Springtime in January—“This is the life,” a woman on the beach tells her husband in a recent cartoon. “A cool drink, a good book, the warm sun.” “Buffalo in January,” her husband responds.
Aside from the blizzards in Denver, this Christmas season felt more warm than white. And it only got hotter as the New Year began. “January is the new March,” declared the Washington Post, as the thermometer hit 73 degrees on January 6. If one needed any extra confirmation that Al Gore is right about global warming—and George W. Bush wrong—it came in 2006. Indeed, last year was the hottest of any in the continental U.S. since record keeping began in 1895, according to the National Climatic Data Center. British scientists are already saying there’s a 60 percent chance that 2007 will be the warmest year ever globally.
Scientists point to a combination of the ocean-atmosphere trend known as El Niño and rising greenhouse gases. “These events are indicative of what a changing climate will bring,” writes Larry Schweiger, CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “More intense hurricanes, longer and more severe drought and wildfires, less snow and ice in winter, more heat waves.” The oilman in the White House may not be paying attention to global warming, but the vulnerable residents of New Orleans certainly are.
Along with the heat wave, January also brought a new Congress to town. The outgoing chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, James Inhofe, who dismissed global warming as “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” will be replaced by Barbara Boxer, who calls climate change “the greatest challenge of our generation.” The first step toward change, as psychologists say, is awareness.
The Magical Mystery Tour of Rudy’s Script—Some presidential campaigns start with an elaborately planned kickoff event. Others begin when an unflattering strategy memo is stolen by a rival candidate and leaked to the press. The second describes the circumstances endured by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. The story of how it happened is almost too improbable to believe.
Last year an aide to Giuliani lost a piece of luggage containing a 140-page dossier outlining the hurdles of a possible presidential run for the mayor. At one time the luggage was in the care of a staffer to incoming Florida governor Charlie Crist (a close ally of Jeb Bush). Eventually, theNew York Daily News obtained the paper “from a source sympathetic to a rival campaign.”
The liabilities detailed in the memo were not exactly unknown. They include Giuliani’s first marriage to a cousin; his messy divorce from Donna Hanover; marriage to his current wife, Judith Nathan Giuliani, after they’d received tabloid treatment par excellence; the doings of his high-profile consulting business (dubbed Rudy, Inc.); his close relationship to Bernard Kerik, the disgraced former chief of the New York Police Department; and certain “social issues”—Giuliani’s support for abortion rights, gay marriage and gun control—all liabilities in a Republican primary. “Does any of it cause RWG [Giuliani] to lose his luster?” the memo asks. “Donors to drop off? Drop out of race?”
Even stranger, this is not the first time something like this has happened to Giuliani. Back in 1993, during his campaign for mayor, Giuliani’s staff commissioned a “vulnerability study” detailing the candidate’s “raucous social life.” Giuliani was so shocked by its findings that he ordered it destroyed. One copy, however, fell into the hands of Village Voice reporter Wayne Barrett, who later featured it prominently in his book Rudy! An Investigative Biography.
Better Late Than Never—After doing nothing for all of 2006, the House Ethics Committee finally got down to work at the beginning of the new session. The committee ruled that Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL) must pay the $5,643 cost of a 2003 golfing trip to Scotland taken with lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank and Abramoff front group, originally footed the bill, in violation of House rules, which prohibit lobbyists from paying for lawmakers’ travel.
The committee also told outgoing Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA), who lost his suburban Philadelphia seat to Vice Admiral Joe Sestak in November, that he must pay for the $23,000 trip he and several family members took to Moscow and Belgrade in 2003. That tab was covered by a Russian defense firm and two Serbian brothers linked to Slobodan Milosevic, all clients of a consulting company run by Weldon’s daughter and close associate. A coincidence, we’re sure.