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The cellphone call that keeps echoing

October 2, 2007 |  6:02 pm

It's official.

Rudy Giuliani's cellphone chat with his wife during the middle of a recent speech to the National Rifle Assn. is duly added to our roster of candidate-gaffes-that-linger. It joins John Edwards' infamous $400 haircut, Mitt Romney's ill-considered comment about none of his five sons having served in the military and virtually any of Bill Richardson's early debate performances.

Giuliani's decision to take the call as he sought to mend fences with the NRA sparked sidebars at the time. It remained a topic of conversation, enough so that the Christian Broadcast Network's David Brody made a point of asking Giuliani about it during an extensive interview late last week.

As with almost every answer Giuliani gives as a presidential candidate, he worked 9/11 into his response. And, despite much speculation that the telephonic encounter was staged, he insisted: "It was quite an honest act."

Be that as it may, it continues to be widely viewed as a rude act. Today, the Wall Street Journal's John Fund not only lashes Giuliani over the incident, he reports that "those in a position to know" estimate that the former New York mayor "has taken such calls more than 40 times in the middle of speeches, conferences and presentations to large donors."

Fund goes on: "Giuliani staffers say he has been warned over and over again that the phone calls are rude and inappropriate and have alienated everyone from local officials to top donors to close friends."

As Fund notes, a wide-ranging poll conducted last week by Fox News/Opinion Dynamics asked whether a candidate should interrupt a speech to take a call from a spouse or ignore the ring tones. In this age of fierce polarization and a closely divided electorate, the pollsters hit upon some common ground: Fully 81% said let the mate deal with voice mail (9% said answer it).

Politicians like to declare they are not "poll-driven." Perhaps this is one case where Giuliani would be wise to heed the numbers. Either that or get a cellphone with more problematic reception.

-- Don Frederick

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