Saint Rudolph and the Dragon Lady

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For some Republicans, here in New Hampshire and elsewhere in the land, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is nothing less than the new Saint George, who will save our fair land by slaying the dragon named Hillary. Republicans who doubt it must not be reading their mail.

A recent pamphlet from the Giuliani campaign mentions the dreaded Hillary by name seven times and includes two photos of her. Two of the six panels are devoted to her exclusively. Perhaps we should cancel the New Hampshire primary now. Mayor Giuliani has already chosen the nominees of both parties.

"Rudy Giuliani is the only Republican who can beat Hillary Clinton and the Democrats in 2008," the slick mailer proclaims. Where, in Hoboken? Uncle Rudolph was going to defeat Hillary when she invaded New York and ran for the Senate in 2000. Some skeptics still believe it was his deteriorating poll numbers more than his health problems that convinced His Honor to withdraw from that race. Surely, he was healthy enough by 2006 to oppose Clinton in her run for reelection. By that time Giuliani, his political stock resurrected by the events of 9-11, was busy running for president. Too bad. Had he slain the dragon lady in ’06, a grateful GOP might have already handed him the presidential nomination for 2008. As it is, the "Only Rudy can beat Hillary" theme remains an untested theory.

Giuliani is on more solid ground when talking about the 23 tax cuts during his eight years as mayor, but even there the road is a little slippery. To get to 23, he counts some tax cuts passed over his strenuous opposition. "The largest and most economically potent tax cut of the Giuliani era," noted Ed McMahon of the Manhattan Institute, "was the elimination of a 12.5 % income tax surcharge — pushed by then-Council Speaker Peter Vallone over strong mayoral opposition." When the City Council reversed a partial repeal of another surtax after only a year, the mayor’s protest was "uncharacteristically muted," McMahon observed in an August 6 op ed piece in the New York Daily News. The "mute" button was off, however, when Giuliani loudly and vigorously opposed the Legislature’s repeal of the city commuter tax.

As president, “I will restore fiscal discipline and cut wasteful Washington spending,” Giuliani promises. You may look and listen in vain, however, for a federal program he would cut, let alone eliminate. Giuliani’s alleged fiscal conservatism is hard to reconcile with his plan as mayor to use taxpayers’ money to finance two new stadiums for the Yankees and the Mets. Nor was it reflected in the $2.8 billion deficit in the final budget he presented in 2001, before the city was rocked by the 9-11 attacks. That’s half a billion larger than the deficit he inherited from his predecessor, David Dinkins.

Giuliani wants to both cut taxes and continue our trillion-dollar (thus far) war in Iraq until we achieve victory–whatever and whenever that might be. If the budget-busting, record-setting deficits of the Bush era have resulted in a weakened dollar and a soaring national debt, just wait. Rudy’s "strong fiscal leadership" will likely set new records for borrowed money and spur a bull market in red ink.

Many conservatives, meanwhile, appear to accept at face value Giuliani’s pledge that as president he will nominate "strict constructionists" like Justices Antonin Scalia and John Roberts to the Supreme Court. That assumes that Giuliani, a) means what he says in that regard and b) will know a judicial conservative if he sees one. This is the same Giuliani who, as mayor of New York, joined in the suit to make gun manufacturers liable for deaths and injuries resulting from careless or criminal misuse of their products. That’s about as conservative as a suit against auto manufacturers might be over damages caused by reckless drivers.

It was Giuliani who sued — and lost — in New York courts to have the Legislature’s repeal of the aforementioned commuter tax overturned. When a California court overruled a referendum denying a number of state benefits to illegal aliens, Giuliani praised the decision, saying he hoped it would mark "the end of this most recent wave of anti-immigrant sentiment." No, Rudy doesn’t want activist judges legislating from the bench. Not while he’s running for president, anyway.

So is Rudy Giuliani the new Saint George, the dragon slayer? Or is he a Wrong-way Corrigan for conservatives? As Ronald Reagan might have said, "Mayor, I knew Saint George. Saint George was a friend of mine. And Mayor Giuliani, you’re no Saint George."

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

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