I'm against abortion under most circumstances. So why does Rudy Giuliani's firm declaration of support for a procedure I abominate make me more likely to support him for the Republican nomination for president?
I'll be a single issue voter in 2008. If we don't win the war on terror, nothing else will matter very much.
All four of the Republicans who have a realistic chance of winning say the right things about the war on terror. So does George W. Bush. Mr. Bush is an honest, brave, compassionate man whose heart is in the right place. But his head's been somewhere else. The mistakes his administration have made have put our mission in Iraq in serious jeopardy.
After six years of the Bush administration, I yearn for competence in the White House. I want a president who will run the government, instead of being intimidated by his own bureaucracies. I want a president who will appoint competent people to key positions, not the likes of Alberto Gonzales or Michael Brown. I want a president who not only understands what's at stake in the war on terror, but who can communicate those stakes effectively to the American people.
Which is why I'm attracted to Rudy. His two terms as mayor of New York City are a masterpiece of effective conservative governance. As former Rep. Pat Toomey notes: "Despite powerful local obstacles, Giuliani was able to significantly cut taxes; hold spending increases down below the rates of inflation and population growth; overhaul the welfare system; deregulate and privatize many local government services; and join the fight for school choice."
While Rudy Giuliani was mayor, the crime rate in New York City fell 56 percent, the murder rate by 66 percent. No one could have responded better in the aftermath of 9/11 than he did.
Conservatives tend to fail in Washington because they face a hostile bureaucracy and a hostile media. But Rudy succeeded despite facing greater hostility in New York.
The others have good credentials, too. Sen. John McCain is a war hero who knows the military well. Mitt Romney demonstrated superb management skills as governor of Massachussetts, in rescuing the Salt Lake City Olympics, and in private business. No one communicates better than does former Sen. Fred Thompson.
Many conservatives have expressed dissatisfaction with their choices for 2008. I am not among them. I think all four would make better presidents than the one we have now, and much better presidents than any of the Democratic candidates.
But senators are known more for bloviation than for their managerial skills. We know what Sen. McCain and Sen. Thompson want to do, but we don't know how effective they'd be at doing it. Gov. Romney is at least Rudy's equal as a manager, but Mr. Giuliani's experience in New York City and before that as a U.S. attorney is more directly relevant to the war on terror.
So I like Rudy best on the war on terror. But I'm not yet in his corner because the others are so close behind, and the paramount issue isn't the only issue.
I don't really care what Mr. Giuliani's personal views are on abortion. (He said he thinks the procedure is immoral, but that it is a choice women should be permitted to make.) I do care who he will appoint to the federal bench.
For me, the most important domestic issue is to have judges who will follow the Constitution rather than impose their political views by judicial fiat. Former Solicitor General Ted Olson, a solid and competent conservative, (would that he were attorney general instead of Alberto Gonzales!) has been a friend of Rudy's since they served together in the Reagan Justice Department. He says Rudy is a strict constructionist who will appoint judges like (Chief Justice) John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
If that's so, I'm pretty much sold, because Rudy's record on cutting taxes and controlling spending is better than that of the others. But I want to hear more before I make up my mind. (It wouldn't hurt to drop some hints that Ted Olson would be his attorney general. Policy is personnel, a lesson President Bush never seems to learn.)
A Giuliani trait I like very much is his tendency to say what he thinks. (Slate magazine has done a hilarious animation of a 1999 radio conversation he had with a ferret advocate, in which he said the advocate should seek mental help.) So my interest in Rudy cooled a bit because of his apparent waffling on abortion.
Only a president who tells us what we need to know as opposed to what we want to hear can lead us to victory in the war on terror. So though I don't like what Rudy has to say about abortion, I do like it that he's telling me clearly where he stands.