyond serious trading-with-the-enemy charge on him. Erdoğan has accused Bharara of being in the pay of his arch nemesis, Fethullah Gülen, an imam and former Erdoğan ally who is living in exile in the Pennsylvania Poconos.
One-time Iran hawk Giuliani states in court papers that he and Mukasey are seeking a "diplomatic" resolution of the case, which of course means dropping the charges, and Zarrab may yet make it to Disney World. Cheeto conveniently fired Bharara, while Giuliani and Mukasey have traveled to Turkey to chat with Erdoğan about the case.