Friday, March 16, 2007

Degrees of Wishful Thinking

There has been some discussion in the comboxes as to whether or not the GOP is engaging in wishful thinking regarding the nomination of Giuliani. I would just like to posit two points on this and then see what everybody else thinks.

What I and others regard as wishful thinking on the part of many of Giuliani's pundit supporters is basically the claim that his social liberalism, far from being a liability, will in fact serve as an asset that will help him to win big in places like New York state, California, and other parts of the coasts where the GOP does horribly nationally. I think that this is pure fiction myself and suspect that this is what it will translate to electorally if this is what anyone is seriously banking on. Some of Giuliani's most enthusiastic backers are making claims that this will enable him to create a new electoral majority, a la Ronald Reagan, that will allow the GOP to win in perpetuity. The general subtext to these kinds of claims is that while Giuliani will probably lose at least some support among social conservatives (those unwilling to vote for him because he is a strong leader and acceptable on the war) that this support will be offset by some kind of an influx of independent socially liberal professionals.

Well, maybe. What I think is a lot more likely is the scenario that Josiah sketched out in which a lot of the GOP base bolts when confronted with the choice of a Giuliani candidacy and what that means on the issues. Moreover, as I think Josiah correctly analyzes the problem as follows:
I don't know whether the GOP needs pro-life voters. They'e needed them in just about every election for the past 30 years. There's this meme going around that Giuliani is more electable than the other candidates, but I don't really buy it. If independant voters were mainly social liberals who were extremely hawksih, there might be something to this. But they're not. Just the opposite - independants (especially in the midwestern swing states) tend to be socially conservative but have soured on the Iraq war. Why a pro-abortion, pro-gun controll, pro-illegal immigration, pro-gay and pro-war candidate is supposed to be "electable" is beyond me, and I suspect that if Rudy does win the nomination, those people who are expecting Republican wins in California and New York are in for a rude awakening on election night.

My guess is that Giuliani's people don't see it that way. Certainly, many of his pundit supporters don't. A lot of them seem to sincerely believe that enough social conservatives will vote for Giuliani because of his leadership and the war that he really doesn't need to moderate his positions. My own assumption is that this is why they want to delay having Giuliani talk in detail about his social views for as long as possible.

Kathleen asks:
how is it wishful thinking to suppose that the GOP nominee would act to keep its base happy, insofar as they wish to remain identified with the pro-life movement? you yourself said if they abandon that they risk becoming a "politcal non-entity". if you buy your own arguments, then, you'll see it's realistic thinking, not wishful thinking.

My answer would be that I think it is wishful thinking to believe that Giuliani will keep the pro-life base happy when you take into consideration his own views and the basic arguments that his campaign and their pundit supporters are currently making. These consist of a combination of claims that enough social conservatives will vote for him regardless of his positions on issues they care about because his leadership and the war for the dissenters to be electorally irrelevant. Some of his supporters have visions of carving out a new electoral majority, but there is a fine line between a vision and a hallucination. I guess we'll find out who wins there when the primaries are actually held.

One unrelated point that I would make is that there is a recurring mantra out there that only Giuliani can beat Hillary Clinton. I don't think that this true, especially given that whoever is the GOP nominee will be running unencumbered by the baggage of the increasingly impotent Bush administration (as this latest scandal over the firing of attorneys illustrates in all the detail of a slow-motion train wreck) whereas Clinton will have to deal with all of the baggage of her husband's own eight years in office from a candidate who is actually willing to fight back against her. That said, I don't think that the GOP should nominate any candidate solely because they can beat Hillary Clinton. That was exactly the kind of mentality that led the Democrats to nominate John Kerry last time around - he was the guy that all the polls said could beat Bush. I would just as soon not see the GOP repeat our opponents' mistake.

22 comments:

kathleen said...

