Giuliani's chief selling point seems to be that he'll have "what it takes" to be tough in the war on terror. That may well be the case. But Giuliani's foreign policy experience is, at best, limited. Meanwhile, McCain's experience is deeper than the rest of the field's combined. There's no evidence that Giuliani is more of a hawk than McCain, who has spent the last four years arguing that Bush needs to be more aggressive in Iraq and who argued for a troop "surge" years before anyone used the word.
After 9/11, Giuliani earned his reputation for showing his sensitive side. After 9/11, McCain said to our enemies, "May God have mercy on you, because we won't." How can conservatives argue that Giuliani is The One because he's willing to be a tough SOB on the war on terror, while deriding McCain because he's been such an effective SOB to a president and party who, McCain believes, haven't been tough enough?
In response, McCain has decided to slap conservatives out of their haze. In what his campaign is billing as major speeches, the first on Wednesday at the Virginia Military Institute, McCain plans to make his candidacy a referendum on victory in Iraq. It is a truly bold and courageous gambit. At a time when the polls advise running away from the war, McCain will embrace it.
By positioning himself to the hawkish right of the Bush administration, McCain might be able to make the election a referendum on the future of Iraq, rather than a referendum on the last four years. As a war hero with two sons in the military, McCain can argue with obvious moral authority that while we may have blundered our way into Iraq, it would be an even greater blunder to get out before winning.
There are many reasons to have reservations about McCain: his love of regulation, his animosity toward free-marketers or simply his age and temper. But conservatives who claim that the war trumps everything but won't even consider pulling the lever for McCain have some growing up to do.
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