April 10, 2007

Competence And The Mayor

John Podhoretz, who has supported Rudy Giuliani since he wrote Can She Be Stopped? about Hillary Clinton early last year, wants to brace America's Mayor after a tough two weeks. John writes an open letter to Rudy in today's New York Post, making it clear that Giuliani has to show his normally encyclopaedic grasp of issues and details and demonstrate a high degree of competency if he hopes to win conservatives in the Republican primary:

So where is it now?

The vision seems to be there. But not the competence. ...

[T]he answer to your pro-choice difficulty with social conservatives on the matter of abortion isn't to blather about how much you "hate it" and then ruminate on whether the government should be responsible for helping pay for one. That's what you did last week, and you must never, ever do anything like it again - if, that is, you actually want to become president.

The answer to dealing with the abortion question is to do what you did as mayor - to master the issue the way you mastered the weird particulars of zoning law in Manhattan.

By which I mean, all the jurisprudence. All the arguments. The history of legislation on the matter. The history of court rulings. Immerse yourself in it and then argue your point from a position of strength, rather than relative ignorance.

I'm not as concerned as John about Rudy's stumble. It was bad, but it happened early, and he eventually recovered from it. This would have been much worse had it happened in December, and he's got plenty of recovery time -- and time to master the jurisprudence, legislation, and arguments, as John advises.

However, it does highlight the fragility of Rudy's unlikely campaign from the Rockefeller wing of the party for the nomination. The most important value Rudy offers Republicans is competency. He governed New York City as a moderate Republican and made it wildly successful for himself and the city. He broke the back of the Mafia in New York, again showing brilliance, organizational ability, and plenty of courage. He needs to sell Republicans on the notion that competency and courage should be enough in an age of terrorism, and he may be right.

That makes any missteps on the campaign trail a question about the basic premise of his campaign. Rudy will have the toughest time of any serious presidential contender, and not just because of the differences Rudy has with the GOP base on social issues. Conservatives already understand that Rudy is a pro-choice, pro-gun control politician with some nuances on both positions, but thus far seem willing to be wooed on Rudy's terms. When Rudy botches it like he did last week, he does double damage to himself -- both on policy and on competence. He cannot afford to look as though he's struggling for answers, not as the Competence Candidate.

Team Rudy should heed John's advice. Rudy should understand that the social issues will continue to be the focus for nervous conservatives and media outlets looking to trip him on the way to the nomination. Better preparation will benefit the Mayor.


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Comments (11)

Posted by RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 10, 2007 9:07 AM

Sometimes candidates hire good national campaign experts, and then ignore them because they "know better," or their spouse "knows better." These are the candidates that supply future trivia questions for political junkies, because in ten years nobody else remembers them.

Posted by The Yell [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 10, 2007 9:12 AM

Rudy did not "recover" at all. He will appoint judges who accept Specter's "superduper precedent" theory; he will let Congress go its own way on the Hyde Amendment; he said nothing about fighting UN abortion treaties or issuing executive orders against abortion, but we already know what to expect.

Posted by Carol_Herman [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 10, 2007 11:53 AM

Podhoretz is a conservative! I laugh when these types write about how "they lost their virginity." Because, for starters, Podhoretz still wants a conservative candidate; the conservatives could count out, LIKE OLD TIMES.

Here's a lesson for ya, for 1840. A Lincoln Lesson.

Lincoln was a very dedicated WHIG. He even thought highly of Henry Clay. Alas, Henry Clay's mischief in 1824, caused problems to happen LATER.

Later, in America, means at the polls. When you can't get the usual crew to take a free drink and vote for your candidate. (Well, that's the way it was!)

Politics, too, back then, was very rough and tumble. No place for a lady! Given that men like rooms, and gathering places, where they can spit on the floor. pee against walls. And, generally talk, peppering what they say with "abusive words."

So, there ya go. Lincoln, DEVOTED TO POLITICS. And, a WHIG. Did what those inside the tent, do. He saddled up his horse. And, rode for hundreds of miles. Covering huge distances, in those times. TO SPEAK.