I guess my larger point is that in terms of real politics, "to believe that Giuliani will keep the pro-life base happy" one is required only to believe that he will appoint justices like scalia, and Giuliani has all but said he would do this.

but if the "pro-life base" petulantly insists on holding out for some candy rainbow scenario wherein a president outlaws abortion with the stroke of a pen, or if the "pro life base" petulantly insists on just having the right type of guy in the white house (like bush 41, who was pro life and appointed ridiculous judges) then the 'pro-life base" is childish and unrealistic and doesn't deserve to be kept happy.

paul zummo said...

Kathleen, have you been taking straw man building classes with Mark Shea?

Patrick said...

I don't get why anyone believes Giuliani when he says he would appoint judges like Scalia et al, but that is really what it is all about for pro-life people. No one expects the Prez to outlaw abortion with the stroke of the pen. We just want Roe overturned, then we will fight it out at the state level. To do that we need a Supreme Court majority.

I, for one, held my nose and voted for GWB in 2004 for the sole reason that I thought he could be trusted to appoint pro-life justices. Then he tried to give us Harriet Miers. Serious pro-life people felt doublecrossed and they won't fall for it again.

For that matter, we still don't know how Roberts or Alito will vote on life issues. We'll find out soon when the partial-birth abortion decision comes out. If either of them votes the wrong way, even on narrow legal grounds, look for major gnashing of teeth among conservatives, and more focus on judicial issues in the next election.

Victor said...

Here's the other difference between Ronald Reagan and Giuliani -- electoral-strategery-wise. Reagan expanded the GOP *without alienating the then-existing base* and/or *without sacrificing a chunk of it to gain a larger chunk elsewhere.* The Reagan Democrats came to him.

Still, the comparison with Reagan is intriguing in the following way. Reagan was a divorced man with a partly-estranged family who, as governor of California, had signed both the nation's most-liberal abortion law and loosest no-fault divorce law. By 1980, he said he had come around on abortion. But there was still little reason beyond rhetoric that "the Religious Right" should have trusted him. Particularly since he was running against an evangelical.

kathleen said...

"I don't get why anyone believes Giuliani when he says he would appoint judges like Scalia et al"

i don't get why anyone disbelieves him (well, I do get it, they like to borrow trouble and feel aggrieved, but anyway...). Giuliani would not be a national candidate if he were not mayor of NY, and he would not have been mayor of NY if he hadn't given a sop to the ultra ultra liberal base there. It's 15 years later, and I don't care what he said to get elected mayor of NY, frankly.

in any case Giuliani could think abortion is the greatest thing since sliced bread but Roe is terrible law, given that he is a (smart) lawyer. whether someone likes the reasoning behind Roe and whether he likes abortion are 2 different questions. people don't seem to be understanding that.

kathleen said...

PS: I think the arguments that Giuliani can turn a blue state into a red state or that Giuliani is the only one who can beat Hillary clinton are facetious. the fact is this: people liked what they saw of the man on 9/11 and people have heard how effective he was as mayor in NY. frankly I think his 9/11 performance counts for more, and I think that alone could take him to the top.

not to mention that Giuliani arguably has a better, more visceral understanding than any other national candidate of the effects of terrorism. when he said 9/11 was beyond his worst nightmare, he wasn't kidding. someone like that is going to act in the face of a threat, not turn away from it and pretend it isn't real.

Patrick said...

Exactly, Reagan DID come around on abortion - and still gave us justices like Sandra Day O'Connor. GWB tried to give us the probably pro-choice Miers, and then the as-yet unknowns Roberts and Alito.

So, if we can't even trust the pro-life presidents, how can we trust one who is openly pro-abortion?

Patrick said...

he would not have been mayor of NY if he hadn't given a sop to the ultra ultra liberal base there.

Let me rephrase this. "He would not have been mayor of NY if he had not allowed thousands of babies to be killed in his city, at taxpayer expense, in order to further his political ambitions."

This is the man you want to vote for?

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Why wouldn't someone believe Giuliani when he says he'd appoint Scalia-type justices? Maybe because immediately after saying he liked Scalia, he said he didn't think he'd vote to overturn Roe. For a smart lawyer, that's a stupid thing to say, and calls into question the credibility of the entire statement.

