News commentators are questioning the sanity of Trump's latest member of his legal team – New York's former mayor. “There's something off about Rudy Giuliani these days” declared Washington Post's Eugene Robinson. And politico's Brooks Kraft asked, “Is Giuliani losing his mind?" Such doubting arose last week when he went on the air to defend Trump and ended up putting him in further legal jeopardy.

Memory lapse

How quickly the past is forgotten. Doesn't anyone in the news remember Giuliani's years as mayor? At least in one instance, he was as much out of control as he is now.

I'm thinking of his threats to shut down the Brooklyn Museum because he didn't like one of the exhibits. I didn't like it, either; but Giuliani had the power to do harm. Allow me to recount the story. The year was 1999 and the exhibit was called “Sensation” an import from England. You could tell how problematic it was by the exhibit's warning labels: "It may cause shock, vomiting, confusion, panic."

Shock art

I admit to nausea on seeing Damien Hirst's display of two dead pigs cut in half floating in formaldehyde titled “This Little Pig Went To Market, This Little Pig Stayed Home.” Queasiness also set in on seeing Chris Ofili painting “Virgin Mary” depicting the Madonna surrounded by actual elephant dung and photos of female sex organs.

Giuliani focused on Ofili's work and it's not certain whether he objected to seeing Mary as a black woman, the genitalia or the animal waste. Anyway, you get the idea. The Brooklyn Museum show was rough.

Lost perspective

Giuliani's reason for threatening the museum was suspect. Arnold Lehman, the then director, had given him a heads-up about the show and got no objection.

When the mayor began his harangues about cutting city funding, it seemed to come out of nowhere. By the sound of him, you'd have thought the world was ending if he didn't take action. Never mind that Brooklyn Museum holds some 1.5 million artworks spanning 3,000 years, from antiquities to 20th-century American art. Locking out visitors over one exhibit was plainly crazy.

His switch of stance may have had less do with the show and more to do with his intention to run against Hillary Clinton for the Senate. Art made an easy target.

The past is prologue

But Giuliani also had precedent for his threats against Brooklyn Museum. Ten years earlier, photographer Andre Serrano's “Piss Christ,” an image of a crucifix in a jar of urine, fired up Congress to ban NEA grants to artists believed to be anti-Christian. That single photograph also got the agency's funding cut by 40 percent. There were even threats to shut the agency down. Again, art was an easy target. There was an even earlier precedent for pols to curtail artistic freedom. In the 1930s, Hitler argued that governments should decide what art should be seen. How quickly the past is forgotten.