Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Giuliani & Abortion

I wanted to comment further on the kerfuffle surrounding Rudy Giuliani's comments that he still supports some public financing of abortion.

I have noted many times that Giuliani is running as about the pro-lifiest pro-choicer that he can. (Most recently here). I noted early that his promises to nominate strict-constructionist judges might be seen as a wink-and-a-nod to social conservatives that he supported the overturning of Roe v. Wade - even though he says he has no opinion on that landmark decision. He is pro parental notification (at least in some cases), and against partial-birth abortion. I have argued that on abortion alone, we had no reason to think that he would necessarily be different from Bush 43 (or Bush 41, or Reagan) on abortion.

But with his statement today that he supports public financing of abortion, I can no longer make that case. While the Mayor quickly repeated his previous promise not to push for changes in current federal policy, I do not think that's sufficient. It may be that President Giuliani serves 8 years with a Republican Congress, and never sees a bill that would promote abortion - either through public financing or in any other way. Or it might be that he serves with a Democratic Congress that sends him every manner of legislation promoting abortion. Based on today's statement, I need to reconsider whether I can trust President Giuliani to do the right thing.

If he is open to federal financing of abortions, then what else might he sign?

Given Giuliani's decision to run as a pro-choice candidate, it's essential that he build trust with the Republican base. The dance he's performing here - not supporting the Hyde amendment but not trying to change it, and supporting strict constructionist judges but saying that they might well be champions of stare decisis when it comes to Roe v. Wade - is too cute. It sounds like his positions are designed to allow him to thread the needle - not changing his position, not upsetting pro-lifers and not upsetting pro-choicers. It seems politically calculated.

It's no secret that navigating the Republican primary will be tricky for a pro-choice candidate such as Giuliani. I think he had a bad day today. And I think he needs to think a little more about how he intends to speak to pro-life voters. If Fred Thompson gets into the race, Giuliani will have a hard time winning the nomination without support from social conservatives.

Also a minor style point: in the post I linked above, I warned that Giuliani and his supporters need to stay away from what I'd call 'Mario Cuomo rhetoric.' That includes stuff like 'I'm personally opposed, but I won't impose my views,' and 'I don't support throwing women in prison.' Giuliani uses the latter formulation in this piece, and I think it raises the hackles of pro-life voters. And if you don't agree with them, it helps at least not to be tone deaf.

Update: Read also Captain Ed.


Philo-Junius said...

I think Giuliani is going to have to decide which he loves more: the Sexual Revolution or Republican Party politics.

I thought I knew the answer to this question 6 months ago, but the more Giuliani speaks, the less certain I am.

Anonymous said...

He is actually doing much better than I thought. I figured he would have no chance in the Republican primary, but as it turns out so far, all the leaders are moderates (damn their oily hides Smithers). As long as he keeps saying he will appoint conservative judges, then I think the Republican electorate are simply looking for a winner.