Giuliani is on record as saying he supports Roe and thinks it was correctly decided. It's possible for a candidate to be pro-choice without supporting Roe, but Giuliani ain't that candidate.

Kathleen deals with these inconvenient facts in the only way she can - she ignores them. She acts as if Giuliani had unambiguously pledged to appoint Scalia-type justices (which he hasn't) and that he is against Roe (which he isn't), and she insults anyone who isn't willing to go along. Sadly, this is not atypical among the pro-Giuliani folks. It is, I fear, going to be a rather long campaign.

Victor said...

Sure, but Reagan also gave us Justice Scalia. And would have given us Justice Bork if Republicans hadn't lost control of the Senate between 1986 (Scalia 98-0 confirmed) and 1987 (Bork 58-42 rejected). and thus given Ted Kennedy another chance to show what a vicious, ugly, lying sunnavabitch he is.

Parenthetically, this contrast is the one reason that I will always be very skeptical of "it's better to take a loss now"-theories of politics.

Donald R. McClarey said...

Guiliani would be electoral death if the GOP were foolish enough to nominate him. Many social conservates, me among them, would take a walk. Liberals are not going to vote for a Republican liberal when they can vote for a Democrat liberal. The closer you look at the idea of Guiliani for President the worse it appears for the Republicans.

kathleen said...

if you believe Scalia, or a judge like him, would not overturn Roe (given the opportunity) -- then there is no hope for the pro-life movement. in that case, abortion is a constitutional right, you may as well throw in the towel now and start your revolution.

of course, it's totally unclear why giuliani would single out a judge like scalia, since he couldn't possibly be doing it to send a signal to the pro-life base. it must be because both their last names end in vowels and they are both "tribal catholics"

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

I'm not the one who thinks Scalia wouldn't vote to overturn Roe, Kathleen. Giuliani is. To quote Hizzoner:

"I think that [Roe's] been precedent for a very, very long time. There are questions about the way it was decided and some of the bases for it. At this point, it's precedent. It's going to be very interesting to see what Chief Justice Roberts and what Justices Scalia and Alito do with it. I think probably they're going to limit it rather than overturn it."

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,250497,00.html

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Giuliani and Reagan are also similar in another respect: they both managed to get elected because people were desperate. Reagan won in 1980 because people were so fed up with the economic and foreign policy set backs on the Carter years that they were willing to try anything. Same with Giuliani's run for Mayor in 1993. Rudy wasn't a natural fit for NYC, but the city was in such bad shape at the time that people figured "what the hell, it can't get much worse."

I don't see that narrative playing out again in 2008. Republicans may be desperate, but Americans in general are not, and they don't seem to be in a risk-taking mood.

kathleen said...

I don't see how that Giuliani quote dismisses my argument. the point is, Josiah, I believe Scalia is the best we are going to do. whether he "limits" Roe (which is not necessarily bad for pro-lifers) or "overturns" it [and the difference is academic since we don't know the case or the facts that would lead to such a "limiting"], it's the best pro-lifers can hope for. again, for the third time, i ask you, what better political strategy is there to reduce abortions than overturning, or "limiting", Roe? you haven't answered that question because there IS no answer.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Again, Kathleen, you are confusing what I think with what Giuliani thinks. I don't think that Scalia would ever vote to uphold Roe v. Wade. Only someone who doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to the Supreme Court could think that. Giuliani, of course, *does* think that, which only shows that he doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to the Supreme Court.

Since Rudy thinks Scalia wouldn't overturn Roe, I have to conclude that the "Scalia-type" justices Rudy would appoint wouldn't vote to overturn Roe either. If you want to say that any justice who would uphold Roe isn't really a "Scalia-type" justice, hey, I'm inclined to agree with you. But Giuliani doesn't seem to think so, and he's the one who would be making the appointments.

kathleen said...

