- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2000

Health permitting, the best thing New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani can do for the city and state of New York is to listen to all his friends and enemies who tell him to quit the race for the U.S. Senate and then keep running as the Republican candidate.

If he quits because of the collapse of his marriage, and his own faults in bringing it about, the Republican candidate in a state central to the finances, politics, ethnic bounce and cultural life of the country will either be Mr. Who or a politician who does not want the job at all.

The Democratic candidate, a non-New Yorker, has a lot more to learn about the state she has chosen to supply her with her first public office. She might cram that into a couple of years of homework, but not just the months until Election Day. We will know if Hillary Rodham Clinton feels she is at home when she stops talking about "we New Yorkers."

If Mayor Giuliani stays in, the contest will be what New York has the right to expect between two noted people, each tough-minded and highly intelligent but each with different ideas about how to run the police, welfare, education, budgets and other matters important in government. On foreign affairs, a big part of a senator's responsibilities, both have been soupy vanilla, or silent altogether.

But the last few days have shown the whole country a critical difference between them in their public handling of private affairs. Mr. Giuliani revealed he had a "very good friend" relationship with a woman almost as soon as he was asked about it in public. He knew that was a euphemism for a sexual affair and since he is married, the public would understand it was adultery.

He spoke as plainly and candidly as any man or woman could, with the world watching and listening and his future at stake. There comes a time for most adults involved in adultery when they can no longer carry the weight of their own deceit, the lies, evasions, the sneaking around, the fear that the spouse not only probably knows but is in deep pain, the suffocating sensation of being caught in your own trap. Then they find the truth is the only tunnel out.

Sometimes the decision comes from knowing still another lie was ahead, and being unacceptably sickened at the idea. And sometimes it comes with the sudden certainty that you might die more quickly than you ever thought and that you want to go having cleansed yourself.

That moment never came for President Clinton. It did not come when he was lying and it did not come even when he imitated confession and regret. I believed he should have been impeached, not for adultery, but for perjury, obstruction of justice and contemptuously gambling with the reputation of the presidency. Witty and handsome though he is, he made us feel he needed a shower and so did we.

Hillary Rodham Clinton helped him build a wall around the truth and the possible consequences to him. She summoned friends and people in the government to labor putting up the stones, even after she knew. It was not her duty to denounce him publicly, nor her right to help build the wall.

The polls tell us the great majority of New Yorkers would not change their votes in the Senate race because of Mr. Giuliani's personal life. But that was before he made his statement that he would seek a legal separation from Donna Hanover, his wife and mother of their two children without telling her of the statement in advance.

The mayor's wife is a woman of talent, endeavor and goodness of heart but that heart cried when she knew he had announced the separation to the world before he did so to her. Her open pain and dignity of anger will probably hurt Mr. Giuliani, how much he will not know unless he has the strength and courage to keep running for senator. If he refuses, or if the Republican leaders try to force a reluctant Gov. George Pataki to run for the Senate, they shortchange New Yorkers who admire Mr. Guiliani for his struggles against crime, more effective than they had dreamed posssible.

Mr. Giuliani will not be Mr. Giuliani if he becomes mushy and mealy-mouthed or unbosoms himself at every personal question. But I believe he has learned he is not the only person with sensitivities and will be the better senator for it.

If his doctors say he can run, the Republican leadership should not deprive him and the voters of the chance.

A.M. Rosenthal is the former executive editor of the New York Times.

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