Almost a year ago, I wrote a column titled “Giuliani looking good right about now.” As it now appears a 2008 Rudy run is a sure thing, I thought it was about time to update that column to take a look at how Rudy is looking right about now, almost a full year later.
The event that inspired my previous column on Giuliani’s presidential qualities was the response to Hurricane Katrina. The anniversary of the record breaking storm is only days away and provides another reminder of one of the reasons Rudy Giuliani is considered one of the top contenders for the GOP nomination. Katrina showed America what an inept response to a national emergency looked like. They had seen, four years earlier, what a competent response to a national emergency looked like when Mayor Giuliani took control, led recovery efforts and calmed a nation in shock. His performance earned him Time’s 2001 designation as Man of the Year and the title of “Mayor of the World” . He was even crowned an honorary knight by Queen Elizabeth in recognition of the service he performed.
In reaction to the deficiencies of the Katrina response, Americans let it be known that they want a President who is engaged in the details when disaster strikes. In the aftermath of 9/11, President Bush was able to provide moral and, even spiritual, leadership and leave the specifics of the recovery effort to people like Mayor Giuliani. Katrina taught us that when a Mayor Nagin, not a Mayor Giuliani, is in charge, the chief executive better step in right away and make things work – or he better at least give the appearance that he is doing that.
A year ago, in the immediate aftermath of Katrina, especially in contrast to the politicians who had just failed so miserably, Rudy Giuliani looked really good. At the time I said he looked downright presidential. A year later, as we observe the one year anniversary of Katrina and, in two weeks observe the five year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, he looks even better.
Giuliani is leading early polls in Iowa and is even being well received in the very important primary state of South Carolina, in spite of his yankee status. There are still some pitfalls for Giuliani, though, but nothing that did not exist a year ago, or even a decade ago. Although there are most likely some GOP primary voters who are not aware of all of Giuliani’s positions, it is unlikely that voters will be particularly shocked by them.
Giuliani’s positions on abortion, gay marriage and gun control have not changed in the past year (at least not so far as the public has been informed) but the emphasis that is likely to be placed on those issues may have. There are some voters who will never vote for a President Giuliani due to his position on abortion, or gay rights. The confirmation of Supreme Court Justices Roberts and Alito, though, may have reminded voters that one of the main ways executives affect public policy on such issues is through court appointments. Through President Bush’s judicial appointments over the past five years, public attention has been focused on the importance of the judiciary, compared to that of the executive, in deciding such issues. Instead of the specifics of Giuliani’s positions on abortion or gay rights or gun control, the focus is likely to be on what kind of judges he would appoint and what their positions are on cases involving those issues.
Another criticism of Giuliani is the subject of his past marital troubles. Those on the left crying Republican hypocrisy for giving Giuliani a pass after criticizing Bill Clinton for his “bimbo eruptions,” and later impeaching him, are particularly peculiar. Evidently many Democrats today don’t see any distinction between the case of Giuliani and that of Bill Clinton. The case against Giuliani is one of marital infidelity. The case against Bill Clinton includes, among other things, a parade of women claiming sexual harassment, multiple women claiming to have been harassed by private eyes working on behalf of the Clintons, one woman claiming rape, and evidence (including his own words on tape) that he used his influence to get state jobs for women with whom he had affairs.
Of course, everyone remembers Clinton’s affair with an intern just a few years older than his daughter in the Oval Office, meeting with her more times than some members of his cabinet and conducting dozens of phone sex calls with her setting up a blackmail security threat scenario usually reserved for Tom Clancy novels, then trying to smear her as a lying psycho stalker until the infamous blue dress appeared. I could continue and even eventually get into the actions that led to the articles of impeachment, but it is not necessary. To witness the complete confusion of Democrats who cannot see the difference in the two cases is to see the incredible legacy Bill Clinton left his party. Even an affair and messy divorce look good in comparison to that.
Another reason I don’t see Giuliani’s past marital problems as dashing his presidential aspirations, though, has nothing to do with Democrats, but rather with those he would likely face in a GOP primary. As Kate O’Beirne pointed out recently, “Should Mitt Romney join a 2008 race that included John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and George Allen, the only guy in the GOP field with only one wife would be the Mormon.”
Events between now and November 2008 will determine which issues ultimately play the biggest role in voters’ choice for President. Over the next two weeks, though, as Americans observe the anniversaries of Katrina and 9/11, the issues of leadership in times of crisis and how best to fight the war on terror will make for an excellent opportunity for Rudy Giuliani to shine.