Author, Lecturer, Ethicist

Like Rats Boarding a Sinking Ship

                        Pliny the Elder (23-79 C.E,)

                        Pliny the Elder (23-79 C.E,)

(Many thanks to my oldest friend - and fellow Hollywood Brat - Alan Wald for planting the original seed which led to this essay.  Oftentimes I think it's you who should be writing these op-ed pieces, Alan . . .)


The old saw about "rats leaving a sinking ship" is at least as old as Shakespeare (The Tempest, Act I, Scene 2, p.7)  which was published in 1610, and perhaps as ancient as Pliny the Elder's Natural Historywhich first hit the libraries and bookstands 1,941 years ago. No matter its origin, the sentiment it expresses is both crystal-clear and obvious: even rats (in The Tempest it's mice) are wise enough to know when a ship is so imperiled that it necessitates immediate abandonment. This is its literal meaning.  Figuratively, the meaning is far more expansive; it need not refer to a literal ship, boat, canoe or kayak.  Rather, the fatally flawed "ship" can be a company, a cause . . . even a movement, a corporation, government or an administration.  And should there come a time when said movement, corporation, government or administration founders to such an extent that its every tomorrow is in dire peril, it's time to get up, get out and get off.  Makes perfect sense . . . no?

Now, for a rat, mouse or other obnoxious rodent to board that which Shakespeare's Prospero termed "a rotten carcass of a boat" would seem to be a clear indicator of senselessness, stupidity or utter insanity. And this, mind you, would be for a mus linnaeus or muridae. How's about when the creature abandoning the rotten carcass is a homo sapiens?  What name would it have?  How should it be called, its action understood? How's about Rudolphus Giulianius? For as sure as g-d made little green apples, in joining the Trump legal team at this precise point in time, Hizzoner, the former Mayor of New York City, has boarded the corrosive carcass of a sinking ship of state.  For whatever reason is anyone's guess. Perhaps Rudy was getting tired of opening up his daily Times or Post and not seeing his name or likeness on page one; perhaps he was suffering from Fox or NBC withdrawal.  Hey, once you've served as captain of a  world-class luxury liner, it's a real ego deflator to go back to being a lowly anonymous steward.  I kind of doubt Rudy jumped on board just for the sake of an outrageous legal fee; according to most sources, the former New York mayor is worth about $45 million, and owns homes in both Manhattan and Palm Beach.  (Then too, a month ago he and his about-to-become third ex-wife, Judith Nathan filed for divorce; the claws have come out . . . both want to know the other's net worth. Stay tuned for what promises to be a costly, contentious and headline-dominating court case.) Of course, if it's $$$ Rudy needs for future expenses, he's boarding the wrong ship; his new captain is notorious for not paying his legal bills.

If the first week or two offers any indication, Rudy Giuliani is giving his client unbelievably substandard legal advice; he is not serving him well. For the president's mouthpiece has contradicted his boss's on-the-record-in-front-of-the-camera statements and contentions about the entire Stormy Daniels affair.  At one point last week, Giuliani's statements became so lacking in credibility that '45 had to come out and chastise the newest member of the legal team, saying "Hey, he was just hired like yesterday . . . give him some slack."  Among other eye-popping statements, Giuliani proclaimed that '45 reimbursed his attorney Michael Cohen for a $130,000 payment to Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. Stormy Daniels) for silence about an affair which the president had previously denied on innumerable occasions. In an interview with Fox News just last week, Mayor Giuliani's prattling caused interviewer (and Michael Cohen client) Sean Hannity to become visibly embarrassed and uncomfortable. Giuliani - who in no way specializes in campaign finance law - asserted to Hannity that Trump repaid Cohen, dismissing concerns that the payment to Daniels violated campaign finance law. "That money was not campaign money, sorry," Giuliani said. "I'm giving you a fact now that you don't know. It's not campaign money. No campaign finance violation."

This past Saturday night, Giuliani returned to Fox News, this time with on the  9:00 p.m. "Justice With Judge Jeanine" program, purportedly one of the president's favorites. 

Giuliani began by admiting to Judge Jeanine that he was returning to national TV even though he is still not fully versed with the facts of the Stormy Daniels case or any other of Trump’s legal issues. “The facts I’m still learning… I’ve been on the case two weeks… I’m not an expert on the facts yet. I’m getting there,” Giuliani said.

It showed.

In an interview that lasted less than 8 minutes, he made several significant errors.

While once again addressing  the $130,000 hush money payment made by the president's attorney to Stormy Daniels, Judge Jeanine mentioned that if the money was intended to influence the campaign, it could violate federal law. The president's lawyer told Judge Pirro that the donation would be legal “even if it was a campaign donation.” According to Giuliani, it was legal as a campaign donation because “the president reimbursed it fully.”

This, however, is likely false. While candidates can donate unlimited money to their own campaigns, all campaign donations, and loans, must be reported to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The failure to report the donation is a violation of federal law. The Stormy Daniels payment has never been reported to the FEC by the Trump campaign. If it was a campaign expense the president broke the law.

Chillingly, Giuliani has repeatedly brought up the possibility that the donation was intended to influence the campaign. “Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton…Cohen made it go away. He did his job,” Giuliani said on Fox & Friends on Thursday morning.

And on and on and on . . .

I for one find it incomprehensible that a once-savvy federal prosecutor/presidential aspirant would climb aboard a sinking ship . . . and then offer directions and advise which could easily cause the ship to sink even faster with greater loss of life, limb and property.

Even a rat is smarter than that . . .

Copyright©2018 Kurt F. Stone