Lincoln became famous for being an entertaining speaker. (At the same time Shakepearian actors, also went about the USA, doing road shows.) You bet. People came out to listen!

Lincoln loved Shakespeare. And, Robert Burns' poetry. He memorized a lot of stuff. So he could, when he spoke, get his audiences to laugh, uproariously. (He was sort'a the Bob Hope of his time. Travelling everywhere to entertain the troops.)

Alas, 1840 was a very bad year for the WHIGS. They couldn't mount Henry Clay for their presidential nominee. He just took a wrong-turn in 1824, when he exchanged the presidency; taking it from Andrew Jackson; and handing it to the scion of the Adams family: John Quincy.

By now lots of Americans know they just have to wait four years, to get even.

Andrew Jackson ran again. 1828. And, won. And, though old, again, in 1832. And, won.

The first shot across the WHIG's bow? The one where you know they'd fail as a party? Happened in 1836. Buchanan, who won, was a democrap. AND? The WHIGS GOT LOCKED OUT.

You also have to know that in the old days, when people went to vote, they kept it simple. The man who swept into the White House, usually brought his whole ticket. (Today, you'd call this: COATTAILS.) We have less of these garments, now.

Anyway. In 1840. Travelling by horseback; for hundreds of miles at any given time. It was Lincoln's "job" to "sell" Harrison. The last WHIG candidate that would make it into the White House.

Harrison was an empty suit. But Henry Clay was POISON.

And, here's the lesson: Lincoln discovered, in 1840, the turn of events in politics, where things got vicious. HE GOT HECKLED.

Well? In more modern times, you know that Seinfeld, for instance, can usually count on some moron in the audience, heckling him.

And, the best comedians, like the best speakers, learn to deal. (Ann Coulter is a PRO at this game!)

Because you do get some advantages by being up there on the dias.

But for Lincoln, it was a learning curve. It wasn't like the debates, he'd have later, with Douglas. He was literally cat-called as he tried to boast of Harrison's "glories."

That's okay. Harrison won. And, the WHIGS screwed Lincoln, anyway.

Guiliani is still the man to beat.

At some point people will also remember WHY he worked when he was mayor of New York City.

He worked, because he was the face you could see. But he was even better than that! He had lost to Dinkins. So he had four years to plan a comeback. When he was elected Mayor; and Dinkins was TOSSED in a city where blacks usually vote for blacks; what happened next, is what makes Guiliani such a good candidate.

He knew New York faced terrible problems. BUT HE DIDN'T HIDE! He'd be out there every day! Handling the hecklers, so to speak.

He came into office with a binder full of committed people; who he then sent around to head New York's various agencies.

THEN HE HELD PUBLIC MEETINGS. No missing the meetings with the mayor! No trying to button-hole him, "away from the table."

Guiliani said he did this because he hired top people to run agencies. And, they knew. Every Thursday. To bring their latest problems to the table. To discuss in the OPEN.

Guiliani said "look, these people are really talented." In the way the meetings were structured, they'd hear the crisis stories happening at other agencies. AND, EVERYBODY WAS ALLOWED TO THINK OF WAYS TO ACHIEVE SOLUTIONS.

No AG Gonzales' and Harriet Miers, screwing up.

Guiliani is THAT FACE! The guy in charge. And, he makes sure all his horses are running well.

Guiliani's not afraid of the spotlight.

And, since there are men and women willing to work for him; willing to take on the tough jobs ... like state. Or the pentagon. Or any of the other 12 seats around the Cabinet Table ... The one thing all the other candidates have to beat ...

Is what the Mainstream wants.

Fred Thompson talks good. But he's not there yet. Mitt Romney has good hair. But so does Edwards.

A lot of the things in poltics, ahead, will reflect change.

But since 1840 presidential politics has been prize-fighter hand-to-hand combat. With the boob tube barely able to survive.

It should be interesting to watch, because Dubya is such a dud. To be discussing someone else to get into the presidency NOW, means a lot of the stuff Bush tried, "didn't float." Maybe, only Nixon's flagpole was worse?

