Monday, April 16, 2007

How Mayor Giuliani is Like Howard Dean

Earlier today I criticized Mayor Giuliani for his statement that Republicans need to 'get beyond' social issues like abortion. The Mayor's campaign felt that the truncated quote needed to be seen in context to understand its meaning, and they provided the following exchange:

“AUDIENCE MEMBER: I have a question about the former platform in the Republican Party allowed abortion in the case of rape, incest, and life of the mother. I believe in that and I believe that because of the abortion issue in the Republican Party it is dividing this party so badly that we may not be able to elect a Republican president and I hope-I’d like to hear what your thoughts are on that.”

MAYOR GIULIANI: “What my thoughts are on the big question? I can tell you my thoughts on both.”

AUDIENCE MEMBER: “The big question.”

GIULIANI: “On the big question my thoughts are we shouldn’t allow it to do that. Electing a Republican in 2008 is so important to the war on terror, the ability to keep up an economy that’s an economy or growth, or from the point of view of what we believe as Republicans to really set us in the wrong direction. Democrats are entitled to think something different but I think that there will be a major difference in the direction of this country whether we have a Republican or Democrat in 2008 and 2009. On abortion I think we should respect each other. I think that’s what we should do and we should respect the fact that this is a very difficult moral question and a very difficult question and that very good people of equally good conscience could come to different opinions on it. My view of it is I hate abortion. I think abortion is wrong. To someone who I cared about or cared to talk to me about it and wanted my advice, the advice I would give them is not to do it and to have adoption as an option to it. When I was the Mayor adoptions went way up, abortions went down but ultimately I respect that that’s somebody else’s decision and that people of conscience can make that decision either way and you can’t put them in jail for it. (applause) And then I think our party, our party has to get beyond issues like that where we can have people who are very good people who have different views about this, they can all be Republican because our party is going to grow and we’re going to win in 2008 if we’re a party that is characterized for what we are for and not if we’re a party that’s known for what we are against. …” (Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Campaign Event, Des Moines IA, 4/14/07)

The thing is, I feel no better about the Mayor after reading that than I did before. Why? Because he continues to demonstrate that he has no understanding of pro-lifers, and I have to begin to conclude that it's because he has no desire to.

The Mayor contrasts himself with Republicans who want to 'throw women in jail' for having an abortion. Name one mainstream GOP leader who supports that. I know of none. So where does the canard come from? It comes from Democrats who want to paint pro-lifers and the GOP generally as extremists.

Do a google search for 'abortion' and 'throw women in jail,' and see what you come up with: Pandagon, TalkLeft, TPM Cafe, an abortion rights group in Wyoming, Gloria Feldt, some abortion rights proponents...

And Mayor Giuliani, apparently.

Regardless of his assertions to the contrary, the use of such rhetoric suggests that the Mayor thinks of pro-life voters the same way the liberal Democrats do. And this is not an isolated instance; I have pointed it out at least twice before. This is dramatically different from George Bush in 2000 - who knew the importance of language and terminology. He spoke frequently of the 'culture of life,' because he wanted to signal to Catholic voters that he understood them. Giuliani by contrast, asks that his pro-choice position be respected, but caricatures that of his opponents.

The surprising thing to me is that I think the Mayor needs voters like me to win the nomination. I'm conservative on social issues, but not so much that I could not be swayed to support him based on his extraordinary management of New York City and his leadership post 9/11. I wrote enthusiastically about his candidacy and defended him on abortion. But now it's starting to seem like he doesn't even speak my language.

Update: Read Bryan at Hot Air for a decidedly different take on this.

1 comment:

Philo-Junius said...

So much mendacity, so little time.

The Republican Party has never had a platform in favour of the rape and incest exceptions. While these are more politically saleable in the morally incoherence of the rise to political power of the Baby Boomers, from the first Republican convention after Roe v. Wade foisted the issue onto the national stage, the Republican Party has supported the right to life of human life in utero. Wrongful conception has never constituted an exception to the general principle endorsed by the party. (

Proceeding from the dishonest historical premise of the question, we move onto the dishonest current threat viewed by the audience member--that there exists some sort of dissension within the rank-and-file of the Republican Party on the issue. In fact, the Republican Party platform on abortion has not changed since 1976: Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, and an amendment to the Constitution should be made to clarify the constitutionally protected right to life of the unborn. There are ongoing legislative issues tangential or peripheral to the basic plank, such as stem cell research, on which the party has not reached a coherent position, but to pretend that abortion is tearing the party apart, to the extent this is not merely hyperventilating by the fringe, it is the "Republicans for Choice" who are moving away from the default position and causing the rift.

Moving on to Rudy's equally dishonest answer, we see only the "safe, legal and rare" focus grouped solution wheeled about by the Clinton Administration to attempt to end the debate by admitting that the procedure was repugnant, (else why would anyone care whether it were rare?), but somehow necessary for the proper functioning of modern society. This lie leads smoothly into the next, that since putatively moral people could reach different conclusions, the default position to resolve the dispute must be the one permitting the greatest latitude of action. One strains to think of any other regulatory issue on which the debated possibility of the destruction of human life is preferred to any restrictive regulation at all. If Giuliani really respected the pro-life position as equally legitimate to his own, he would be obliged to enunciate the overarching principle by which such disputed ethical dilemmas should be resolved. Giuliani in fact has offered no such framework, merely demanding that the status quo triumph--apparently only because its the status quo.

The repeated refusal to explain the ethical process whereby he resolves the legal aspect of the dispute by entirely siding with the post-traditional view on the public consequences of sexual morality indicates that he has little real respect for the traditional position at all, since he doesn't even feel obliged to explain why they'll get nothing from him and like it.