Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Rudy The Enigma

Only Hillary Clinton is more hyperanalyzed as a politician than Rudy Giuliani. It irks and confuses the talking heads and pundits that given his record on social issues, three divorces, and Northeast roots he continues to lead in the Republican field. The analysis is almost always absurd and from time to time, as I have pointed out, it is nothing more than a hatchet job. Once in a while the analysis is excellent like this piece by Tom Bevan and this one by Michael Barone, but most is nonsensical garbage. Speaking of garbage we have this piece from the Politico entitled, Right Fears Giuliani with Good Reason. Make no mistake, there are plenty of nervous folks on the right in lieu of a Giuliani candidacy, and many of those fears are addressed in the article, even so the article is no less garbage.

The punditry could never understand Rudy's appeal among Republicans. I remember Dick Morris professing in March that Rudy was only leading because his stances on the social issues hadn't yet been made public. I found this to be a peculiar statement then given Rudy's star power and celebrity. It turned out to be one of Morris' worst predictions because Rudy continues to lead seven months later despite all of the supposed baggage. Now, either people still don't know about his divorces and socially liberal stances or they just don't care as much as the punditry thinks or wants them to care.

As his candidacy went from pipe dream to reality, the analysis shifted. Now, most of the pundits wonder what his candidacy will do to the party. The real answer is no one knows. For instance, George Bush running as a compassionate conservative did nothing to the party. On the other hand, when compassionate turned into big government programs, that turned off much of the fiscal conservative base. The same goes with Rudy. His stances on abortion and gay marriage are not the issue. His policies will be.

If Rudy chooses liberal judges a la Ruth Ginsberg and promotes a legislative agenda that is friendly to Planned Parenthood, then that would tear the party apart. On the other hand, if Giuliani picks strict constructionist judges, like he has promised ad nauseum, and focuses his agenda on lower taxes, crime fighting and the GWOT, then the party will be fine. So, while the pundits and talking heads choose to focus on the liberal end of his personality, Rudy has chosen to focus on the Conservative things he wants to accomplish. Here are Rudy's 12 commitments.

I will keep America on offense in the Terrorists’ War on Us.

I will end illegal immigration, secure our borders, and identify every non-citizen in our nation.

I will restore fiscal discipline and cut wasteful Washington spending.

I will impose accountability on Washington.

I will lead America towards energy independence.

I will give Americans more control over, and access to, healthcare with affordable and portable free-market solutions.

I will increase adoptions, decrease abortions, and protect the quality of life for our children.

I will reform the legal system and appoint strict constructionist judges.

I will provide access to a quality education to every child in America by giving real school choice to parents.

I will expand America’s involvement in the global economy and strengthen our reputation around the world.

Granted some of these are vague, however, nowhere in any of these commitments is anything that would turn off any SoCon or Conservative of any stripe. Thus, if Rudy, as he always does, sticks to accomplishing these narrow set of goals, the Republican Party will not only survive a Giuliani Presidency but thrive as a result of it.

Politico, on the other hand, has decided to pre empt any policy initiatives and moves immediately to a political civil war. I pick it up here.

Others take a longer view. If Giuliani wins the nomination and the presidency, it will be very difficult for him not to dilute the Republican Party’s anti-abortion image, even if he does not intend to.

For starters, the media will portray a Giuliani win as a victory for the right to choose and the final defeat of the religious right. The GOP is filled with politicians who oppose abortion only because it is the path of least resistance. President Giuliani would alleviate the pressure. Republicans who aspire to the presidency have always been well-advised to become anti-abortion. A Giuliani defeat of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would advertise that such conversions are no longer required.

A Republican office seeker will be able to offer less to anti-abortion voters. If anti-abortion activists complain, the candidate can always point to President Giuliani. Giuliani would also make it more difficult for Republicans to bring up social issues in future elections.

There is so much wrong with this analysis that I don't know where to begin. First, the Republican base has about as much use for the narrative of the MSM as Brittney Spears has for twelve step programs. While the rest of the country long ago convinced itself that Iraq was lost, poll after poll had the Republican base supporting the war fairly overwhelmingly. Second, Rudy is a unique politician the likes of which this country may never see again. He may very well be able to run as a socially liberal Republican and win but that will not necessarily make it the conventional wisdom.

