Rudy on the Left, Rudy on the Right

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"America’s mayor," Rudy Giuliani, seems to draw large crowds and generous press coverage wherever he goes. In New Hampshire, he recently wowed an annual gathering of the Republican State Committee in Manchester and was a Page One story (with two front page photos) in the next day’s New Hampshire Sunday News. His schedule did not permit the hero of 9-11 to walk on the Merrimack River, but he did effect at least one miraculous healing during his brief visit to the first primary state. The party’s state chairman, who barely a month before had announced he was stepping down for health reasons, was suddenly well enough to take a full-time position with the Giuliani campaign. Yes, Rudy is a man of many talents. As President Bush might say, "Don’t misunderestimate him."

Giuliani is challenging the conventional wisdom about Republican conventions, namely that a party full of "Reagan Republicans" will not nominate for president someone who is a strong supporter of abortion "rights," civil unions for same-sex couples and gun control. And a number of the guiding lights of conservative punditry seem to find Giuliani’s case at least persuasive, if not compelling. As Glenn Greenwald noted in an article that appeared on LewRockwell.com, TV and radio talk show host Sean Hannity recently conducted a "highly amicable interview" with the former New York mayor. And the esteemed George Will has lately been singing Giuliani’s praises on TV and radio and in his widely syndicated column.

Giuliani, Will opined in a recent edition of ABC’s "This Week," achieved during his eight years as mayor of New York what is arguably "the best record of conservative governance by anyone in the past fifty years." The next day, Will was telling listeners on Laura Ingraham’s radio program that if Republicans are waiting to nominate someone who has both a record of achievement and is right on all the social issues, "they may be waiting for a very long time."

There are, perhaps, other, less talked about advantages to a Giuliani candidacy. If you put him on a ticket with Newt Gingrich, for example, all six of their wives could vote for them. (Not that they necessarily would, but they could.) Yet even the "social" conservatives on the religious right appear, for the most part, untroubled by Giuliani’s flamboyantly adulterous lifestyle. The "character counts" theme seems to have lost its appeal to conservative Republicans since the Clintons left the White House.

And, of course, for the Republican right, Rudy is on the "right" side of the war with Iraq and the "war on terror." As Will put it in last Sunday’s column: "People for whom opposition to abortion is very important might, however, think that in wartime it is not supremely important. Or they might reason, correctly, that Presidents can change abortion policy only by changing the Supreme Court, so Giuliani’s pledge to nominate justices like Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and John Roberts is sufficient."

In other words, as long as Giuliani supports the Bush wars in Iraq and (perhaps) Iran and wherever else Our Maximum Leader decides to squander American lives and treasure, that should be enough to overcome whatever qualms "pro-life" Republicans have about his defense of legalized abortion. And Will, a savvy and wizened political observer, apparently expects his readers to swallow whole Giuliani’s "pledge" to nominate justices like Scalia, Alito and Roberts.

That requires a leap of faith that would make Evel Knievel jealous. First of all, no one knows if either Roberts or Alito would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, should that opportunity come before the high court. And while Supreme Court picks often surprise their sponsors, why would Giuliani even try to put on the high court judges likely to overturn a ruling to which Rudy has plighted his troth? Oh, yeah, because he has “pledged” he will. And presidents, once in office, never break a campaign pledge. And George Will was born yesterday — about 24,000 yesterdays ago.

Maybe Giuliani figures that no Republican nominee is going to get either the NARAL or NOW endorsement, anyway, so he might as well throw a rhetorical sop to the social conservatives in an effort to appear acceptable to them. Meanwhile, “pro-choice” Republicans, knowing where the candidate’s heart and mind really are, would probably feel comfortable in voting for Giuliani, being confident he won’t do anything too “radical right.”

If that analysis seems a bit cynical, well, consider the context. Cynicism seems appropriate when Rudy Giuliani is courting the Republican right — and vice versa.

Manchester, NH, resident Jack Kenny [send him mail] is a freelance writer.

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