Giuliani Blog Tracking the likely Presidential candidacy of Rudy Giuliani

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Deconstructing Bevan's Giuliani Critique

Kudos to Tom Bevan for rising above the trite "guns, God, and gays" analysis, and attacking some of the real issues on which '08 will be decided. It will come as no surprise that I don't agree with the majority of what Bevan writes in this piece questioning Giuliani's credentials on immigration, the First Amendment, and judges, but at least he's asking the right questions.

This blog (as well as RCP's Ryan Sager) has approached the '08 campaign as McCain vs. Giuliani, and Bevan's piece is a critical look at Rudy's positions on the same issues on which McCain has badly alienated the base. Is Giuliani really better on the issues?

Let's start with immigration:

While McCain has taken heat for his support of comprehensive immigration reform, Rudy is every bit as pro-immigration as McCain - if not more so. On the O'Reilly Factor last week Giuliani argued for a "practical approach" to immigration and cited his efforts as Mayor of New York City to "regularize" illegal immigrants by providing them with access to city services like public education to "make their lives reasonable." Giuliani did say that "a tremendous amount of money should be put into the physical security" needed to stop the flow of illegal immigrants coming across the border, but his overall position on immigration is essentially indistinguishable from McCain's.
That's not quite the takeaway I got from the O'Reilly appearance. Though far from ideal, it sounded to me like Giuliani was starting to pivot to an enforcement-first position on that show. As Giuliani explained it, the Federal government was failing to enforce its own immigration laws, and without the authority to deport illegals, New York City was in a bit of a bind. Because the Clinton Administration did very little by way of deportations, it was up to the city government to ensure their children had access to the schools and basic health care. (Denying public services, FWIW, is the least popular point in the enforcement-only agenda.) Presumably, Giuliani as Commander-in-Chief would be able take a more active role in stemming the flow of illegals, applying the same crime-fighting techniques he used in New York to securing the border.

Bevan takes on the First Amendment next, and it's here that his argument falls a bit flat, trying to link the Brooklyn Museum and the liberal attack on Rudy as an authoritarian in with campaign finance reform. These are very separate issues, and arguably they help Rudy with conservatives.

There are few issues that get social conservatives more riled up than indecency in the public square. In standing up to the filth at the Brooklyn Museum -- and tapping into his overall image as the guy who cleaned up New York (and Times Square smut), Rudy can be cast as a defender of traditional values.

Conservative anger at John McCain is focused on campaign finance reform. Conservatives were angry that CFR would 1) de-fund conservative groups -- and now the 527s ready to pounce on McCain in the primaries, and 2) empower the MSM, reducing the importance of "paid media" relative to the constant drone of liberal "free media." It's no tribute to McCain's dogged efforts to centrally plan our future to point out that McCain-Feingold has utterly failed in its objective of reducing the importance of money and influence-peddling in politics. Unless Rudy comes out for some new form of CFR, expect this to continue being a big McCain liability.

Finally, on judges, Bevan asks how we know that Rudy can be trusted to nominate better judges than McCain:
Conservatives often cite McCain's leadership role in the Gang of 14 as one of the reasons they find him objectionable. Indeed, nominating solidly conservative judges is among one of the most dearly held values of conservative Republicans. We can only speculate as to how Giuliani would have voted were he in the Senate, or whom he would nominate as president. But he's given no indication that he would be any better than McCain on the issue of judges, and you could argue quite convincingly that Giuliani's background and ideological make up would lead him to be much less stringent (and therefore in the eyes of conservatives, much worse) in appointing strict conservative judges to the bench.
To my mind, the Gang of 14 is the tip of the iceberg. The judges issue is important to conservatives not just because of the Judiciary's vast influence over social issues, but every issue, from private property to the Pledge to campaign finance to military tribunals. (The courts are the ultimate gateway issue in the conservative world.) Would McCain be apt to nominate judges who would undo his signature pieces of legislation, namely McCain-Feingold and the vaunted "torture" amendment?

I agree with Tom that this is the biggest unanswered question about a Rudy candidacy. I can only suggest that Giuliani's vast experience in the judicial system, along with his penchant for executive authority, would make him naturally tend towards judicial restraint -- without (and before) having to "modify" any of his positions.