Posted by Jack Okie [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 10, 2007 2:30 PM


I confess that sometimes I have trouble following your longer posts, but this last is very interesting and entertaining. You've motivated me to read up on Lincoln's early political years. Thanks!

Posted by Rose [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 10, 2007 3:18 PM

Rudi shows us brief glimpses of what he is really made of - we all KNOW he is genuinely PRO-CHOICE.

So they dress him up like a pretty d olly and put words in his mouth like for a nice stage play - all very nice during the campaign - then everyone is "flabberghasted" when they get the REAL DEAL after the election.

No thanks. I'd feel about as bright as the 4th Mrs. Rudi Giuliani.

Posted by Monkei [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 10, 2007 3:52 PM

maybe I am reading your post incorrectly Captain, but how do you "recover" from a topic such as abortion which has no gray areas?

BTW, Captain, you asked awhile back when I told you Semper Paratus ...if I was USCG, yes 14 years, left as a Chief Petty Officer.

Posted by ajacksonian [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 10, 2007 7:21 PM

It was interesting, awhile back, to come across a City Journal article on Mr. Giuliani.

Growing up in upstate NY I was removed from that, but still the State news showed the problems there and clearly. Where the mayors were part of the Democratic Machine, promulgated more union laws to ensure that their power base would be undisturbed and that businesses would have higher overhead no matter what they did... it is hard to remember that City.

Because it was a failure.

Politics had ruled to the point where disenfranchisement and handouts were the order of the day, and the political machine depending on people beholden to them for those hand-outs did *nothing* to stop violence as it was not seen as something that City government could even *handle*. Am I the only one that actually *remembers* that City? It was, as a friend would later paraphrase - 'A Charlie-Foxtrot of the first order.' And it was, so long as the continuation of the generation of politics as it was continued.

Now I hear 'social conservatives' that seem to put forth that one and only one issue matters for them now and forvermore... strange that nothing was done on that with Republicans in control of both Houses and the White House. Even stranger that the conservative route via the Statehouse is not looked upon as a good way to get different ways to address this put up... one might actually find something that *works* and then be able to promulgate it. That takes time, perserverence and hard work... far easier to decry a single politician who does not even *start* such legislation in the office he is looking to run for. And I do remember that these same 'social conservatives' tut-tutted NYC at its worse and did very, very little to help. Might have taken some hard work, that... to roll back a generation's worth of ideology that promulgated failure for individuals and *paid* them to fail.

Hard work and *not* depending on the Federal Government to do it all for you. Exercising your rights as an individual and in the States to start achievement locally, not have it dictated by a government. NYC showed how that ends, by making individuals dependent upon the government. That is what happens when you expect government to do it all for you... that which is held in common through hard work is *lost* as no one bothers to uphold the law because doing so would require actually judging someone who has broken the law as not having done something worth reprimanding. I had always thought upholding the common laws and enforcing them was a conservative virtue... but perhaps I am wrong as single issue litmus tests now decide what is and is not a virtue.

Sad that, all the vituperation and chest beating and such... heard that for over a decade now and really more like two. Has anything happened with that? I had stopped paying attention some time ago... and where are these individuals in personal responsibility and having a chance to succeed by *not* having government continually lifting cash from one's wallet and rewarding those who do not work and seek none? Strange to find big government decried and then those who get to Congress turn right around and expand it *more*. That looks JUST like NYC did as its government expanded and opportunities declines and people became dependent upon government to do everything for them and punish no one for misdeeds. Where are those that don't think this is a good idea? They seem to be lacking on both sides of the political spectrum, both parties.... not to be seen at all in the Halls of Congress it appears.

Forgive me for saying so, but the great K Street lobbying machines do not appear all that different from the Machine of Unions and Mafia in NYC in the '60s and '70s. Notice how well the two parties have cleaned up even the hint of corruption? They have both had majorities in full over these last two decades. Why, when looking at that arrangement, am I getting this feeling that the failure that hit NYC is preparing to hit the Nation because no one will address it?

