Novak endorses Greenwald on Tooliani
Contrary to conventional wisdom, Giuliani has stubbornly held on to first place in national surveys of Republican voters. His elevated status cannot be written off as merely superior name identification. He no longer seems uncomfortable as a Republican and clearly dominated last week's presidential debate in Dearborn, Mich. The real possibility that Giuliani might be the Republican nominee led a group of religious conservatives, who met in Salt Lake City on Sept. 29 under the leadership of James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family, to consider a third-party alternative.
But the situation is not a simple confrontation between the Christian right and Giuliani. The Gallup data suggest that Dobson and the Salt Lake City group may be out of touch with rank-and-file churchgoers. A well-known social conservative, who asked that his name not be used, is disturbed by Dobson's statement he could not vote for Giuliani under any circumstances. Instead of being considered the lesser of two evils in a possible race against Sen. Hillary Clinton, Giuliani seems to be the positive choice of millions of religious Americans.
Yeah, well, the conventional wisdom as generated and propagated by the Village in which Novak is happily ensconced is always slow and wrong, which is why we read Glenn Greenwald, who called his shot on Tooliani months ago.
There is a widespread assumption that within the Republican "base" -- specifically among the party's religious "conservatives" -- there are two distinct categories of issues: (a) foreign policy issues (relating to terrorism, Iraq, etc.) and (b) issues of religion and morality (gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research, etc.). Conventional wisdom holds that Giuliani's views on the former are acceptable, even exciting, for the base, but his views on the latter are anathema to them, even fatal to his chances for attracting their support.
Giuliani's talent for expressing prosecutor-like righteous anger towards "bad people" -- as well as his well-honed ability to communicate base-pleasing rhetoric towards Islamic extremists -- are underappreciated. I don't think any candidate will be able to compete with his ability to convey a genuine hard-line against Middle Eastern Muslims (see here for one representative maneuver), and that is the issue that -- admittedly with some exceptions -- dominates the Christian conservative agenda more than gay marriage and abortion (concerns which he can and will minimize by promising to appoint more Antonin Scalias and Sam Alitos to the Supreme Court, something he emphasized last night in a highly amicable interview with Sean Hannity).
The second issue typically used to argue that Giuliani cannot attract the necessary support from the party's Christian conservative faction is the wreck of a personal life he has suffered -- the two broken marriages, the publicly documented adultery, his cohabitation with a gay couple, etc. But there are few things that are clearer than the fact that Christian conservatives care far less about a person's actual conduct and behavior (and specifically whether it comports to claimed Christian morality standards) than they do about the person's moral and political rhetoric, and even more so, a person's ability to secure political power.
The measuring stick for someone's "morality" among the bulk of Christian conservatives -- and certainly for their political leaders -- is the rhetoric someone spews, not whether their actions or personal conduct comport with the moral sermons. Supporting Giuliani would hardly be the first time Christian conservatives chose as their standard-bearer someone whose actual personal behavior deviates as fundamentally as can be from the moral standards which Christian conservatives claim to embrace. If anything, that discrepancy between their leaders' sermons and their leaders' behavior seems par for the course (the incident most likely to harm Giuliani in any meaningful way is when he dressed in drag, as highly alienating an act as possible for a political movement that venerates, above all else, those who play act pure masculinity and substance-less poses of physical courage).
Rudy Giuliani is, I think, by the far the smartest and most politically talented candidate in the Republican field, a fact to which most residents of New York during his mayoralty - including those who dislike him -- would likely attest. In an overwhelmingly Democratic city, he won two elections, including a landslide for his second term. And he does have in his past many incidents which will uniquely appeal to Christian conservatives, such as the war he waged periodically on works of art and other cultural expressions which offended his religious sensibilities.
As this excellent and comprehensive article documents, Giuliani is an "authoritarian narcissist" -- plagued by an unrestrained prosecutor's mentality -- who loves coercive government power (especially when vested in his hands) and hates dissent above all else. He would make George Bush look like an ardent lover of constitutional liberties. He is probably the absolute worst and most dangerous successor to George Bush under the circumstances, but his political talents and prospects for winning are being severely underestimated.
Gore would beat Tooliani into whimpering jelly. Hillary, not so much.