Ultimately, though, the key to Rudy's appeal is this:
The first is that he is strikingly charismatic and flat out likeable. Where McCain often rubs conservatives the wrong way with a sanctimonious, holier-than-thou attitude, Giuliani comes across as a very attractive, approachable, down-to-earth personality. In the contest of who you'd rather have a beer with, Giuliani would win in a landslide over McCain - and the rest of the GOP field.
Voters value attributes more highly than issues at the ballot box, and this may be Rudy's saving grace. But this brings home why Giuliani could be expected to prevail against McCain even without changing many of his positions. If both men are roughly as objectionable to primary voters on the issues, personality could well be the tie-breaker.

Rudy doesn't have to run as a conservative to beat John McCain -- he could probably do that with one hand tied behind his back. He needs to run as a conservative to beat George Allen, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee, who will ultimately be a bigger threat to Rudy to coming down the stretch.

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At 11:28 PM, Blogger Gary Matthew Miller said...


Glad to see you tackling Bevan's piece head on. I have to admit, it raised more questions in my mind but you do a good job dealing with his arguments.

At 3:21 AM, Blogger Alteris said...

The whole civil liberties argument against Rudy is the one that gets my interest personally, particularily as one who has a fair deal of identification with the same libertarian camp that takes offense to Rudy's actions. With regards to his approach to crime, the liberals need only look to their own F.D.R. To prevent the appeal of nationalist dictatorships in the depression, he understood that he needed to steal enough of their thunder by populist appeals to bring the threat down and preserve liberty for better times. Rudy is not much different - who would be free in a city marred by constant racial tensions between tightly knit groups as exist in New York City. The city is better able to enjoy its liberties today, precisely because Rudy used a little bit of that "general welfare" to crush criminal threats to it that were nurtured by the incompetence of the previous Democratic mayor.

And on the Brooklyn museum row and the porn shops, it is pretty self explanatory that common American cultural values don't get along with colorful immorality. He'll gain big if anyone dares to trumpet those at him. As to the validity of their argument, it appears that Rudy simply believed that chasing away a few controversial and rather unsightly pictures would provide such a significant positive for the city and its people that it was worth it. I don't know if I'd have done it the same way were I in his position, but the matter is really insigificant to me at best.

Like others have mentioned, the social issues or civil liberties debates won't matter if you are dead at the hands of jihadists. We simply have to continue to have faith in the American people to maintain a liberal democratic government that will refuse the temptation to turn the practical and measured common-security initiatives of leaders such as Rudy into institutionalized fascism/socialism/whathaveyou. All leaders necessarily have to make them (heck, the fact that the government even exists is evidence of them), so I don't know why people run on Rudy so heavily. Maybe the image of a tough police force reminds them of Nazis or something.

At 7:16 AM, Blogger Will said...

We also like his energy policies and have written a summary of his ideas at the Rudy Giuliani's Energy Strategy page on our blog.


At 1:11 PM, Blogger PHS1 said...

For RudyBlogger and Ryan Sager:

I am a conservative who has worked as a Republican staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives. But, ideological differences aside, I am very serious about potentially supporting Rudy Giuliani for President in 2008 due to his fidelity to principles, toughness, executive experience, record of results, organizational skills, and work ethic - qualities I think our nation is desperate for in a chief executive and commander in chief. My choice, and it is one that I would like to manifest by actually working for the campaign, almost certainly comes down to Mayor Giuliani or Governor Romney. At this point, Mayor Giuliani leads with me.

The nightmare scenario for me as a potential Giuliani supporter is one that should be remembered by many but has not been addressed (as far as I know) by any. In 1995, as he was embarking on the book tour for his autobiography and considering a run for the presidency as a Republican in the wake of very impressive national polling numbers, General Colin Powell was confronted by the reality of a Washington, D.C. press conference in which highly visible and respected conservatives Gary Bauer, David Keene, Grover Norquist, and Paul Weyrich denounced his potential candidacy and excoriated his ideology on issues like abortion, affirmative action, gun control, and prayer in school. This preemptive strike of a press conference for all intents and purposes ended any Powell campaign by effectively making him persona non grata among conservatives.

My guess is that the Powell polling numbers back in 1995 looked eerily similar to the Giuliani poll numbers now - showing strength across a broad spectrum of Republican, independent, and Democrat voters. But to win the nomination a Republican candidate must succeed in early caucus and primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina - which simply cannot be done facing the ire and organized opposition of the established beltway conservative community - before being able to tap into any reservoir of more general national support.

Tom Bevan's Real Clear Politics analysis of a Giuliani candidacy from August 10, Kate O'Beirne's August 7 National Review issue cover story of the same, and Richard Brookhiser's August 7 New York Observer follow-up article on O'Beirne's piece all seemingly reflect a similarly simmering subsurface conservative skepticism over Giuliani's foundational ideological moorings. And their reproaches are mild compared to the kind of frontal attack that Powell faced that is clearly a potential for Giuliani as well.

