Giuliani's Neocon Guru Was Hot for Jackie O
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There are a number of reasons behind Rudy Giuliani's sinking political fortunes, but one person who may bear considerable responsibility for them is Giuliani's senior foreign policy adviser, Norman Podhoretz.
One of the founding fathers of neoconservativism, Podhoretz is a hardline Iran hawk who carefully crafted a position that is absolutely worthless for Giuliani now that the National Intelligence Estimate has taken Iran off the table as an issue for the 2008 election.
Podhoretz has also long been a vocal proponent of forging an alliance between the neocons and fundamentalists such as televangelist Pat Robertson. "In my view, Robertson's support of Israel trumps the anti-Semitic pedigree of his ideas," Podhoretz wrote more than a decade ago. But the Giuliani-Robertson alliance utterly failed to convince Republican evangelicals that the thrice-married Giuliani has a real affinity for them.
What is less well known about Podhoretz--and would likely alienate evangelicals even more--is that the godfather of neoconservatism once entertained fantasies of having a relationship with no less an icon of liberalism than Jacqueline Kennedy
As I report in my new book, The Fall of the House of Bush (for more information, go to www.craigunger.com), the episode took place after Jacqueline Kennedy moved to New York in the wake of her husband's assassination and, thanks to her friendship with John Kenneth Galbraith, was emerging from the trauma that shook the entire country and devastated her family. As Podhoretz relates in his memoir, Ex-Friends, he first met the former First Lady when Richard Goodwin, the former Kennedy aide, called and asked if he could drop by with an unnamed friend who wanted to meet Podhoretz. "Within minutes, [Goodwin] showed up at my door with a jeans-clad Jackie Kennedy in tow," Podhoretz wrote.
At the time, Jackie, still in her thirties, was the stunningly beautiful and glamorous but fragile widow of John F. Kennedy, and, arguably the most sought after woman in the world. Podhoretz, by contrast, was the sometimes witty and charming but less-than-stunningly-handsome husband of Midge Decter, lived on the less-than-fashionable Upper West Side, and, when it came to stylish attire, was given to dowdy brown suits and brown shoes. Nevertheless, according to Podhoretz, they struck an "instant rapport" and "at her initiative" had tea regularly alone in her Fifth Avenue apartment--which was enough, apparently, to put ideas in his head.
"He thought she was coming on to him and he had a terrible crush on her," says someone who knew them both. "She was just trying to make new friends," says another source with knowledge of the episode. "It was a very fragile time in her life. She wasn't looking to have an affair. She was just trying to have a normal life. But he thought she wanted one and he was telling everyone."
When Podhoretz finally cornered Jackie at a cocktail party and made his feelings known, the source says, she looked at him with an icy gaze the meaning of which was unmistakable. "Why, Mr. Podhoretz," she said. "Just who do you think you are?'"
There was no way that Jackie Kennedy was going to become Norman Podhoretz's neoconcubine.
Craig Unger is the New York Times bestselling author of House of Bush, House of Saud.