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Hung Up on
Family Ties

As Rudy Giuliani has jumped to the top of most national polls for the GOP presidential race, one lingering question has been: would his less than idyllic family situation end up dragging him down among social conservatives in key early voting states like Iowa and South Carolina?

Yesterday, the issue finally flared up at a town hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire. With her five-year-old daughter playing nearby, Katherine Prudhomme-O'Brien, 36, asked Giuliani why he should expect loyalty from GOP voters when own his children aren't backing him.

Slate magazine reported that Giuliani's 17-year-old daughter belonged to a Facebook group of Barack Obama supporters, and his 21-year-old son, a student at Duke University, has said he does not expect to campaign for his father. Giuliani's relations with his son have been strained since Giuliani's bitter divorce from his second wife and marriage to his third wife, Judith Nathan, whom he met while he was married. His first marriage, to his second cousin, was annulled.

Giuliani's answer, according to the Associated Press: "I love my family very, very much and will do anything for them. There are complexities in every family in America. The best thing I can say is kind of, 'Leave my family alone,' just like I'll leave your family alone.'"

Prudhomme-O'Brien was ambivalent about his answer. "If a person is running for president, I would assume their children would be behind them," she said afterward. "If they're not, you've got to wonder." The issue is "going to stay there for a lot of people."

If there is any solace for Giuliani, it is that he is not alone in having a less than ideal family narrative. Presumptive candidate Fred Thompson has already faced scrutiny for the central role being played in his campaign by his second wife, who is 24 years his junior. John McCain married his second wife, a beer heiress nearly 20 years his junior, one month after divorcing his first. Even Mitt Romney, who has a picture-perfect home life, has faced some flak for his family, having to defend his five grown sons for their decision not to serve in the military.

Family complications for GOP candidates have put their Democratic counterparts in the unlikely position of being able to lord their own home life over them.

Joe Biden, a practicing Catholic married to the same woman more than 30 years, seized this opening more explicitly than anyone else this week when he recalled his daily train travel from D.C. to his home in Delaware. "I can hardly wait for one of these guys on the other side to tell me about family values. I can hardly wait for them to tell me -- a guy who's commuted for 34 years to get home and put my kids to bed," Biden said.

--Alec MacGillis

By Washington Post editors  |  August 16, 2007; 6:41 PM ET
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I live in Australia, where politicians' private lives generally go unscrutinized unless it's something extraordinary like a cross-party fling. We don't expect them to be perfect. We'd settle for skewering adulterous parties with a few less-than-savoury jokes doing the rounds at pubs, workplaces and on nightime television, but we never would have held an inquisition about a prime ministerial affair like Americans did about Bill Clinton's extramarital activities unless it was with someone who posed a national security risk. It surprises me, though, that given Guiliani clearly knows the risks from the feeding frenzy that happened when the Clintons' lives were put under the microscope, he's whining that he should be exempted from such scrutiny. Why? Because he's a Republican? Because he marries his mistresses? Good grief. If he can't handle the heat this early on, surely that does go to his character and job suitability?

Posted by: nealeal | August 17, 2007 6:41 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure I follow this argument against Guiliani. Ronald Reagan's family life was anything but idyllic (and several of his children openly opposed his policies), yet conservatives and the rest of the nation didn't appear to have a problem with it when he was running for president. Was is this issue relevant now with regard to Giuliani? It sounds like a calculated smear more than anything else.

Posted by: smc91 | August 17, 2007 5:25 PM | Report abuse

How about asking him if he ever took Judith Nathan up to the WTC "crisis management center" where he had a private bedroom and bathroom, before his divorce was final.

Is that fair game?

That's not about his family - it's about his morality and his use of public resources for private gain - a habit that pretty much defines his entire public career.

Posted by: dailykos1 | August 17, 2007 1:15 AM | Report abuse

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