February 23, 2007

Giuliani: Consistency Trumps Pandering

The London Telegraph has an interesting profile of Rudy Giuliani, using a South Carolina campaign stop to spotlight the paradoxes of his run at the Republican nomination. While the Telegraph describes Giuliani somewhat hyperbolically as refusing to kowtow to the GOP's conservative base -- Giuliani never says anything like that in the article -- it does point up Rudy's consistency as his greatest asset on the stump:

Whereas his rivals John McCain and Mitt Romney are engaged in attempts to disavow previous statements and recast themselves as social conservatives, Mr Giuliani's pitch is that "for most it's never about one issue" and consistency is preferable to pandering.

"I believe you've got to run based on what you are, who you really are," he told The Daily Telegraph. "I find if you do it that way even people who disagree with you sometimes respect you."

Mr Giuliani noted that his pro-choice abortion position had not changed in nearly two decades. The former mayor declined to draw the contrast himself, but Mr McCain supported the Roe versus Wade abortion ruling as late as 1999 [see update below] and Mr Romney was pro-choice in 2004 but now declares himself pro-life.

"I'm just telling you the most honest answer to the question, which is the same answer I gave in 1989," Mr Giuliani told The Daily Telegraph. "I would advise my daughter or anyone else not to have an abortion. I'd do anything I could to help and assist with an adoption. I would like to see it ended but ultimately I believe a woman has a right to choose."

That quality of leadership will be very appealing to Republicans of all stripes when the primaries arrive. Many of us wish that a conservative with Giuliani's national standing and mien will arise between now and January, and some of those hopes rest on Newt Gingrich. Gingrich will not make any commitment until at least September, making clear that he sees this long campaign as a ridiculous attempt to achieve full employment for political consultants.

The Telegraph also noted the difference in tone between the Democrats and the Republicans in the primary campaign. The Democrats have begun feuding openly, while on the surface the GOP has remained courteous. Giuliani told the Telegraph that he would not comment on any of the other candidates in the race. "We've got some terrific people that are running," he replied when invited to go negative on other Republicans.

Let's hope that this attitude will start filtering down to the lower levels of the campaigns. Bloggers are getting bombarded with negatives from most of the campaigns. Given that we have so much time before voters have to make up their minds for the primary, the candidates and their campaigns should be making the positive cases for their election. Instead, we are already seeing too much of the oppo research filtering through the blogosphere into the media, with YouTubes and clippings of flip-flops bubbling up all over the place. People seem oblivious that damaging all of our contenders at this point will make it more difficult for them to get elected in November 2008, not just the primaries.

I'd like the opportunity to vote for someone rather than against someone else, if the GOP campaigns will allow it.

Be sure to read all of the Telegraph's reporting on Giuliani. The British take on Rudy is intriguing.

UPDATE: Patrick Hynes says the Telegraph got it wrong on McCain and Roe, calling it "manifestly untrue" in an e-mail earlier. The reference to 1999 comes from this statement made during the run-up to the 2000 primaries:

Aides to McCain said perhaps he could have been clearer in comments he made to the San Francisco Chronicle and CNN, but that he had not wavered from his long-term opposition to abortion or his belief that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, should be repealed.

"I'd love to see a point where it is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary," McCain told the Chronicle in an article published Friday. "But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations."

On Sunday, on CNN's "Late Edition," McCain reiterated that he would not have an abortion "litmus" test for a running mate or Supreme Court nominees. He added that while he ultimately favors repeal of Roe, "we all know, and it's obvious, that if we repeal Roe v. Wade tomorrow, thousands of young American women would be performing illegal and dangerous operations."

In context, it seems that McCain tried and failed to be nuanced on the issue. He opposes abortion, but doesn't want Roe repealed (or didn't at the time) because an abrupt end to the decision would supposedly shut down abortion clinics. If that was his thought, he still got it wrong; a repeal of Roe would not make abortion illegal at all. It would allow legislatures to pass new laws regulating, restricting, or protecting abortion as they see fit, but until they passed laws against abortion, it would remain legal even after the end of Roe.

I don't think the Telegraph report was "manifestly untrue", but it did take McCain out of context.


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