One of Rudy Giuliani's early achievements as mayor of New York City was to make people think twice about urinating on the streets.
"If somebody was urinating on the street," he once told The New York Times, "the reaction would be, oh, we can't do anything about that. And then the idea would start to develop that there must be some inherent human right to urinate on the street. So the police started ignoring all kinds of offenses. They'd even stand by when drug deals were going on. The police became highly skilled observers of crime."
Something had to be done, and Rudy was the man to do it.
His success in curtailing the misplaced micturitions of street people and pub-crawlers was emblematic of his larger success in cleaning up the city and driving down crime. This success made many people -- including many conservatives -- argue that Giuliani was one heck of a mayor. It was hard to disagree with them. New York smelled so much better than it used to.
Then came the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Giuliani courageously led the response that day to the emergency in Manhattan. He became a spokesman for New York City's resilience in the face of tragedy and America's defiance in the face of its enemies. "People tonight should say a prayer for the people that we've lost and be grateful that we're all here," he told a nationally televised press conference. "Tomorrow, New York is going to be here, and we're going to rebuild, and we're going to be stronger than we were before."
This made some people -- including some conservatives -- believe Giuliani would make one heck of a president. Considering his announcement this week that he is forming a presidential exploratory committee, Giuliani believes it, too.
But here it is easy to disagree with Rudy and his admirers. He has no chance of winning the Republican nomination, and, even if he did, he would not make a good president. His views on core cultural issues are too radical.
Giuliani is not just pro-abortion, he is pro-partial-birth abortion. He has not flinched from defending the legality of the gruesome practice that the late Democratic Sen. Patrick Moynihan of New York described as "close to infanticide."
"I am pro-choice. I'm pro-gay rights," Giuliani said in 1999, when he was contemplating a Senate campaign. When a reporter asked if he at least favored a ban on partial-birth abortion, Giuliani said, "No, I have not supported that, and I don't see my position on that changing."
Giuliani's pro-gay rights position is so extreme, he advocated stripping away the special legal status of traditional marriage. In 1998, he pushed a municipal ordinance that wiped out all distinctions between married and unmarried couples in New York City law, regardless of their gender. The late Cardinal John O'Connor gave a sermon from the pulpit of Saint Patrick Cathedral condemning Giuliani's proposal. "It is imperative, in my judgment," said the cardinal, "that no law be passed contrary to natural moral law and Western tradition by virtually legislating that marriage does not matter."
Giuliani did not back down. "What it really is doing is preventing discrimination against people who have different sexual orientations, or make different preferences in which they want to lead their lives," he told The New York Times in response to O'Connor's sermon. "Domestic partnerships not only affect gays and lesbians, but they also affect heterosexuals who choose to lead their lives in different ways."
Thanks to politicians and judges who take Giuliani's position on abortion, more than 47 million babies have been aborted in America since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Thanks to politicians and judges who take Giuliani's position on marriage, the unique legal status of the traditional family is now under siege.
Giuliani understood the link between allowing people to urinate on the streets with impunity and New York City's overall decline. Outside New York, on the Republican campaign trail, he is sure to meet many voters who understand that his positions on abortion and marriage do to our national culture exactly what the street people and pub-crawlers did to New York.