Perhaps the biggest oddity of the Republican primary season so far has been that GOP voters keep saying that they want another Reagan, the candidates keep comparing themselves to Reagan at every opportunity, and yet the man who is leading in the national polls, Rudy Giuliani, is about as far apart from Reagan as it's possible to get ideologically while still remaining in the Republican Party. Rudy Giuliani is no Reagan. What he is, and what he would be if he gets the nomination, is our Bill Clinton.
Consider a few things.
Yes, Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury, not for having an affair, but conservatives relentlessly bashed Bill Clinton throughout the nineties for cheating on his wife and degrading the office. Well, morally Rudy Giuliani is every bit as sleazy as Bill Clinton.
He has been married 3 times, which could be forgivable in a President, but he also cheated on his second wife with his current wife, Judith Nathan, and announced his separation from wife number two, Donna Hanover, to her and the world at the same time at a press conference.
This has seldom been discussed during the primary season, which is rather bizarre given that the biggest knock against Newt Gingrich that I heard when he was thinking about running -- from the readers on my blog and other bloggers privately -- was that they were disgusted by his affairs and shabby treatment of his former wife. Yet Rudy, whose Clintonesque private behavior is every bit as appalling as Newt's, has gotten a pass on the issue.
Folks, if you think that nominating a man as sleazy as Rudy isn't going to come back and bite the GOP in the general election after the way we complained about Clinton during the nineties, you're kidding yourself. Moreover, if you think it's out of the realm of possibility that Giuliani would diddle some intern in a back office somewhere once he got out from under the watchful gaze of his wife, you're giving him way too much credit. Any man who will cheat on his second wife will cheat on his third wife, too, if the opportunity presents itself.
The Clintons are also known for the shady cast of characters who surround them. We're talking about people like Sandy Berger, Anthony Pellicano, Charlie Trie, Norman Hsu, and Anthony Rodham. Well, there are early indications that Rudy Giuliani is just as careless as the Clintons about whom he hangs around with.
We already know about Bernie Kerik, Rudy's pal and business partner who is facing 142 years in prison, but Rudy also continues to be closely associated with Alan Placa, a Catholic priest who has been credibly accused by multiple former victims of child molestation.
How many of these people surround Rudy and do you really want to spend 2008 explaining them away, the way Dems have to try to explain away people like Sandy Berger & Norman Hsu?
Another thing that people often forget about Bill Clinton is that his biggest accomplishments, welfare reform, NAFTA, and balancing the budget, were near and dear to the hearts of Republicans, not Democrats. That brings us to Rudy Giuliani -- the real Giuliani, not the guy who keeps trying to convince everyone that he's a diehard conservative.
The truth is that Rudy Giuliani is not a conservative. He's a Rockefeller Republican, a RINO, a tougher, more charismatic version of Arlen Specter -- which is why it's mind boggling that so many conservatives who are furious at George Bush and senators like Lindsey Graham, John Warner, and Trent Lott for not being conservative enough are happily backing Giuliani.
Don't kid yourself: Graham, Lott, Warner, and George W. Bush are all CONSIDERABLY to the right of Rudy Giuliani. Just take a look at what National Journal said about Rudy,
"The National Journal's rating system put him at 56 percent conservative and 44 percent liberal on economic issues in 1996 and assessed him as liberal by 59 to 40 percent in looking at his social issues votes."
We're talking about a guy whose record is pro-abortion (even pro-partial birth abortion), pro-gun control, and pro-illegal immigration. We're talking about a guy who was endorsed by New York's Liberal Party in 1989. Rudy even personally endorsed Mario Cuomo and said he was open to endorsing Bill Clinton.
This is not a man who is going to make Republicans happy if he becomes President. Yes, he would be better than Hillary, but he would also break the hearts of conservatives over and over again on issues that we deeply care about if he gets into office.
Now, I want to be clear about something: if Rudy Giuliani captures the nomination, I will vote for him and I would strongly encourage you to do the same. But, I can't pretend to be even the tiniest bit enthusiastic about having Rudy as our nominee.
To the contrary, Rudy is a dangerous candidate for the GOP. He could potentially tear the fabric of the Republican Party asunder by alienating millions of pro-life social conservatives so badly that they may vote for a third party candidate or turn away from the Republican Party entirely. That means a Rudy Giuliani candidacy could seriously damage the coalition that has delivered so many victories for the GOP from 1980 forward.
Additionally, it's worth noting that while the "Rudy is the most electable candidate" shtick seems plausible at first glance, it's pure vapor -- no more solid than the "John Kerry is our most electable candidate" nonsense that Democrats bought into hook, line, and sinker back in 2004. Why is that? Because millions of pro-life Republicans would stay home in 2008 if Rudy is the nominee. Because it seems unlikely that a pro-abortion New Yorker running as a Republican could carry every southern state. Because, most importantly, he is not currently beating Hillary Clinton in head-to-head polls in any state that George Bush didn't win in 2004. In other words, he doesn't live up to the hype that says he's going to put several key blue states into play. So, if you take away the electability angle from Rudy Giuliani, what's left that makes him appealing to conservatives?
Put another way, if you love RINOS like Arlen Specter and Lincoln Chafee, Rudy may be a good choice for you. If you're sick of social conservatives and would like to see their agenda rejected, even if it risks turning large numbers of them off to the Republican Party, vote Rudy. If you think that Rudy is the most electable candidate and your only concern is beating Hillary, I don't think that you're right, but I do understand backing Giuliani for that reason. However, if that's not what you're looking for, there is still time to choose another candidate.
Long story short, conservatives who are backing Rudy should go into it "eyes wide open" and understand exactly what they're getting. They're getting a Republican Bill Clinton: an ethically compromised candidate that Republicans will constantly have to apologize for and who is destined to disappoint conservatives either by losing in 2008 or by winning and then opposing us on many of the issues we care about most once he gets into office.