Matthew J. Frank discusses the interesting question of whether Republicans should trust the former New York mayor’s recent “conversions.”
â€œIsnâ€™t it better that I tell you what I really believe instead of pretending to change all of my positions to fit the prevailing wind?â€
So asked Rudy Giuliani at the â€œValues Voter Summit,â€ on October 20. Itâ€™s a powerful rhetorical question. Simultaneously Giuliani declared that flip-flopping and pandering are beneath him, and intimated that he is superior to his leading rival, Mitt Romney, who is famous for having changed his mind on the subject of abortion rights. Iâ€™m no waffler, no quick-change artist when I face a different constituency, says Rudy. â€œI believe trust is more important than 100% agreement.â€ And so Hizzoner has made trust the currency of his campaign, and he links trust to consistency: Iâ€™m the same guy yesterday, today, tomorrow, and the day after that.
By now you get the picture. Mayor Giulianiâ€™s latter-day assurances on the abortion issue are thin and insubstantial, and appear to be made to endure for just as long as it takes to get the Republican nomination. So far I believe the phrase â€œright to lifeâ€ has never passed his lips, and Iâ€™m not sure it can. Itâ€™s hard to imagine Giuliani as the partyâ€™s nominee even continuing to talk about the abortion issue after he achieves that status, if he could get away with it.
But would he get away with it? Giulianiâ€™s pandering in all directions on this issue, his evident lack of a guiding moral or legal principle on the issue, is tailor-made for attack by Hillary Clintonâ€™s campaign. We can hear her now in a head-to-head debate: â€œWhich is it, mayor? Do your ideal â€˜strict constructionistâ€™ judges strike down a womanâ€™s right to choose, or not? Which do you want to see happen? Where are you on this issue?â€ Does Rudy then betray a career-long support of abortion rights â€” or the platform of his party â€” or stick bumptiously to his well-rehearsed mantra of â€œdonâ€™t-care strict constructionismâ€? Surely the Democrats are already relishing the opportunity theyâ€™ll have to make him dance even faster.
Why do we worry about the flip-flopper or the panderer in political campaigns? Because we wonder whom to trust, to be sure. But also because we want our own partyâ€™s candidates to be as invulnerable as possible to attack by the opposition party. A lot of pro-lifers want desperately to trust Rudy Giuliani, and are willing to put the fate of the right-to-life cause in his hands because they believe heâ€™s the man who can beat Hillary Clinton. But even if that trust is wisely given (a big if indeed), on this issue, compared to almost anyone else in the GOP field â€” Mitt Romney most certainly included â€” Rudy Giuliani is the most vulnerable candidate the Republicans could make their standard-bearer.
I don’t myself care much about the abortion issue. (I’m not really planning on having any personally.) But I care a great deal about Gun Control, on which issue Giuliani’s record is utterly abysmal, and Hizzoner’s recent supposed conversion on the subject does not impress me in the least. If they nominate Giuliani, I’ll be voting Third Party.