I really don't care much about the litmus test issues. Enforcing the Laws of the Land stand a bit before them, as does ensuring that our varigated enemies don't find some interesting ways to just walk into the country and make a city or two disappear or be depopulated. A distributed organization that has no single base and yet can bring much power to wield at their choosing is starting to sound an awful lot like how the Mafia used to operate against rivals... save these modern groups have the people of a Nation on the agenda to be attacked. Can we find someone to actually bother to *state the problem* as this current crop of politicians is too weak kneed to do so? To put forth that to *keep* our rights we must keep the Nation whole *first*? And, perhaps, just a small realization that this concept of trade making people 'free' has not gotten much liberty and has, instead, gotten us those self-same enemies able to easily get their hands on cheap weapons sold through unchecked trade?

I don't see many politicians ready to walk on those coals and endanger their corporate or lobbyist support because they put the safety of the Nation first. Instead we have supported not enforcing laws, requiring some attitude to actually have to do some work to stay alive, opened the borders to anyone who wants to traipse in, and still have unchecked ships and aircraft that bring things from far and unchecked corners of the Earth to us. I see a few problems by not addressing these things. Instead we look to government to supply all answers, and are ready to give up our responsibilities and money to those who have little ability to address our local ills... and thus distract them from the Nation. Apparently we have forgotten that the People run this Nation, not the government that merely represents us. And the first place you go to put lawful solutions together is *not* government, but oneself. That is what we agreed to, as a People... to make a 'more perfect Union', as perfection is beyond mere mortals who must work with their limits. Giving it all to government is a *perfect* solution... if you want tyranny, despotism, repression. A city cannot fall that far... a Nation can and will if those who look to safeguard liberty fail to do so.

When I look at Mr. Giuliani I see a man who tried to make things 'more perfect', but knew he could not achieve everything. When I look at the rest of the field I see Congresscritters that have been the *problem* and have no solutions. Governors who have not been able to help the People of their States to find better solutions to things and actually keep the entire system of governance dynamic. Because that requires active States that do not look upwards for the cures to all ills. It is sad to see that a once dynamic Nation has so stultified that it has no ability to look to its future and address its ills both at home and abroad.

Because those single issue litmus tests do not address our enemies who also have one: how best to kill us.

They are trying harder at *that* than we are at finding ways to stay alive. Because they have unity of purpose, and we, as a Nation, do not.

Posted by MJS [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 10, 2007 8:44 PM

However, it does highlight the fragility of Rudy's unlikely campaign from the Rockefeller wing of the party for the nomination.

I think of the "Rockfeller wing" of the GOP as being isolationist on foreign policy and as cigar-smoking country club fat-cats who believe in tax cuts purely for the benefit those cuts accrue to themselves, not caring a whit how tax cuts fit into the bigger picture of supply-side economics and its benefits. You think Rudy comes from this wing of the GOP? This is a wing which IMO has been nearly drummed out of the GOP, to the extent it still exists at all. That's a fairly denigrating term to cast about, and I doubt that any of Rudy's nascent, yet large, support from the "moderate" Republicans -- let alone conservative Republicans! -- would look well upon Rudy did they feel he were this type of "Republican."

The most important value Rudy offers Republicans is competency.

I'd say that is a plus, but far from the "most important value" he offers. It is not what separates him from the a field including Romney and McCain, and possibly Thompson and Newt, all of whom cannot be questioned on perceptions of "competence" (Ok, McCain, maybe, but for all the problems I have with him, "competence," as the word is used today in referring to presidential candidates, doesn't seem to be his Achilles' heel.) For example, I am undecided as of now, and Rudy certainly didnt help himself this past week or two in my book, but the reasons I have an affinity for Rudy include his strong positions, actions, and ability to communicate wrt the War and the economy. Before last week, I included the judiciary there, too, but, in light of recent events, I'm less confident in his communication skills (or perhaps his desire to employ them) there.

He governed New York City as a moderate Republican and made it wildly successful for himself and the city.

