God bless the American journalist. Were it not for the assiduous sleuthing of Vanity Fair reporter Judy Bachrach and a few others, the US might have found itself sending a new president to the White House with evil on his arm.
The would-be commander-in-chief is Rudy Giuliani. However, it is not him we are concerned with here, it is his third wife, Judi Stish Ross Nathan Giuliani. She is the kind, we learn via recent media reports, who would make a blood sacrifice of a baby if the Gods of Greed and Social Advancement required it.
No, wait, it is Rudy we are interested in, because what kind of man would choose such a social striver, schemer and liar, to be his spouse - his third one, no less. Make that cad, given the circumstances of his affair with her back in 1999 when he was still mayor of New York City.
The stories this season are anything but soft. The baggage in Rudy's life is specifically of the Louis Vuitton variety, so precious to Judi that she demands it be given its own seat on her husband's plane.
There are poisonous tidbits aplenty in Bachrach's recent exhaustive - and slightly exhausting - hatchet piece on Mrs Giuliani. It is bitchy, snobby and sometimes just a little bit silly. Is it such a sin that the lady wore a tiara at her 2003 wedding to Rudy, on the lawn of Gotham's grand mayoral residence, Gracie Mansion, with Henry Kissinger among the guests? Tiaras have been worn by a million brides before, especially in royalty-starved America.
But Bachrach's article has the potential to ruin what has hitherto been a golden year for Rudy. It hardly helped when another hard-working reporter, this time at the online magazine Slate, last week revealed Giuliani's daughter Caroline, soon to begin her first year at Harvard, had listed membership of a Barack Obama fan group on her online Facebook page. It was enough to suggest that she doesn't care for her old man. Or, maybe it's her old man's wife she doesn't like.
To this point, Giuliani has confounded political pundits who assumed his lead in the polls among other Republican hopefuls would vanish when voters learned about his support while mayor for such touchy matters as gay marriage and a woman's right to choose. Too liberal on too many social issues, they said. Yet he still seems on track to win his party's nomination.
Giuliani remains immune because of 9/11. He has hero status for his handling of the New York attacks. But maybe it is the family stuff that will puncture that immunity.
Things started to go awry in March. First, the New York Times published a story about the children he had with the ditched second wife, Donna Hanover. Specifically, his son Andrew, the paper said, had made it clear that he would not be at his father's side on the campaign trail, because they were estranged. The reason was Judi. Neither Andrew, 21, nor Caroline, 17, could stand her. The Caroline Facebook flap will only cement that impression.
The entry was removed when the Slate story came out, and a spokesman said it was "not intended as an indication of support in a presidential campaign".
It was also in March that the Giuliani campaign began to tentatively introduce Judi to the American public, notably with a joint interview by Barbara Walters, the reigning monarch of celebrity-puffery on ABC TV.
The purpose was clear, to somehow liken the new wife to Laura Bush, who remains far more popular than her husband, and ensure that she became an asset to the candidate. But the candidate goofed, not just with his smooching of his recent bride on live TV, but by blithely suggesting that as president he would be happy to have her attend policy gatherings and meetings of his cabinet. Wha-aat, a former nurse and medical supplies salesperson with zero political experience conferring on Iraq?
Rudy's critics had a field day and before long it was obvious that the asset looked much like a liability.
Sightings of Mrs Giuliani on the campaign trail suddenly became fewer and further between. And then comes Bachrach.
Judi is a portrait of a humble girl from the mining town of Hazelton, Pennsylvania - Dad was a circulation manager at the Philadelphia Enquirer - who throughout her life has stopped at nothing to climb society's slippery rungs, including chasing in 1999 the then Mayor of New York. She is branded a liar, first because until recently no one seemed to know that she had had two previous husbands, rather than one.
There was a fellow called Stish, whom she met at the medical supplies outfit. She had tended only to speak of husband number two, Bruce Nathan whom she described as very rich. It's a pity then that he has popped up to deny any such thing, noting that he was a wallpaper salesman.
They divorced in 1993 after adopting a daughter. Mother and child moved to New York. She co-habited with a Greek boyfriend. They slept together on the couch and daughter in a bathroom.
Then in 1999, all her dreams came true, pursuing and landing Giuliani. Judi demanded that underlings of her husband at City Hall call her Judith - more socially acceptable. She became extravagant and haughty. She once told a fashion newspaper that shopping is not her thing, but apparently she splurges not on Vuitton but also Dolce & Gabbana and Prada.
She now takes a $125,000-a-year stipend to help Rudy write speeches. As for her social climbing, Nathan told a friend: "She is an ever-changing mode upward."
This hurts. We know, because The Times published another joint interview with the besieged couple. On the notion of dating Judi while he was still married to Ms Hanover, Giuliani remained mostly silent. (Hanover learned of her husband's dalliance with Judi and his decision to ditch her in May 2000 when he said so in a news conference, one year after the affair began.)
"There is a reason why she wore that tiara at her wedding," a former Giuliani aide told Bachrach. "She really does see herself as a princess. Not as a queen. Queen is her goal. Queen is who she wants to be."
Evil Queen and her palace, of course, would be the White House.
- THE INDEPENDENT