As the Republican party begins the grind through the primary season and starts the process of determining who its standard-bearer will be, it can be problematic for individuals who count themselves as loyal Republicans, as well as their conservative brethren, to forthrightly and bluntly critique a candidate while simultaneously remaining faithful to Reagan’s 11th commandment not to criticize a fellow Republican. Perhaps that commandment can be revised, slightly- criticize that fellow Republican, but do so honorably, and with respect.
For the record, lets state the both the obvious and unembellished truth- Rudy Giuliani was a fine mayor whose leadership during a difficult moment in our history was what our country sorely needed- he was the face of American resilience, resolve, and fortitude in the wake of 9-11. His mayoral record lists many fine accomplishments and skirmishes with an entrenched liberal orthodoxy and bureacracy in numerous policy areas which helped the city emerge stronger from the wake of David Dinkins’ malaise. New York City is better for having had Rudy Giuliani as its mayor, and I can attest to this fact, having worked in NYC during his entire tenure.
That said, I will argue that his successful mayoralty and the high public approval that he left his office with does not translate into Rudy Giuliani being the Republican Party’s strongest national candidate, for several reasons.
What is most problematic for Rudy in his attempt to become the party’s nominee are the numerous ideological contortions that he has spun on quintessential issues of concern to Republicans and Conservatives- most notably on abortion, immigration, and gun control. While Rudy has moved as much to the Right during the primary process in an attempt to make at least the appearance of an appeal to the conservative wing of the party, I think it is fair to say that Rudy’s political instincts on far too many issues of concern are anything but conservative. First and foremost are the several contradictory intellectual rationalizations that Rudy has put forward in an attempt to make his pro-choice stance more palatable for social conservatives to swallow. Rudy’s latest lawyerly remarks about immigration not being a “crime” typify perfectly the bureacratic and elitist inertia that has prevented meaningful action from taking place to both secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws without apology.
Combine that problematic record with the baggage that Guiliani has with his personal life, in addition to the various controversies that beset his mayoralty in which Rudy made ill-advised comments- these are sure to be revived by Clinton political operatives as they attempt to suffocate his message and ruin his integrity. On a somewhat lighter note, Rudy’s cross-dressing episode- a skit done in good fun with his buddy Donald Trump- will be hung on Rudy’s head like a burning tire by these same Clintonistas during the general election. Yes, it’s seemingly trivial matter, but we can only imagine how cut-throat operatives like James Carville and people of his ilk will artfully exploit this otherwise forgettable comedy routine. Note to future presidential candidates- If you plan on running for president, you have to be cognizant of the fact that certain follies, pranks and buffooneries that average people can get away in their adult lives with are off limits, fair or unfair.
What is most important for Republicans to do for 2008 is to nominate a candidate who will force Hillary Clinton not to run against the Republican candidate’s checkered history and sometimes cantankerous personality, but to take those issues off the table and force her to run on actual policy issues and ideas- things Democrats are typically bereft of.
Another critical issue that Republicans and Conservatives need to consider are the candidates’ respective political instincts and temperment. Thompson has a genuine conservative temperament which guides his decision making, he does not make politically correct statements or come off as sounding rehearsed. Thompson’s personality is genuinely affable and down to earth, but just as importantly, he is able to be tough and principled without being mean- a talent that Giuliani decidedly does not have. As much as I respect Rudy, he can come across as a street-fighter and a brawler, and unfortunately, simply being perceived as mean or rude can turn off lots of people – particularly moderates and independents- people who base their votes more on personality and temperament rather positions and issues. Rudy’s political instincts, outside of fighting crime and al-Qaeda-are not conservative ones. Obviously, those are two primary issues of concern to Republicans, but apart from those two critical areas, Giuliani’s instincts often take him into the liberal wilderness.
One other line of opposition those of us who support Fred can count on hearing from Giuliani and Romney supporters alike is the centrality of “executive experience”, since Fred has never been an executive of a state or CEO of a company. Having executive experience is a fine credential in and of itself, but Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter had that same executive experience as well, and we know all too well how they utilized that so called coveted experience. Far more important than executive experience, I would argue, is someone who is 1. committed to Federalist principles, 2. has an understanding of the inner workings of government, 3. has integrity coupled with a spine of steel, an individual who will not be mau-maued by Democrats or engage in a phony bipartisanship at the expense of his governing principles. It’s a red herring to contend that merely because a candidate has never been an executive, either in the public or private sectors, that they are defacto unqualified for the presidency or would be incompetment in performing executive responsibilities as president. What’s more impressive to me is that Fred has experience confronting huge power structures (the Tennessee Government) and blowhard bureaucrats (Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats), and it is this very experience that has tested his mettle and will serve Thompson well as President.
It is Fred that has the temperament that Rudy does not, it is Fred who is the Federalist champion, and it is Fred who will keep together the five key constituencies which constitute the Republican party- Pro-Lifers, NRA-Guns Faction, Social Conservatives, the fiscal conservatives, and the anti-illegal Immigration/pro border enforcement crowd. Rudy Giuliani has substantial problems with each and every one of those core constituencies.
Fred’s candidacy will amount to a complete broadside to the unsustainable bureacratic and entitlement mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, as well as a reawakening to Federalist and Constitutional principles, without apology- the question down the road will be whether the general electorate is ready for such a strong, but necessary tonic. In the immediate future, however, Republicans are looking ready to nominate a candidate who will work to achieve that bold a platform- and Fred Thompson is that man.