He campaigned with platitudes that were arguably "moderate," but certainly did not govern as one. He governed as a conservative. On social issues of concern to conservatives at a national level, he did not do much one way or another, because these issues were not relevant to his jurisdictional duties, thanks to the federal courts taking them out of the hands of local offiicals. Gun control, certainly, was not "conservative," yet choosing not to abrogate enforcement of a law already in the books, a law supported overwhelmingly by a vast majority of your constituency, as a means to effectively implement your goal of crime reduction is hardly indicative of a "moderate" position: you can call it liberal, or you can call it practical, but it is anything but moderate; he was quite extreme and vigilant about enforcing this liberal gun control law on the books.

Regardless, none of this makes him "moderate." The political spectrum is too often wrongly viewed as a one dimensional line, much like the spectrum of visible light in a rainbow or an artist's options for mixing colors: The artist may rightly know that black and white combine to make gray, or that the "far end of the spectrum" colors on his pallet, blue and red, combine to make the more "complex" purple. But, in politics, combining firm positions from both ends into one philosophy, as paradoxical as it seems, does not necessarily moderate other, unrelated positions like white "moderates" black. Rudy espouses "hard-right" positions on crime, national security, taxes, spending, judges (excepting last week's first time contradiction and slip-up), and affirmative action. He is, however, moderate on immigration and gay marriage, as he does not endorse the orthodox views of either party on these issues. And, he espouses an arguably hard-left view on some "social issues" like abortion and gun control.

So, in one category, "social issues," I would call him liberal to moderate, though I think his views are a bit more complex than that: do you see any Democratic candidate who would be more to the right than Rudy on ANY of these social issues. (I am not using this point to evince a "lesser-of-two-evils" argument, but rather to show that he is far from a "liberal" in many respects and that he really does not fit the progressive/media view of a "moderate.")

Yet on nearly every other issue, he supports the orthodox conservative view. Though still facile, "a socially liberal / everything else conservative" label is a more apt description. But, "moderate" -- what the heck does that really mean? He is unlike any other politician I know who is normally referred to as "moderate."

He needs to sell Republicans on the notion that competency and courage should be enough in an age of terrorism, and he may be right.

He needs to do much more than that to get my vote, and I'd hope the votes of other Republicans. If that were enough, John McCain would evoke much less of hostility than he has and still does. He needs to assuage us on judges, he needs to not advocate forcefully for socially liberal positions, and he needs to stay strong on party loyalty, national defense, crime, family, a color-blind society, taxes, fiscal restraint, and yes...competency. If Rudy really were campaigning as you seem to perceive him as doing, his candidacy would have never gotten off the ground.

Posted by quickjustice [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 10, 2007 9:05 PM

As a New York conservative Republican who supports Giuliani, I'd also quarrel with the "Rockefeller Republican" label.

Nelson Rockefeller was a "big government" Republican in New York back before Ronald Reagan. He created large, expensive public works projects, and large government bureaucracies in New York, driving the state deep into debt.

Rockefeller tried to compete with Democrats by outdoing them in social spending by state government. He failed, and his wing of the GOP was defeated decisively and permanently by Ronald Reagan.

You're right to call Giuliani "competent". I'd add "principled, honest, and pragmatic" to the list. I'd also add machiavellian, in that Giuliani was resourceful and creative in hiring good people, building a team to manage city government, and looking for weaknesses in the opposition he could exploit to achieve his policy goals.

Giuliani was good at getting things done. I saw him hold up a copy of City Journal at a public appearance last year, and declare that the ideas in that issue of City Journal were what he had used to succeed in his crime control and workfare efforts.

James Taranto, who was sitting next to me, was ecstatic. "I edited that issue of City Journal!", he said to me.

Posted by MJS [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 11, 2007 12:08 AM

Good point, quickjustice. I guess I didn't emphasize that what "I think of" as a Rockefeller Republican was what I considered the label to mean in the "man on the street sense."

In fact, if you consider what kind of Republican Rockefeller was in reality, Rudy fits this description even less.