George Will

The journalistic rule is that conservatives pander, liberals ``grow.'' When Al Gore, Dick Gephardt, Jesse Jackson and Dennis Kucinich changed from being pro-life to pro-abortion, their conversions, which were a price of admission into Democratic presidential politics, were often described as conscientious ``growth.'' But when McCain, who opposed Bush's tax cuts, concludes on the basis of the humming economy that they should be made permanent, this is called pandering.

At CPAC, Romney gave the most polished speech, touching all the conservative movement's erogenous zones, pointedly denouncing the ``McCain-Kennedy'' immigration bill and promising to seek repeal of the McCain-Feingold law regulating campaign speech. Romney, however, is criticized by many conservatives for what they consider multiple conversions of convenience -- on abortion, stem cell research, gay rights, gun control. But if Romney is now locked into positions that these conservatives like, why do they care so much about whether political calculation or moral epiphany moved him there?

Giuliani is comprehensively out of step with social conservatives, and likely to remain so. He probably assumes two things.

First, that some of the social issues have gone off the boil because argument about them seems sterile: Democrats have scant interest in federal gun control legislation; scientific advances may obviate the need for using stem cells; cultural changes will do more than any feasible legislation can do to reduce abortion numbers; the way to change abortion law is to change courts by means of judicial nominations of the sort Giuliani promises to make.

Second, that his deviations from the social conservatives' agenda is more than balanced by his record as mayor of New York. That city was liberalism's laboratory as it went from the glittering metropolis celebrated in the movie ``Breakfast at Tiffany's'' (1961) to the dystopia of the novel ``Bonfire of the Vanities'' (1987). Giuliani successfully challenged the culture of complaint that produced the politics of victimhood that resulted in government by grievance groups.

He favors school choice, he opposes bilingual education that confines students to linguistic ghettos and he ended the ``open admissions'' policy that degraded City University, once an effective instrument of upward mobility. The suggestion that 9/11 required city tax increases triggered from Giuliani four adjectives: ``dumb, stupid, idiotic and moronic.''

Conservatism comes in many flavors. None seems perfect for every conservative's palate; most should be satisfactory to most conservatives.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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