Uncommon Sense: "The Rudy You Know"
There's something about a man in fur, isn't there?
Thanks to Uncommon Sense for this great piece on St. Rudy - THANKS 'SENSE!
Democrats have been spending a good bit of time and energy contemplating their own navels the last few weeks, so I think there has been an insufficient appreciation for just how good our prospects are in the 2008 presidential contest.
Yes, Barack and Hillary appear to be at each others' throats, although there is a measure of ginned-up hysteria with regard to the David Geffen flap, and the degree to which it is accurate is, frankly, to be expected. These are two charismatic, alpha personalities, each of whom aspires to the most important and prestigious job on earth. If you think it looks like a blood sport now, just wait until the primaries start.
The bottom line, though, is that there is nothing - nothing - alarming or unhealthy taking place right now in Democratic Party politics. All that is taking place is politics.
On the other side of the aisle, however, 2008 is shaping up to be the most disastrous year since, well, 2006.
Absent a man-boy-sex or murder-for-hire scandal, the Democrats will pick up more congressional seats in '08. The only one I'm worried about holding on to is Mary Landrieu's senate seat in Louisiana. A well-organized Republican could take it away from her, although this is by no means certain; her most threatening challenger is, in my opinion, Rep. Bobby Jindal, who is likely to run for governor against embattled Democrat Kathleen Blanco. But even if we lose Landrieu's seat, Norm Coleman is toast in Minnesota. We will expand our congressional majority in '08.
In the presidential race, the Republican Party's prospects are just dismal. The New York Times on Sunday illustrated what is shaping up to be a cataclysmic confrontation between the pragmatic and ideological wings of the GOP. Social conservatives don't see anything to like about the three highest-profile Republican contenders for the nomination.
Many conservatives have already declared their hostility to Senator John McCain of Arizona, despite his efforts to make amends for having once denounced Christian conservative leaders as ?agents of intolerance,? and to former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York, because of his liberal views on abortion and gay rights and his three marriages.
Many were also suspicious of former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts; members have used the council as a conduit to distribute a dossier prepared by a Massachusetts conservative group about liberal elements of his record on abortion, stem cell research and gay rights. (Mr. Romney has worked to convince conservatives that his views have changed.)
It cannot be encouraging to the party's power brokers that the thrice-married, pro-choice, pro-gay rights, authoritarian narcissist, absolutely nuts Giuliani has surged in the polls past McCain, his only real competition for the nomination. With the election almost two years away, such results reflect name recognition more than anything else, of course. The reason most Americans outside of NYC know Giuliani's name is because of 9/11. Because he responded to the World Trade Center attack with composure, the media dubbed him "America's Mayor." Remember that the vast majority of Americans do not follow politics as obsessively as political bloggers do. Most people spend their days focused almost exclusively on the details of their own lives, and only pay attention to political news that rises above the din. What rises above the din in early 2007 is "America's Mayor, the man who held it together on 9/11." As the party's primaries approach, expect Giuliani's Republican opponents to take the gloves off.
Of course, it is entirely possible that Giuliani will get the nomination. McCain is tanking in no small measure due to his having made his name synonymous with the escalation of the Iraq war, which is about as popular as foot fungus. It is hard to see him shedding that baggage to regain front-runner status. Mitt Romney's Jekyll-and-Hide positions on, literally, every public policy issue known to man makes him more of a punchline than a presidential contender. Besides, religious conservatives simply won't support a Mormon.
So, let's say it's Giuliani. Right now, he's America's Mayor to those who don't know him well. What about those who do know him well?
Over and over again, wherever he goes, America?s Mayor evokes 9/11. And over and over again, wherever he goes, people cheer. Whenever Rudy talks about anything other than the September 11 terror attacks, he?s just another Republican presidential hopeful with his particular set of strengths and weaknesses. When he talks about 9/11, he becomes something else: a national hero.
New Yorkers may find that hard to believe. Anyone who lived here at the time remembers the 9/10 Rudy: strong on crime and the economy, yes, but arrogant, bullying, and terrible on race and civil rights. And while it?s impossible not to respect what Giuliani did for the city on 9/11 and in the days afterward, New Yorkers have experienced an inevitable September 11 fatigue. The 9/11 story has been told so many times that the Rudy-as-hero narrative, however moving, has lost much of its power. Except for those who have a personal connection to the tragedy, people have generally moved on. Besides, it?s common knowledge that a pro-choice, pro-gun-control, pro-gay-rights, thrice-married Catholic northeastern Republican is unelectable, right?
