Sunday, February 18, 2007


This is an off-the-cuff observation (and is not intended to be anything more than that), but I am once again struck by the fact that it seems to me that a lot of Republican activists who regard my own preferred candidate for 2008 as some kind of arch-traitor are quite willing to support Guiliani as the epitome of leadership despite the fact that he, by his own account and even those of many of his supporters, disagrees with them on far more issues than McCain ever has.

As I noted in the past, I think that a lot of the criticisms that are made about McCain are selective or overblown. Campaign Finance Reform, for instance, tends to be an issue brought up to tar and feather him that was widely supported in Congress, signed by the President Bush, and which no candidate to my knowledge appears to want to make a serious effort to repeal. But accepting that the conservative criticism of McCain is valid, I truly don't understand how it can be argued that Guiliani is preferable to McCain on this given that nearly every serious criticism against McCain is doubled or in some cases tripled against Guiliani. This is particularly true among social conservatives that I count myself among.

I've heard a variety of explanations for this, ranging from an assurance that Guiliani will moderate his positions once in office (of which I think we have little indication and to which I would reply that hope is not a strategy), to claims that religious conservatives believe that McCain will seek to retaliate against them for his 2000 primary loss should he take office, to vague criticisms about how Guiliani is preferable to McCain because he did not receive favorable media coverage, and of course, the issue of who can slay the dragon by defeating Hillary Clinton. While I certainly understand justified conservative criticism of the media and suspicion of that regard, just as there is an old adage that a paranoid person may indeed have enemies. Just because conservatives should be suspicious of candidates receiving favorable media coverage doesn't mean to me that we should judge the entire character of candidate on that deciding feature. Guiliani's coverage at this point, for instance, has been adulatory to the point where it is only rivaled by the messiah status now accorded to Barak Obama.

I am also somewhat surprised that Guiliani has basically been given a pass by one of the major sleeper issues in American politics, that being illegal immigration. All of the three major candidates (Guiliani, McCain, and Romney) have a position on this issue that is more or less identical to that of President Bush. McCain and to a lesser extent Romney have both been criticized on this score, but Guiliani appears to get a pass on this.

Understand, this is just surface thoughts, not a well-thought criticism of Guiliani and his supporters. Right now, I'm genuinely interested in understanding where they are coming from.

PS - People like Mark or Zippy have been complaining for some time that they feel the GOP is marginalizing social conservatives because Guiliani has received so much favorable press. I would note that Mitt Romney has gone out of his way to court social conservatives (as has McCain, though I expect they both consider him too icky) on the issues that matter to them. Don't complain that you can't find a date for the prom when you've already turned down two of the top cheerleaders.


Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Conservative opinion about Giuliani and McCain is obviously complex and may be more non-rational than people would like to admit. If we look an overall voting records or positions on the issues, McCain undoubtedly comes across as more conservative than Rudy. On the other hand, if we look at the few signature issues that define a candiate (issues where the candidate has taken a leading role and has associated themselves with that issue in terms of popular opinion). we find that McCain's signature issues tend to be the one's on which he is most liberal, while Giuliani's tend to be the ones on which he is most conservative.

Aside from the war (on which all of the candidate's are equally hawkish) McCain is most known for his stands on campaign finance reform, immigration, and torture - issues on which his position departs significantly from the Republican base. Giuliani, by contrast, is known for three things: 1) the fact that he cleaned up New York, 2) that he did so while spurning liberal interest and identity groups, and 3) 9/11. These three issues make him extremely appealing to conservatives.

A second factor is trust. McCain may have a socially conservative voting record, but social conservatives by and large don't think he really means it and don't expect him to carry through on any commitments he makes on these issues beyond the bare minimum needed to keep them from revolting. Whether this lack of trust is warranted or not is another question. Giuliani, by contrast, has a reputation as being a man of his word. If he says he'll appoint justices like Roberts and Alito, then he can be trusted to appoint justices like Roberts and Alito, whatever his personal views on abortion may be. Ironically, I think the fact Giuliani is running as a pro-choice candidate helps him in this regard. If Rudy had flipped on abortion, people would understandably doubt the sincerity of anything he said on the issue (just as some people are doubting Romney's sincerity). But by sticking to his guns on abortion even when it is not in his interest to do so, it makes it more plausible that where he has sought accomidation with the right he realy means it. Again, I don't claim that this analysis is correct, only that it may factor into part of Rudy's appeal.

Donald R. McClarey said...

"McCain may have a socially conservative voting record, but social conservatives by and large don't think he really means it"

With just cause. In 1999 he stated in an interview in the San Francisco Chronicle that:

"I’d love to see a point where it is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. 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."

Now, he says the complete opposite, but one can suspect, based upon his actions in Congress, that none of the social issues are of much importance to him, and in that area he will do whatever is politically expedient at the time.

That being said, although I will not support him in the primary I could support him in the general election, he is at least ostensibly pro-life, although I hope it will not come to that, since I find many of his positions, McCain-Feingold for example, to be anathema to me. Guiliani, on the other hand, I will not vote for under any cirmstance. He is wrong on the social issues, and, although I think he would make an effective war president, there is much more to the presidency than simply making war.

Victor said...

Who exactly are you referring to, Torq, when you say there are social conservatives who are firmly anti-McCain, but persuadable on Giuliani?

There is one other pro-Giuliani difference, which Josiah hinted at but which I think needs to be made more explicit.

Conservatives distrust McCain because he *ran against them* in 2000. This isn't at all the same thing as being the relatively more liberal of the last two candidates, but rather that in the GOP primaries he explicitly used the Religious Right as foils -- "agents of intolerance," encouraging cross-party voting and *the good press at that time vis Bush* and all that. I don't think Giuliani's ever done anything like that (and I'm certain it wouldn't have been on a comparable stage).

That said, neither would be my preferred candidate in the Republican primary, but either would be miles preferable to any Democrat who could get through their Pandagon base and win their primaries (i.e., not some locally-elected or hyporthetically constructed Democrat).

Anonymous said...

JOSEPH D'HIPPOLITO SAYS... It will be impossible for Republicans, let alone for conservatives, to support a candidate who adheres to every position that Republicans and conservatives find essential. (For me, for example, illegal immigration, jihadism and anti-American "progressivism" are the three greatest issues in the upcoming race). That's why we must be mature in our support for whomever emerges. The "ideal" candidate exists only in political fiction (and in the minds of self-beknighted utopians, and we know how they rule things, don't we, boys and girls?).

We must take into account what the most important responsibilities of the Executive Branch, and we must find the candidate who can best execute those responsibilities.

We must also give some consideration to forming a Nationalist Party in this nation. Not the kind of European "nationalism" that is nothing but racist and anti-Semitic fascism, nor the kind of "nationalism" represented by that fraud, Pat Buchanan (who is the only prominent American who combines the worst traits and views of 19th-century Jacksonians with the views of 20th-century Nazis).

An American Nationalist Party must focus on the fundamental values that have governed this country from the outset. It must provide a vigorous, philosophical alternative to the neo-socialism of the Democrats and the mindless meandering of the Republicans. It must inspire all Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity, to start a Renaissance that reinvigorates the spirit of this nation. Perhaps above all, it must confront the jihadist threat -- and those who support it, domestically and internationally --forthrightly and, if necessary, ruthlessly.