This is the story of how Hurricane Katrina made this conservative Republican fall in love with Rudy Giuliani all over again. I first developed a fond affection for the mayor when he did what many believed could not be done and cleaned up New York City. In 1999, I cheered him when he stood up for common decency and the taxpayers of New York by rejecting city funding for elephant dung art. My admiration turned to love when Mayor Giuliani reassured the nation, and the world, with his incredible response to the attacks of September 11.
An admirer of Giuliani and a believer that he had a good shot at the presidency long before Hurricane Katrina, I now find myself becoming a full-fledged fan of the prospect. I will likely get some grief from some of my fellow pro-life, social conservatives, but I hope they will consider not only what an attractive candidate Rudy would be in the post-Katrina political climate, but also to consider the attributes Giuliani would bring to the presidency.
On September 11, we saw what a leader looks like during a crisis and it looked like Rudolph Giuliani. In contrast, the recent example of New Orleans’ Mayor Nagin taking to the airwaves cursing the federal government and calling for the cavalry, not only did not look like leadership, but made Giuliani's performance on 9/11 look positively, well, presidential by comparison.
Many of the lessons learned from Katrina highlight Giuliani’s strengths. Considering that he received some of his harshest criticism as mayor for his tough law and order positions, it is impossible to imagine Giuliani giving looters a pass (and, I would argue, encouragement) as Mayor Nagin did in the early days of flooding in New Orleans.
Thanks to the blame-Bush media, it seems the public now believes that the first and ultimate responder to any kind of disaster, whether natural or man-made, should be the federal government, or more specifically, the President. Giuliani is the only potential 2008 candidate that has shown himself capable of handling a challenge of such historic proportions. Because issues of national security and war and peace in the Middle East will outlive the Bush presidency, the nation will be looking for a leader able to perform in a crisis.
Even more than his proven ability to perform under pressure, however, one thing that Giuliani may be able to do, that some other Republicans might not, is unite the country. If Bush, as amiable as he is, and with a reputation as a uniter as governor of Texas, could be painted as an extremist divider, it is reasonable to believe the same will be attempted with the next Republican candidate. Giuliani achieved giant stature in my eyes, and those of most other Americans, with his actions following 9/11. Because he is already known as a uniter and a strong leader, he will be resistant to attempts to portray him otherwise. He can also claim to have received a large number of votes from Democrats in past elections. Not many, if any, of the other potential Republican presidential candidates can say that.
Ironically, Giuliani's positions on abortion and gay rights, while making it more difficult for him to win the Republican primary, make it almost impossible for opponents to paint him as an extremist. Abortion will always be an important issue to Republican primary voters, but with Bush appointments of two (or possibly three) conservative Supreme Court justices, the issue is not as likely to be the deal breaker that it has been in some past elections. Choosing a pro-life running mate might be enough to win over enough pro-life Republican primary voters to capture the nomination. He would definitely have to answer some tough questions about social policy (and he better not have any Bernie Kerik problems), but if he plays things smart, he can win the Republican nomination.
Electability though, while obviously necessary, does not a good president make. Giuliani's effectiveness as mayor of New York and his excellent communication skills convince me that he could be a very successful president. From his words and actions following 9/11, and more recently from his speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention, I know he can inspire. Because of Giuliani's staunch, and often eloquent, defense of President Bush’s policy in Iraq, and because of his personal experience on 9/11, I have no doubt that he would continue to vigorously prosecute the War on Terror and would be a strong defender of Israel and a promoter of democracy in the Middle East.
It is still early. I’m not saying Rudy Giuliani will be my choice in the spring of 2008. I’m just saying that in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and with the mission in Iraq and the Middle East still far from over, “the world’s mayor” is looking pretty good right now.
Lorie Byrd lives in North Carolina where she worked as a litigation paralegal before becoming a stay-at-home to her two daughters six years ago. She has written on political matters at the group blog, Polipundit, since April 2004. She also writes at her own weblog, Byrd Droppings, and is currently a contributor at ConfirmThem.com and MediaSlander.com.