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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 11/26/2007

Grace and Candor Under Pressure

By Michael Dobbs

Rudy Giuliani in New Hampshire

"I think that one of the things we need from our people who are running for office is not this pretense of perfection. And the reality is all of us that run for public office, whether it's governor, legislator, mayor, president, we are all human beings. If we haven't made mistakes, don't vote for us. Cause we got some big ones that are gonna happen in the future and we won't know how to handle them."

--Rudy Giuliani, November 20, 2007, reacting to Barack Obama's acknowledgment that he used drugs as a young man.


The afterglow of the holiday season makes this a good time to award some more Geppetto checkmarks. Don't worry. I will be back to my crotchety old self tomorrow.

My first Geppetto checkmark went to John McCain a couple of weeks ago for his stylish attack on Hillary Clinton and her support of a Woodstock museum. McCain's riposte--"I was tied up at the time"--earned points for both truthfulness and memorability. With that standard in mind, I am awarding a Geppetto checkmark to Rudy Giuliani for his impassioned defense of imperfection in politics.


p>In a way, the former New York mayor is making a virtue out of necessity in his pursuit of the "imperfect" vote. His long track record suggests that he is the imperfect boss, the imperfect conservative, the imperfect husband. By acknowledging his imperfections, he is immunizing himself against criticism, to some extent. That said, his candor is still refreshing.

I have been critical of Giuliani in the past for twisting the facts on health care and his own record as mayor of New York City. But in a world in which candidates for president can be brought down by the slightest admission of imperfection, I award Giuliani a Geppetto checkmark for his honesty.


Clinton and Obama during Nov. 15 Las Vegas debate

"My understanding was that she wasn't treasury secretary in the Clinton administration."

--Barack Obama, replying to Clinton charge that he lacks the "experience" needed to become president, November 19, 2007.

"People are not attacking me because I am a woman. They are attacking me because I am ahead."

--Hillary Clinton, Democratic debate in Las Vegas, November 15, 2007.


Obama came up with an elegant--and truthful--put-down to Clinton's taunts of inexperience. The junior senator from New York has been arguing that she will not require "on-the-job training" as president, in contrast to her leading rivals, notably Obama. Clinton has been presenting herself as the candidate best prepared to clean up the economic mess left behind by the Republicans, but the truth is that she has never had much executive responsibility, let alone run a major government department. Most of her "experience" in government has been by virtue of her marriage.

After a couple of weeks playing defense after a poor debate performance, Clinton scored points in Las Vegas with a memorable, and accurate, analysis of the current state of the Democratic presidential race. In two succinct sentences, she reminded viewers why she remains the front-runner, and the core strengths of her candidacy. She found a way of playing the gender card without whining that the boys were ganging up on her. The lady is tough and, for now at least, she is a winner.

For grace--and truthfulness--under pressure, I award Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama each a Geppetto checkmark.

(About our rating scale.)

By Michael Dobbs  | November 26, 2007; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama, Candidate Record, Candidate Watch, Geppetto's Checkmark  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Is There a 'Cocaine Shortage'?
Next: Pinocchios for Mitt and Rudy


Wow, presidential candidate pushes a "nothing to see here, move along" theme for the press either minimizing a major flaw (Rudy -- 3 marriages, horrific cronyism in appointing incompetents to run govt agencies) or accentuating a minor issue (McCain on $1 million ear-mark for local museum in Woodstock NY by a NY Senator -- BTW what's your health care proposal John?) and the "Fact-Checker" gives a "Candor" award.

Posted by: gepetto-yeah-sure | November 26, 2007 8:23 AM | Report abuse

g-y-s, Rudy cleaned up New York, so the "cronies" and "incompetents" you say he appointed somehow did some competent and effective things. His marriages are not a major flaw. BTW a $1 million earmark for something America should be ashamed of (numerous crimes of drugs and violence) shows some really poor judgement.

If all this campaigning were truly negative, Giuliani would've ripped Obama for his past drug use, Hillary would've overtly played the gender card, and Obama, well, would've been even whinier or bilious about Hillary's resume. So these quotes are refreshing, even if they aren't all that important.

Posted by: The Angry One | November 26, 2007 8:52 AM | Report abuse

This posting seems to me to stray from the stated purpose of this blog, i.e., fact-checking. Today's piece is just another piece of political strategy analysis.

Posted by: McLean | November 26, 2007 8:55 AM | Report abuse

To say that Clinton's "'experience' in government has been by virtue of her marriage", shows just how ridiculously uninformed you are.

Do some fact checking kids. First off, I suggest finding out what First Ladies' actually do; then you might spend some time looking at how she totally expanded her role to work on issues she cared about, while simultaneously advancing the role of the FLOTUS as someone who most directly advances the cause of international diplomacy; thirdly, I suggest you might read her book.

Last, and most importantly, you might take a moment to look at her resume to advance your understanding of my second point above. No other FLOTUS in the history of our country was more accomplished than her. Rather than just host teas and show up for photos, she used her talents -- as a lawyer, as an advocate for women and children, and even as a great mother -- to help our nation and advance Democratic ideals around the world.

With your above statement you're simply showing off the irony of the title of this blog. :^)

Posted by: get your facts straight | November 26, 2007 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Hey, to 'get your facts straight': Read her book???? Are u kidding me? Are there some "facts" in there? Who wrote it? Did she co-operate? Are there foot notes? Is stuff sourced?

The examples above that you've written about all her experience are - well, none at all. You said she "promoted democratic ideals around the world". So have I, but that doesn't make me qualified to say that I have executive experience.


Posted by: what???? | November 26, 2007 10:14 AM | Report abuse

"[Clinton] found a way of playing the gender card without whining that the boys were ganging up on her."

