Thursday, April 12, 2007
Personal Asides: Is Giuliani Still Bulletproof? Is Fred Thompson the Real Thing or a Stalking Horse for McCain?
The big political question in Republican presidential politics is two-fold. First, is Rudy Giuliani still bulletproof? This last week he has severely tested the mettle of those supporting him including those social conservatives who believed because he is leading the polls and has a heros image, he might be able to withstand what could possibly be the worst presidential year since Herbert Hoover ran in 1932.
Giuliani had made significant strides in building a socially conservative base. Why considering he is pro-abort? By being a tough law-and-order guy, by naming candidates to the federal judiciary who would be strict constructionists. That indeed is what Giuliani has said. But last week he temporized and in doing so changed the calculus. He said that (a) he believes there are strict constructionists who could on the basis of precedent support Roe v. Wade just as there are strict constructionists who could vote to overturn Roe. Then (b) he defended abortion as a constitutional right and said that such a right guarantees poor women access to abortion via public monies.
Take (b) first. The concept that a constitutional right demands expenditure of public monies to enable it to be realized is a stirring, radical and entirely extreme position outside the confines of acceptable jurisprudenceequal to any formulation Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama might make. Now (a). By tossing away any absolute view of strict construction, Giuliani is certifying that in the matter of naming judges he will give little or no credence to overturning Roe. These stunning developments have not, surprisingly, caused any significant change in the polling numbers which show Giuliani leading the Republicans including John McCain. Nor does the fact that incidental to some but important for his base he has frequently and abjectly ridiculed in public with a guttural imitation of Don Vito Corleone as played by Marlon Brando in The Godfather, saying, its good of youse to be here with all of us in da family! Italian-American groups have protested but still the parodies go on. To make a comparison, it is as if Barack Obama imitated Amos `n Andy or Hillary did a put-on of Edith Bunker, Archies wife.
What this means is that Giuliani who has always been an unorthodox candidate is purposefully taking chances with his popularity because he believes hes bulletproof. Whether he is depends on the reaction of social conservatives principally. At this point, the social conservatives are quite quiet.
Divulgence by Fred Thompson that he has has cancer and that it is arrested is not expected to make any great waves simply because cancer has been affecting all kinds of candidates for years: Giulinai who had an operation for prostate cancer McCain who has had severe skin melanoma and now has just reported another outbreak on the skin on his bald pate Bob Dole having had prostate cancer The divulgence has been seen as an attempt to clear the decks and get the news out of the way before the campaign startsand is regarded as an even surer indication that Thompson will be running in earnest.
Given that Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), recipient of a 100% Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval from social conservatives, is running like a dry creek, social conservatives have the option of hoping that he can start his engines in the Iowa caucuses with Iowa being next door to Kansas. Or another option: that Thompson with his movie star charisma might be able to carry the day for what will be conceivably a disastrous year. Thompsons voting record is pro-life but his tenure in the Senate was similar to someone who walked through snow and left no footprints. The fact that his mentor is Howard Baker worries meas one who knows Howard Baker very well from the standpoint of his having represented a state where my old company had at least three major industrial plants which led me to meet him and converse numerous times and from his Illinois connections, having married the daughter of Everett Dirksen which got him coming here frequently.
I am not sanguine that Howard Baker has any different views now than when we last talked some years ago. He is a hard-rock pro-abort with a sandy, shy smile but is nevertheless inflexible on the issue. The fact that he has been the mentor of Fred Thompson gives me serious pause. But obviously the strategy for social conservatives now is three-fold.
First, bail out on Rudy. There can be no possible way he can be even mildly acceptable to social conservatives now that he has made his case clear. And I am very sorry about that because in these evil days when Republicans running in `08 are going to be as popular as an infestation of hives, someone with his popularity would have been superb if he had nurtured the idea of compromise. That he has flatly slammed the door means that it is irrevocable and social conservatives should forget him.
Second, investigate why Brownback is so weak. He always strikes me as a pallid very pallid imitation of Ronald Reagan down to the aw-shucks deferential bob of the head that Reagan patented. Is it lack of money or lack of candidatorial will or poor staff, or lack of planning or what? For a U. S. Senator to not even register in the polls significantly after running for about a year is not good.
Third, there should be thorough consideration given to social conservatives putting the chips on Thompson. This means looking at Thompsons people, trying to find out who will be on his team in Illinois. I am not so upset about wobbly statements in the past as I am his statements now. It is important to ascertain what he thinks strict construction meanswhether it straddles the Giuliani position or whether it should be taken as endorsement of overthrow of Roe which until Rudy straddled meant just that.
Fourth, there should be a repeat of putting our chips on one candidate with the objective of getting what we can with one who can more easily winvis: getting conservative judges. Thats what happened in 1980 when Reagan was the social conservative darling vis-à-vis the following pro-aborts: George H. W. Bush, John B. Anderson, John Connally, Howard Baker. The only other pro-lifers were Bob Dole and Phil Crane a minor candidate but the movement was solidly behind Reagan.
Fifth, there should not be a repeat of the 1980, `84, `88 psychosis of believing the country is with us and therefore were in the catbird seat with the band tuning up for a reprise of Hail to the Chief.. The country is definitely not enamored of Republicans or conservatives particularly due to the War. Thats why Rudy would have been so good a personally supportive buti.e. a pro-abort naming strict constructionist judges. But thats over now. Still, this muddllng around dissing this one and that one because this one has freckles and that one isnt 100% that Fred Thompson has a wife 22 years younger than he is (which is the latest goofy objection I heard) that Mitt Romney should be disqualified because he thinks when you die you get to occupy a planet with your wife all these weird objections are from another era when we were strong and are folly.