And so we turn to 2008. Republican front-runner Rudy Giuliani showed bold mayoral leadership after Sept. 11 but erratic personal behavior before it. He astoundingly marched with Judith Nathan, then his mistress, in New York's Saint Patrick's Day Parade, a gambit one columnist equated with "groping in the window at Macy's." He shocked his second wife and others by announcing at a news conference his decision to get a divorce.
None of that should necessarily rule him out, but it does cause concern about character. Giuliani's refusal to tickle the ears of interest groups is refreshing but also worrisome: It's fine to depart from traditional political inanities, but does that also suggest a Nietzschean willingness to depart from traditional ethical concerns?
What of the others? The candidate with the best marital record, Mitt Romney, seems slick; I haven't warmed to him yet, nor have most voters. Fred Thompson seems sleepy. Mike Huckabee's personality impressed me when I interviewed him in January, and my profile of him ended with unconventional optimism about his chances. I won't be surprised if he upsets Romney in Iowa and eventually drives him from the race.
What then? Don't count out as a compromise choice John McCain, who steadfastly supported the U.S. effort in Iraq at a time others considered it a lost cause. Long ago, he acknowledged his own responsibility for adultery, so this ancient history is no longer a concern. And the Grand Old Party does have a history of turning to its Grand Old Men.