The rest of America sees a far different Rudy. West of the Hudson, the 9/10 Rudy doesn?t exist and never did. For them, September 11 was never so much a real day as a distant televised drama. It has more symbolic meaning than actual meaning: It?s equal parts Pearl Harbor and resurrection. And guess who plays the role of national savior? Not George Bush. Not John McCain. Not Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.
In a profile of Giuliani slugged, Him?, Rodrick acknowledges the very real advantage that 9/11 gives the former mayor of NYC. He documents the worshipful awe that Giuliani inspires on the speaking circuit to people who only know him in that context. But...
... even 9/11 has its limits. Later, I do a little push-polling of my own. I ask Max Kaster, a local pastor and party chair for Calhoun County, a half-hour south of Columbia, what people down here would think of America?s Mayor if they knew he had moved in with a gay couple after separating from his second wife. ?Really?? Kaster says. He fiddles with a lapel pin that combines an American flag and a cross. ?I think that would roll a lot of people?s socks down.?Admittedly, I have to wonder about any reporter who considersBob Shrum an expert on anything, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and Shrum is right about this. Rudy Giuliani might look good compared to such hopeless cases as Mitt Romney and Sam Brownback, but he looks good only in comparison to them. If he survives the primaries, then he will be at the mercy of Democratic opposition researchers who, let us hope, have learned something since 2004. They will have a lot to work with. The American people will come to know the real Rudy, one way or another.
September 11 or no September 11, Rudy?s still vulnerable on social issues. No matter how skillful his pandering, there are those on the right who simply won?t vote for a pro-choice, pro-gun-control, pro-gay-rights candidate. Giuliani?s supporters like to point out that the South is trending more moderate. Still, Rudy is seeking an office that has been held by a centrist southern Democrat or right-leaning Republican southerner or westerner for four decades. The last president from the northeast was JFK.
It?s true that 9/11 gives Rudy credibility on Iraq, but not much. If the war continues to go badly?as just about everyone believes it will?Rudy?s pro-Bush, pro-surge stance, like McCain?s or anyone else?s, for that matter, could still derail him.
Rudy?s lack of experience is a weakness as well. The highest elected office Giuliani has ever held is mayor, and no one has ever made the leap straight from City Hall to the White House. The chatter among political insiders is that even 9/11 can?t cover that up. ?There?s a reason Giuliani?s using 9/11 as an asset,? says Bob Shrum, political consultant to a half-dozen Democratic presidential candidates (not to mention David Dinkins). ?It?s his only asset. He?s not even running on his mayoral record. He?s running on a few weeks. September 11 doesn?t change the fact that Rudy has no foreign-policy experience, and his foreign-policy record is limited to having the same position on Iraq as George Bush.?
As the Democratic Party approaches its own primary season, we need to keep in mind that we are working to pick a nominee from a field of extremely strong presidential hopefuls. You might not have any personal affection for Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or John Edwards, but their genuine substance and star power cannot be denied by any rational observer. We have an embarrassment of riches with our roster of contenders. The Republicans are simply sifting through the chaff to find a piece that is least likely to cause a catastrophic ruputure in its electoral coalition. McCain is tainted by his shameless pandering to the religious right and is identification with Bush's war strategy. Romney is a joke. Giuliani has a target painted on his back, and no matter what his spinmeisters say, is just standing there until somebody decides to shoot at it.
If the Republicans choose McCain, Romney or Giuliani, religious conservative voters will stay home in large enough numbers to throw the election to the Democrats, and that's the best-case scenario. It is just as likely that they will throw their support to a Sam Brownback or Mike Huckabee, who will run as a social conservative third-party candidate. Either way, it doesn't look good. He might have said all the right things on 9/11, but there is nothing that America's Mayor or any other Republican can say to put a pretty face on the GOP's ugly presidential prospects.
- posted by Uncommon Sense
Labels: 2008 race, Giuilani