"Since Rudy thinks Scalia wouldn't overturn Roe, I have to conclude that the "Scalia-type" justices Rudy would appoint wouldn't vote to overturn Roe either."

why do you "have to conclude" that?! you just said believe Giuliani is wrong. why would he be wrong about Scalia (this guy is OK with Roe) but right about his nominee (this guy is OK with Roe too)? it's more logical to assume if he's wrong about A he'll be wrong about B. in which case, it doesn't matter what Giuliani believes about Scalia-type justices, so long as he appoints them.

in your opinion, what would make someone a "scalia type" justice in Giuliani's eyes? that the judge was bald and italian and wore glasses? you are essentially arguing that giuliani is an idiot. i'm not buying it.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Are you really suggesting, Kathleen, that we should support Giuliani because he might nominate an anti-Roe justice by mistake? That hardly seems compelling.

What kind of justices do I think Giuliani would appoint? Well, given that he says he favors "strict constructionist" judges because he is a "strict constructionist," I would think that he'd appoint judges with views rather like his own. Tough on crime, friendly to executive power, but socially liberal and otherwise unlikely to rock the boat. Kennedy, O'Connor, Burger, Powell, and the early Blackmun all fall into this type (and were all billed as "strict constructionists" at the time of their nomination).

But as Levar Burton used to say, you don't have to take my word for it. Giuliani himself has said that if you want to know the kind of judges he'd appoint, you should look to the appointments he made while mayor of New York. I have, and the results aren't pretty:

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0207/2957.html

Roger H. said...

Giuliani himself has said that if you want to know the kind of judges he'd appoint, you should look to the appointments he made while mayor of New York.

When did he say this? I didn't see it in the article you provided a URL address to.

In any event, I don't think you can rightly compare the process of selecting Supreme Court Justices to the judge appointment process used by Giuliani when he was NYC mayor (whose ability to even make judicial appointments I find a bit odd to begin with; although, such judges may not really be per se judges. In addition to judges here in California, we have court commissioners who perform similar duties as a judge, but usually only in a narrow area of law, e.g., family law. Unlike judges, commissioners in California are not appointed by the governor or elected, but are essentially hired employees of a particular county courthouse. Accordingly, any party to an action may refuse to have a commissioner preside over their case, opting instead for a regular judge. I suspect the judges Giuliani "appointed" while NYC mayor are much like these commissioners here in California).

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Giuliani has been touting the judges he appointed in NYC as examples of his judicial philosophy in action. From an interview with Hugh Hewitt:

RG: I was involved in the Reagan administration in the judge selection process, although that was run by the deputy attorney general, and I was involved in the U.S. attorneys and U.S. marshals. But I watched all of it, and I appointed 100 judges myself. And it’s something I thought of, when I was the Mayor, as one of the most important things that I did.

HH: Did you have a litmus test for those hundred?

RG: No. No, not a litmus test on a single issue, a philosophical test, meaning what I wanted to know was what’s their view of how you interpret the Constitution and laws? Are they…do the Constitution and laws exist as the thing from which you have to discern the meaning and the intent? Or are you going to superimpose your own social views? And I want, I like the first kind of judge, who is a judge who looks to the meaning of the Constitution, doesn’t try to create it.

http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/Transcript_Page.aspx?ContentGuid=946ea11b-064a-4272-90d2-1e2eda6678f4

Roger H. said...

Giuliani has been touting the judges he appointed in NYC as examples of his judicial philosophy in action. From an interview with Hugh Hewitt:

But he doesn't say if you want to know the kind of Justices he'd appoint to the Supreme Court, look at who he "appointed" as judges in NYC. Giuliani also doesn't say the judges he "appointed" are examples of his judicial philosophy. He's simply explaining what he asked and looked for in deciding who to hire among a pool of candidates who applied for a position and were selected for further consideration by some independent panel.

paul zummo said...

Whatver his faults (and attributes), trying to discern the types of judges Giuliani would appoint by looking at his NYC record is probably not the way to go. It's a different process, and it's not like there was some deep pool of originalists ready for him to tap.