Campaign 2008, Politics

Attorney General Giuliani?

Rudy Giuliani has now officially endorsed John McCain for the Republican nomination, calling McCain an American hero.

Rudy would be an excellent pick for an Attorney General in a Republican administration. As a former prosecutor and USA, he has the right connections and the right set of experience. He’d be tough and crime and government corruption. His managerial style has been less than desirable (see Bernie Kerik), but it’s hard to argue that he didn’t manage to produce real results in a hostile bureaucratic environment. The same could be said of Rudy as Secretary of Homeland Security. He would be a solid pick in a position that required transforming a bureaucracy and getting it back on the right track.

It’s unlikely that Rudy would be a solid VP pick (although not out of the question) as McCain might want to pick someone with more pull among conservatives, but if Rudy wants to go into public service there are any number of positions he could take.

Campaign 2008, Politics

The YouTube GOP Debate

I managed to catch the CNN/YouTube debate tonight, and it certainly was different from most others. The problem was that the questions that weren’t planted tended to be questions based more on Republican stereotypes rather than on substantive issues. Yes, it’s somewhat interesting to know whether a candidate believes in the Bible or not—but is it the sort of question that should come up at a national debate?

The Good

I think this debate was “won” by Mike Huckabee and John McCain. Huckabee came off as the candidate I’d most like to have a beer with some time, and John McCain came off as the elder statesman. McCain put Ron Paul in his place (which is always a good thing for a Republican to do), and he spoke with great moral authority on torture against Romney’s non-answer. Huckabee’s answer that Jesus was too smart to run for public office was a great line. Huckabee came off as very natural and very personable. McCain came off as a man of integrity and honor.

Mitt Romney was also confident and poised. He confidently failed to give a clear answer with great poise. Both he and Giuliani hurt themselves by fighting over abortion—neither one of them are strong on that issue, and both hurt themselves there. Romney’s a very poised candidate, and he has an impressive business background. His honesty on the abortion issue was questioning. It’s nice to have a candidate willing to come out and admit his mistakes.

There were some decent questions that wouldn’t normally be asked in a Presidential debate. As a space exploration fan, I liked the question about the candidate’s vision for space exploration. NASA consumes a very small amount of the federal budget, and the candidates missed the opportunity to talk about private space exploration. Huckabee’s answer wasn’t bad, but it could have been better.

Fred Thompson was very poised and gave very responsive answers. He didn’t knock it out of the park, but he showed the best mastery of the issues. The problem is that he needs to do better—it’s a crowded field and he needs to stand out more. He’s got the substance, but he needs more flash. He has some great ads out that would have done much better than the attack ad he used.

The Bad

First of all, I think Rudy hurt himself with his exchange with Romney. He’s the front-runner (at least nationally), so he doesn’t need to go on the offensive. Hitting Romney below the belt won’t help him, and made him look like a bully. Overall, his answers weren’t a strong as they could be. Rudy needs to get a boost, and this wasn’t it. While he’s still ahead nationally, he’s vulnerable.

The same applies to Fred Thompson’s attack ad. While all the others talked about themselves, Thompson’s offensive seemed out of place. Not only that, but Romney came back with a very human answer that helped him. Huckabee also had a good response. The other campaigns are calling the video an act of “desperation”—and while I don’t think that’s the case, it wasn’t the right call. I’m in Fred’s corner, but even I don’t think that running an attack ad at that point helped him at all.

Ron Paul is a nut. When given a question that basically asked him whether he believes in a bizarre conspiracy theory, he basically said “yes.” I’ll give him some credit for eschewing an independent run, but he’s still the sort of paleoconservative on national defense issues that we don’t need now.

Rudy also hurt himself with his Second Amendment answer. This was not the right crowd to split hairs on regulating guns. This was not a good night for Rudy, and it may hurt him.

This was a solid and substantive debate (at least on the part of the candidates, if not CNN), and it could end up changing the dynamics of the race. Rudy and Romney, the two frontrunners, engaged in a fight that ended up making them both look bad. Mike Huckabee demonstrated once again why he’s gaining the most traction—he was confident and had a decent command of the issues. Fred Thompson did nothing to take him out of the race. John McCain’s campaign was on life support only a few months ago, but he’s not out of the race by any chance, and many may be willing to take a new look at him after tonight.

The biggest loser: CNN. Having a Clinton campaign advisor not only be allowed to ask a question, but then to follow up live demonstrated incredibly poor judgment. At the very least CNN could have Googled the people they were having speak. Either they were trying to bias the debate or they were simply asleep at the wheel—either way it reflects badly on them.

This race is still entirely up in the air, and even with weeks left until the Iowa Caucuses the rankings could change dramatically. Fortunately, the Republican Party has a solid group of candidates to pick from. The problem is that eventually the field must be narrowed to one—and who that may be is anyone’s guess.

Campaign 2008, Politics

Rudy’s Honesty Is The Best Policy

Daniel Henninger takes a look at whether the religious right can support a Giuliani candidacy. Last week, Mayor Giuliani gave a frank but powerful speech to the Values Voters Summit, one in which he was honest in pointing out the differences between himself and many of the attendees to the summit.

In the end, Giuliani did himself a huge service by being honest, refusing to pander, but still pointing out that a Giuliani presidency would lead to real and demonstrable progress on key social issues. A Hillary Clinton administration would lead to a federal policy of abortion on demand. A Rudy Giuliani administration would not. President Hillary Clinton would nominate judges who would find all sorts of new “penumbras” in the Constitution justifying yet more judicial overreach and yet more social experimentation being handed down by the bench. President Rudy Giuliani would appoint jurists to the bench with a greater sense of judicial restraint and more respect for constitutional strictures—judges in the vein of Samuel Alito and John Roberts.

Henninger makes a crucial point about the current tenor of some evangelicals in Republican politics:

In the ’60s, the left introduced the “non-negotiable demand” into our politics. It’s still with us. It’s political infantilism. In real life, the non-negotiable “demand” usually ends about age six.

Evangelical voters are a crucial bloc within the GOP. Yet if a handful of them think that by sitting out the election it will make them anything but pariahs, they’re wrong. American politics is driven by the center, and its the party that best captures the center that wins. Non-negotiable demands by minority groups doesn’t drive a party towards victory, and ultimately the only way you get your agenda passed is by actually winning elections.

However, Henninger also points out that Rudy has to be flexible as well:

Of necessity, Mr. Giuliani has to get voters on the right past this narrowed focus. Adult politics, though, runs in both directions. Rudy has to move toward them, too, and believably.

At the end of the day, I don’t think Rudy will have that big a problem with the evangelical votes. A handful of radicals will stick to their absolutist positions, but not enough to swing the election. (Most of them live in states that are already safely Republican territory as it is.) Most evangelicals will take a rational look at the candidates and see that a return to the Clinton years would be a disaster for the American family and the interests of people of faith. In many ways, Hillary Clinton is far more radical than even her husband was.

Rudy still needs to speak to people of faith in honest and forthright terms. Even among the relatively hostile audience at the Values Voters Summit, Rudy did that. Republican politics tends to be more adult than on the other side, and evangelical voters understand that their interests lie with a President who will not further the causes of abortion on demand, judicial activism, and radical social experimentation. Even if they hold their nose to vote for Rudy, the stakes are simply too high to stomach the likely alternative.