When Rudy Giuliani makes his exit any second now, it's going to be a sad event not because he didn't win, but because he didn't leave us with a good story. He had created this larger-than-life persona of a big-shouldered brawler who would find a way to beat you--which is the only reason that we believed there could be a big surprise waiting in Florida, even if every analyst and common sense said something very different.
So when he limps out of the race without so much as a highlight reel moment, it's a little like a latter-year Ali when he'd climb in the ring and we'd be waiting for a shuffle or a rope-a-dope or something that took us back on that thrill-ride, but it never came. It's like if Michael Jordan had come back to the Bulls after a baseball break and never gotten off the bench. It's just not the way we want to see the big guy go out. Maybe it's part of our entertaiment-driven culture, but we like (and expect) a big finish.
It's just different this time. John Edwards made his departure today, and that's less sad than inevitable. When Fred Thompson dropped out, it seemed like even he was relieved. But for those guys and others, there's a positive aspect to their candidacy--they grabbed a moment in the political spotlight and it only enhances their resume. Edwards rid himself of the bad taste leftover from being the lower half of the Kerry ticket, and Thompson added some gravitas that will make him a sought-after speaker who didn't just talk law and order on a TV show.
But Rudy--he brought the spotlight with him. And all it did was cast a shadow. He may be the only person from the race who leaves it worse-off for the experience, and that's too bad. I think he liked being that fearsome force waiting in the wings to be reckoned with. To be honest, I don't know that he deserved better. But I kind of think we did.