Er, this is what lots of people have been pointing out to *her*, every time her supporters claimed or implied that she was being picked on 'cause she's a woman. I'm not sure how much credit she should get for finally admitting it.

Posted by: Whippy | November 26, 2007 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Looking forward to the Fact Checker taking on Guiliani's incessant crowing about his role in reducing crime in NYC- for example, from today's paper- "I can certainly make the claim quite accurately at being the most successful at reducing crime of any mayor in the country, probably in history."
Compare that with, for example, the point that property related and violent crime, including homicide, started its decline in NYC in 1990, and by 1993 was down 20%- Guiliani became mayor in 1994. One major analysis notes that if you subtract the effect of the new police hired under the previous (Dinkins) administration, NYC's decline falls square into the middle of the pack for major American cities- virtually all of which were experiencing major declines in crime. It would be interesting to see how The Fact Checker deals with things like the declines in crime in NYC and, say, LA, where it also went down markedly- but without Guiliani's benevolent guidance.

Posted by: skep[ic | November 26, 2007 11:01 AM | Report abuse

please, kill this column. It's an insult to the Wapo

Posted by: B.Williams | November 26, 2007 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Angry One, Rudy's marriages are not a "flaw"? Well marriage #1 - to his first cousin - which lasted 12 years (not 12 minutes!) strikes me as, umm, a flaw. And his breakup with wife #2 - in a public place to third partiers rather than to her face (showing his "class" and alienating his kids in one swell foop) is, umm, a flaw.

Posted by: Sensitive Guy | November 26, 2007 12:48 PM | Report abuse

The comments & resulting fact checker is the best you can do? Can't find anything of substance? Then wait till you've got a subject that really means something!

Posted by: turbo bb | November 26, 2007 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Sensitive Guy, I said Rudy's past marriages are not a "major flaw." Sure, they're a flaw.

Saying his kids, at least his son at Duke, were "alienated" by him, is a stretch. There was one sensationalist article about him that got a lot of attention about how "mad" he was, followed by another more sober one in which he admitted frustration with his father but likened it to that of an ordinary family, and indicated he was generally supportive of his father's run.

Bush 43's DUI in the 1970s was a flaw, but not a major flaw. Same deal with his still-rumored drug use earlier in life.

Clinton 42's brush with pot in college was a flaw, but not a major one, as was his affair with Gennifer Flowers. (The felonies he committed in office, however, were major flaws indeed.)

Obama's parking ticket negligence and whatever drug use are also not major flaws. They're PETTY flaws.

If Rudy becomes president, and then starts cheating on his wife and finding a way to commit felonies in the process, I'll hear you telling me "I told you so" and bow to your wisdom. Until then you have a weak and petty argument.

Posted by: The Angry One | November 26, 2007 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps you could "fact check" the depth and breadth of Hillary's so-called White House experience. and I don't meanone your cursory "sounds good to me" checks. I don't mean one of your "if Hillary said it, then it must be true" fact checks. Let's see just how impartial you are. What does THIS First Lady bring to the table? If she "met with foreign leaders" what the heck did she say? Did she negotiate on behalf of the US? Did she negotiate with members of Congress as First Lady on matters of policy (outside of the healthcare debacle) and on whose authority?

Give us the scoop. Or continue shoveling this stuff.

Posted by: Jade7243 | November 26, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

well i think that Clinton is honest,i have read all that their is about her, and comparing the rest of the pack to her she is almost spotless! a very great lady and whom i will vote for

Posted by: elliottpearl | November 26, 2007 5:35 PM | Report abuse

man, this column has been really good but once again has descended into crap. what facts are even being checked here?

Posted by: /b | November 26, 2007 11:38 PM | Report abuse


"The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is the American Branch of a society which originated in England and believes national boundaries should be obliterated and one-world rule established." -Carroll Quigley, member of CFR, mentor to Bill Clinton

"The main purpose of the Council on Foreign Relation is promoting the disarmament of U.S. sovereignty and national independence and submergence into an all powerful, one world government." "...the very substantial research facilities of the CFR are put to work to develop arguments, intellectual and emotional, to support the new policy..." "...and to confound and discredit, intellectually and politically, any opposition." -Admiral Chester Ward, former CFR member and Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Navy

Who is a CFR / NAU member?

Which Presidential Candidates are for One-World Government?

Republican Fred Thompson

Republican Rudy Giuliani

Republican Mitt Romney

Republican John McCain

Republican Jim Gilmore

Republican Newt Gingrich

Democrat Hilary Clinton

Democrat Barack Obama

Democrat John Edwards

Democrat Joe Biden

Democrat Chris Dodd

Democrat Bill Richardson

Is there any difference between Republican and Democrat when they have the same goal?

Go to (Council of Foreign Relations Website). Do a search for: Sovereignty and Globalisation. Take a look at CFR President Richard N. Haass' article "Sovereignty and Globalisation. Check the membership and involvement of all the candidates. See For Yourself!

So called free trade deals and world governmental organizations are a threat to our independence as a nation.

We MUST withdraw from any organization and trade deal that infringes upon the Freedom and Independence of the United States of America!

It's not politics as usual. Research and Vote Wisely. Every Right & Freedom Is At Stake....

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2007 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Bush: US Must Remain Vigilant on IMPEACHING Bush!!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2007 11:12 AM | Report abuse

(Obama supporter)

Senator Clinton wants it both ways: At Wellesley, her message was, I'm a heroine for all women. Women will get the chance to vote for a woman for president for the first time in their lives. In other settings, she says, I'm not special because I'm a female candidate. Which is it? As for experience, I only note that the bulk of Senator Clinton's records from Arkansas and from her years as First Lady are not open for review, so all we can do is take her word on her 'experience.' With all due respect that's not good enough.

Posted by: wesfromGA | December 6, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

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