Sunday, March 04, 2007

# Posted 11:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IT'S GIULIANI TIME: The always top-notch pair of Douthat & Salam take a very interesting look at the Giuliani candidacy in the Weekly Standard. They begin by describing Giuliani's strategic flip-flop during his unsuccesful campaign for mayor of New York in 1989:
Assuming that he'd be running against the blue-collar, socially conservative Democrat Ed Koch, Giuliani cast himself as a liberal. Playing against his tough-guy image, he spent his first months on the campaign trail talking about the victims of homelessness and AIDS and drug abuse, causes that united elite liberals and poor minority voters while leaving the city's shrinking middle class cold...

Then fate intervened: David Dinkins defeated Koch in the Democratic primary, and Giuliani became, by necessity if not by design, the candidate of the unfashionable middle-class strivers living in the outer boroughs, voters who recognized something of themselves in Giuliani, a self-made Italian-American from Brooklyn. Thus was born the polarizing, hard-charging, and proudly uncompassionate Giuliani who, after losing to Dinkins in 1989, beat him in 1993 and went on to transform New York.
Not a pleasnt memory, but probably ancient history as far as 2008 is concerned. More relevant are the strengths that Giuliani brings to the table this time around:
His genius wasn't for cutting government ("down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub," as [Grover] Norquist famously put it) but rather for reforming it and making it work for the working and middle-class taxpayers who elected him, rather than elite liberals who had run City Hall into the ground. He offered a municipal version of the reformism that governors like Wisconsin's Tommy Thompson (who passed on his welfare czar to Giuliani) and Michigan's John Engler pursued at the state level in the 1990s--a conservatism targeted explicitly to voters who wanted to keep the welfare state in place but didn't want the Democrats to run it.
I think competence is going to be a big issue in 2008, because even a lot of Republicans feel that it went AWOL during the Bush administration. Although there's no reason to think John McCain is incompetent, it's always harder for a legislator to demonstrate competence as opposed to a candidate who has served as a cheif executive.

As for McCain, Ross & Reihan write that he:
Tends to embrace the elite media's pet causes, from campaign finance reform to the patient's bill of rights, a Giuliani "respect conservatism" would be proudly anti-elitist, emphasizing issues that resonate with working and middle class Americans.
That strikes me as a little unfair. One might even say that McCain trasformed campaign finance into the elite media's pet cause, not to mention a signature issue for himself. More generally, I think it's going to be hard to paint John McCain as an elitist. It is possible for conservatives to paint him as too moderate or too liberal, but those kinds of attack would hardly justify nominating Giuliani.

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(4) opinions -- Add your opinion

I got my values from my mother.

Andrew Giuliani, son of Rudy Giuliani.
"I think it's going to be hard to paint John McCain as an elitist."

I don't think it'll be that difficult. McCain was a naval officer. The Navy is the service that most distinguished between "officers" and "men" (a holdover, I suspect, from the British Navy in which officers were recruited only from the titled), and a pilot, who are the elite, and let everybody know it. That background often shows as arrogance when anyone questions him, and those moments can easily be assembled into a narrative which portrays him as such.
free yourself first
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