Politics & Government

Just call him Dr. Rudy: Giuliani dispenses advice on the trail

Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani.
Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani.

WASHINGTON — Rudy Giuliani as Dr. Phil?

Most politicians detest what they consider cheap, media-driven psychobabble attempts to delve into their innermost personal thoughts or political motives. But former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, much like Oprah's favorite TV psychologist, has never been afraid to dispense psychoanalysis on political foes, ordinary citizens and even on himself.

Giuliani's best Freudian moments erupted from 1994 to 2001 during his eight years in City Hall. Something approaching group-therapy sessions were held on Giuliani's weekly radio program, where the mayor often gave advice to callers - whether they wanted it or not.

"David, your compulsion, your excessive concerns for weasels is a sign of something wrong in your personality," Giuliani told a caller who described himself as head of the Ferret Rights' Advocacy. "I am giving you the benefit of 55 years of experience — having handled insanity defenses, you need help."

When another caller in 1999 questioned the ethics of a mayoral friend, Giuliani prescribed just the right remedy to soothe the man on the other end of the line.

"Why don't you seek counseling somewhere, Bob?" Giuliani suggested. "I hope you take this in the right spirit, Bob. You should go to a hospital. You should see a psychiatrist."

On the presidential campaign trail, he has pleaded to a degree of political schizophrenia while trying to convince conservatives to vote for a pro-abortion, gun-control supporter who once spoke favorably of illegal immigrants' contributions to New York.

"I don't agree with myself on everything," he told the Conservative Political Action Conference in March.

Stanley Renshon, head of the political psychology program at the City University of New York's Graduate Center, said Giuliani's use of psychological and psychiatric references are part a defense mechanism he relied on to cope with criticism when he was mayor and are part of the makeup of an adult of his era.

"Rudy came of age when Freudian psychiatry was becoming common knowledge," Renshon said. "Growing up in the '50s, everyone was an amateur psychiatrist and he may have absorbed the nomenclature."

"Are there any psychiatrists in the audience?" Giuliani asked an audience at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation's "Defending the American Dream" summit last month.

Giuliani raised the question before telling the crowd of his weird reoccurring "dream." In it French President Nicolas Sarkozy is heading to the United States on a flight that crosses paths over the Atlantic with a jet containing Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.; Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.

In the dream, Sarkozy is headed to America to learn how to cut taxes and reduce the size of government GOP-style. The three top Democratic presidential candidates are flying to Paris to learn how to govern the French way.

Elizabeth Ossoff, a psychology professor at New Hampshire's St. Anselm College who studies the psychology of political behavior, calls Giuliani's psychological and psychiatric references unusual.

"He's someone who sounds like he had an introductory psychology course," she said. "You teach them all of the diagnosis and treatments and then they start diagnosing themselves and all their friends. It sounds like he had Psych 101 and is applying it."

"Historically, politicians have stayed away from this topic to avoid being accused of psychobabble," Ossoff added. "Even Howard Dean, a medical doctor, didn't go there when he ran for president."

But Giuliani went there as mayor, about Hillary Clinton in March 2000. Clinton blasted Giuliani back then for his handling of the death of Patrick Dorismond, a 26-year-old Haitian-American who was fatally shot by an undercover New York City Police narcotics detective.

Defending the police, Giuliani authorized the unsealing of Dorismond's juvenile record and proclaimed the deceased was no "altar boy."

"At a moment when a leader would have reached out and tried to heal the wounds, he has chosen to (incite) divisiveness," Clinton told an audience at an African-American church in Harlem.

Giuliani responded with a Dr. Phil-like take on his Democratic adversary.

"There's a process called 'projection' in psychology," Giuliani said. "It means accusing someone of what you're doing. That is precisely what Mrs. Clinton is doing."