So the question remains whether and how Giuliani can diffuse or preempt such an assault? Because I think the assumption has to be that such an assault is unlikely to be recovered from. And I think that it is naive in the extreme to think that conservatives would fail to produce a similar event for Giuliani as they did for Powell absent the former placating them to some extent on abortion (especially partial birth), affirmative action, gay rights and marriage, gun control, immigration reform, and judicial nominations.

Just for starters, if the Mayor has not contemplated such preemption to the inevitable conservative inquisition that will occur should his popularity and interest in pursuing a campaign continue, he is being ill-served and under-prepared.

At 10:39 PM, Blogger RudyBlogger said...


Yours is probably the most insightful comment ever made on this blog, and one of the most insightful I've seen on any blog.

I've also thought about the parallels between Powell and Giuliani. I'll outline the reasons why the case against Giuliani is less persuasive than it was against Powell, but I agree that if the Mayor doesn't prepare for the (inevitable) onslaught, he won't be the nominee.

First, what makes Giuliani different? Well, for one thing, Colin Powell was a complete newcomer to politics and an unknown quantity. His proto-candidacy also came at a time when there was intense pressure on the party to moderate its positions on social issues to reach the soccer moms, and there is little doubt that Powell would have run as a "big tent" Republican. Though wildly popular across all segments of the population, he wasn't particularly popular with conservatives to begin with. In that sense, his position might be more analogous to that of John McCain.

A Rudy candidacy comes amid the new understanding that it isn't political death to be pro-life. In fact, pro-life candidates have won five of the last seven presidential elections.

Though he can't go pro-life, he will certainly adopt a tone that is respectful of social conservatives, and show no daylight between himself and President Bush on judges (the gateway issue) and marriage.

Fear of McCain would also make such a move self-defeating, unless McCain had already been dispatched. Many conservatives are depending on Rudy to help keep the McCain threat at bay. Why would conservative leaders blow it up with a move like this?

Finally, the influence of these D.C. conservative grasstips leaders has waned as of late. In 1995, it was possible to put together a press conference to speak for "the conservative movement." In 2006, the equivalent is the blogosphere, and unless they agree en masse to swarm against Rudy, the appeals of the grasstips will likely fall on deaf ears.

This isn't to say that the threat of what you describe is serious and needs to be addressed. If Rudy doesn't come to terms with running as a conservative, the new media will swarm against him, and it will be more lethal than a few graybeards in a hotel ballroom.

If you're still around, let's continue this via email. rudy blogger at g mail dot com.

At 6:44 PM, Blogger Jeremy said...

I'm originally from Arizona, but living in Israel at the moment (since 2004). Part of me is inclined to support McCain because of my Arizona roots, but I don't see much inspirational in John McCain. Does he have integrity? Yes. Does he have leadership qualities? You bet.

As a Republican, I wouldn't make a choice for one or the other based on their conservative credentials. After all, what does conservative really mean today? It used to mean small government - I'm talking about Barry Goldwater-style, "A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away," sort of conservatism.

Now, it means campaign finance reform is opposed? I'm pro-life, but if you ask me whether abortion should be banned by law, the Conservative Federalist in me says let the states decide. As for Rudy "gettin' religion" - let him keep his integrity. There's more to American politics than "evangelese".

In any case, it should be about what's best - who's best - for the United States of America.

Look, Rudy Giuliani has the qualifications for a national leader, a president, that no other candidate, Republican, Democrat, independent or in-between has. Rancor can only be that which comes from further McCain-Giuliani comparisons.

Way too much - way too freaking much - focus is on whether Rudy's conservative enough, or not, or whatever. You can be a left-wing conservative, or right-wing liberal - what matters is flexibility, mixed with steadiness thrown into the mix.

Rudy Giuliani is about the only truly inspirational leader out there, who has gotten results in New York, who saw not only the city but the country through 9/11 and who certainly would've handled Hurricane Katrina better than it was handled.

Bear Down Arizona - but Bear Down Rudy, too. Show 'em who's who.

Maybe pushing Rudy to be goin' independent like Lieberman would make a difference. It seems to be doing so for Joe, according to the polls.

America could do for some change like this...and it would allow Rudy to be himself, instead of constantly being compared to John McCain or others in the race for a party nomination. What matters is getting Rudy Giuliani into the Big Race in 2008, because America not only deserves but needs him in it.

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