There is no doubt that SoCons will take a hit if Rudy wins. So what. This won't be the first time a niche group took a hit. How come sports teams everywhere can take embarrassing losses and come back to fight another day, while political movements see doom every time they lose? If the SoCons want to stay relevant in the Republican Party then their best option is to find a quality candidate that fits their ideals to run in upcoming elections.

The smear job on Rudy continues with this.

A Giuliani nomination would be revealing in two ways. First, it would show
where social conservatives’ concerns really sit on the Republican agenda.
Economic conservatives haven’t allowed election-year concessions to allay their
concerns about Arizona Sen. John McCain or former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s fiscal records.

Does the religious right care about abortion less than economic conservatives care about campaign finance reform or Arkansas’ gas tax?

It will also reveal whether those who speak on behalf of “values voters” know what they are talking about. Giuliani has previously donated money to Planned Parenthood, praised Margaret Sanger and advocated taxpayer-funded abortion. He remains in support of abortion rights and in favor of domestic partnerships.

If he can still attract the values vote with this record, almost any Republican can.

The Politico sees the SoCons as this monolithic group that uses abortion as a litmus test. They aren't and abortion is NOT a litmus test for all of them. Besides the issue of abortion, there is plenty for SoCons to get excited about with a Rudy nomination. He cleaned up the streets of New York City and made them safe for families again. Politico may not realize that too is important to SoCons, but it is. He stood up when an artist attempted to display a sacreligious painting in a New York public exhibit. Abortions decreased and adoptions increased while he was mayor as well. None of these things are lost on SoCons anymore than his well publicized stance on abortion. Yet, they are never mentioned when discussing his candidacy or his effect on the party.

As Power Line once astutely pointed out vis a vis SoCons

It's possible that a group of social conservatives could support a fringe third-party candidate--Gary Bauer, say, as the nominee of the Constitution Party--and it's certain that a few social conservatives would stay home if the Republicans nominate Giuliani or, perhaps, Romney or McCain. That number would be about equal, in my opinion, to the number of anti-war zealots who would stay home rather than vote for Hillary Clinton.

Contrary to the assumption of many liberals, religious conservatives (a group in which I include myself) are not stupid. As President, Rudy Giuliani would nominate judges who will support rather than usurp the Constitution. That's the only significant role the President plays with respect to social issues. James Dobson et al. wish that they controlled the Republican Party, and Salon wishes they controlled it, too. But they don't.

Politico not only misreads Rudy's candidacy but the motives of the SoCons as well as primary politics in general.

Their anti-Giuliani campaign has already yielded one practical result: It has forced the Republican front-runner further to the right on social issues than ever seemed likely. Giuliani has gone from supporting taxpayer-funded abortion to pledging to veto attempts to weaken the Hyde Amendment. He has gone from opposing a “partial-birth” abortion ban to being in favor of one. He has gone from outspokenly opposing a constitutional amendment to block same-sex marriage to saying he would consider one if the courts interfere with the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

This is wrong on so many levels. First, SoCons like every other niche group has as its only goal to convince everyone else to see the world the way they do. They aren't happy just to see a candidate pay homage to them on a couple issues but rather to see a candidate that agrees with them on their core. The far left is not happy merely seeing Hillary Clinton backing off sanctions with Iran. They want promises that the war will end the day she is inaugurated. None of these groups are playing to win sometimes, but all the time.

Second, it is a well established fact that all candidates on each side, run to the edges in the primaries and in the middle in the general election. Politico is acting as though Rudy taking on some new Conservative ideals is somehow different than any Presidential candidate appealing to the so called base during the primaries.

Finally, I should mention that Politico slipped in that dig about Rudy contributing to Planned Parenthood. There is absolutely no analytical value in that fact and Politico knows it. They could only hope to create the sort of negative visceral reaction that such a thing would cause with many card carrying members of the party. Planned Parenthood is a long time adversary of most Republicans and Politico plays on that. It won't work. Anyone who decides to vote against Rudy simply based on that knowledge was never going to vote for him in the first place.

What strikes me about this analysis as well as most vis a vis Rudy is what they all miss: leadership and effectiveness. Those are the reasons that I am supporting him and the reasons that many others are. People seem to have a lot of trouble understanding his candidacy when really it is very simple. Presidents need to most of all be leaders and be effective and in this race on those two fronts, one candidate stands out.


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