Rudy on Financial Ties to Hugo Chavez: Ha!

So Rudy Giuliani survived his Meet the Press interrogation Sunday. Moderator Tim Russert needled all the mayor’s tender spots: Giuliani’s hiring of Bernie Kerik as police commissioner, ties between Giuliani’s firm and Qatar, his decision to assign a security detail to protect Judith Nathan when they started dating in 2000. But Rudy weathered the barrage with a defense mechanism reminiscent of Hillary’s Sunday media blitz a few months ago: laughing.

At one point during the hourlong interview, Russert pointed out that Giuliani’s firm has represented Venezuelan-owned oil company Citgo and asked why he would work for a company tied to Hugo Chavez. Giuliani practically broke down giggling. “That’s a stretch,” he said, before clapping his hands and chuckling some more. Russert continued, “These are all accusations being made in a very serious way …” “They’re not serious,” Giuliani said, grinning. (Watch the exchange here , around the five-minute mark. Transcript here .)

Rudy’s laughter doesn’t quite match the enthusiasm of Hillary’s notorious ” cackle ,” but it’s still telling. TNR ’s Michael Crowley has a piece on Giuliani’s comedian persona, in which he notes a determination to replace the “nasty man” image with the “sunnier side of Rudy.” But somehow the cheeriness manages to appear during uncomfortable moments, making them even more so. Russert pushed Rudy hard on his firm’s oil ties, as if to stoke the mayor’s legendary temper. It’s not a funny question. But laughter was his only option. It didn’t diffuse the question entirely, a la Huckabee on Jesus . But you’re a lot better off with YouTube videos that show you laughing than screaming.