There’s Rick. And there’s Rudy. Rick is 69. Rudy’s 75. Rick grew up in Paint Creek, a small Texas community about an hour north of Abilene. Rudy is originally from East Flatbush, a larger Brooklyn community that’s even farther from Abilene.
Rick’s dad served 30 years as a Haskell County commissioner. Rudy’s dad served a shorter term in Sing Sing as a convicted robber.
Somehow, Rick and Rudy communicate without a translator. And somehow, despite the defining differences, their diverse political paths crossed in a way that made them a political odd couple with enough in common to create a lasting bond.
Now, Rick Perry, ex-governor of Texas, and Rudy Giuliani, ex-mayor of New York City, are coupled in political intrigue that could bring down a man who did something neither Perry nor Giuliani were able to accomplish: become president of the United States of America.
Perry is in his final days as President Donald Trump’s energy secretary. For a long time, as other Cabinet members and Trump aides came and went under a variety of clouds and amid varying levels of clamor, it looked like Perry was destined to survive relatively unscathed.
But then, on July 25, Trump made a long-distance call to Kyiv to talk with Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the new president of Ukraine, a troubled, embattled nation that is a U.S. ally and with which Perry has been involved on important energy issues.
Meanwhile, it turned out that Giuliani, in addition to being Trump’s personal lawyer, had become Trump’s unappointed, unofficial ambassador to Ukraine. The rest now is as-seen-on-TV history playing out in U.S. House hearings.
That Rick and Rudy now are linked via a faraway nation that’s become synonymous (at least in Democrats’ minds) with scandal, is somehow cosmic karma. But their ties to each other go back awhile.
In October 2007, when Giuliani was among the early front-runners (really) for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, Perry surprised some by endorsing the former NYC mayor. Perry campaigned with and for him in several early-contest states.
The little-remembered Giuliani campaign crashed to a halt after he finished a distant third (behind John McCain and Mitt Romney) in January 2008 in the Florida GOP primary in which Giuliani had put all his campaign eggs. But prior to that early end to Giuliani’s campaign, Perry had proclaimed him the best man for our nation at that time.
“When New York was attacked by Islamic terrorists, we saw Giuliani at his best,” Perry said in endorsing Giuliani. “I know in my heart that this is the right man, the right individual with the experience, the leadership and the trust, the qualities we are looking for as we go into the 21st century.”
I had caught up with Perry in Iowa City in November 2007 as he tried to slalom the difficult course of being a Texan trying to persuade Midwesterners to vote for a guy from New York. Perry praised Giuliani as someone who’d appoint “strict constructionist judges” and who, as a “culture warrior,” had cleaned up New York. That was part of Perry’s stock answer when reporters and others pointed out how he and Giuliani differed on core issues such as gun and abortion rights.
At times, Perry’s campaigning for Giuliani seemed to do more good for Rick than Rudy. This newspaper ran a 2007 letter to the editor from Craig Nelson of Ely, Iowa, who wanted the people of Austin to know “I hosted the Rudy Giuliani house party Dec. 6, which Gov. Rick Perry, in a blizzard, no less, was gracious enough to attend. We love Perry. After he left, the consensus was they wanted HIM to run for president!”
And there was this back then from Harold Barnes, then the co-chairman of Iowa’s Linn County GOP: “Wow, Mr. Perry is really positioning himself for something else down the line. He looks like a pretty good president to me.”
In September 2009, as Perry sought reelection as governor with U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison challenging him for the 2010 GOP nomination, Giuliani came to Texas for a two-day tour with Perry. It was another opportunity for journalists and others to point out their differences on policy and other things.
“One has a great head of hair,” I wrote back then, “the other also has a head.”
Despite the differences, the two remained a political couple, though Giuliani didn’t endorse Perry in 2012 or 2016. To be fair, those Perry presidential campaigns didn’t last long enough to pick up many endorsements.
Both longtime politicians now are under scrutiny for their Trump-related roles in Ukraine. Most recently, my newspaper ran this front-page headline, “Perry backers secure Ukraine gas deal,” above an Associated Press story that said two Perry political backers, including one he’d appointed to the University of Texas System Board of Regents, had secured what AP called “a potentially lucrative oil and gas exploration deal from the Ukrainian government soon after Perry proposed one of the men as an adviser to the country’s new president.”
In May of this year, Perry, a late sub for Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, led the U.S. delegation at Zelenskiy’s inauguration in Kyiv.
There’s also this Rick and Rudy linkage, albeit perhaps an arms-length one: In 2007, the Texas law firm then called Bracewell & Giuliani represented the Spanish firm Cintra in negotiations with the state for the operation of a privately owned portion of a Dallas-area toll road that was to be part of Perry’s ambitious, but doomed, Trans-Texas Corridor program.
“The award to Cintra, approved by the Texas Transportation Commission, is the first privatization of a Texas toll road,” the law firm that bore Giuliani’s name said in a March 2007 announcement that called it “the largest transportation deal of 2007.”
The commission is made up of gubernatorial appointees.
Three firms had competed for the contract for the project. Cintra agreed to pay $2.8 billion in a 50-year agreement to finish building the road, maintain it and collect the tolls. The deal fell apart in 2007 when the North Texas Tollway Authority complained it unfairly had been prevented from bidding on the contract.
State lawmakers, concerned that Cintra got too good of a deal, weighed in and pressured the Texas Department of Transportation to let the North Texas Tollway Authority bid on the project. The road, known as the Sam Rayburn Tollway, now is part of the North Texas Tollway Authority, which paid $3.2 billion for a 52-year lease to operate it.
Bracewell & Giuliani also was involved when Cintra became the original owner of the 41-mile southern portion of the Texas 130 toll road in Central Texas that opened in 2013. In 2017, after a year in bankruptcy, the company emerged under new management and ownership.
Giuliani, who had joined the Houston-based law firm in 2005, left it in 2016.
Today, Perry and Giuliani are waiting with the rest of us to see where the impeachment inquiry goes. They’re linked again, this time on the world stage as Congress moves forward on possible removal of the president who reunited Rick and Rudy for this possible last chapter in an odd relationship.
Rick’s from West Texas. Rudy’s from New York City. Somehow, their improbable crossing paths have crossed again, even more improbably in Ukraine.
And as a result of the most improbable of presidents.