January 13, 2008
Rudy Giuliani Should Be GOP NomineeBy Steven M. Warshawsky
Now that the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary are behind us, the race for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination begins in earnest, with Michigan voting on January 15, South Carolina voting on January 19, Florida voting on January 29, and twenty-one states - including California, Illinois, and New York - voting on "Super Tuesday," February 5.
Despite his campaign having been declared moribund by the mainstream media, Rudy Giuliani continues to lead in most national polls. The Republican field remains wide-open, however, with Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Mike Huckabee, and Fred Thompson all in the running. For now.
Despite Huckabee's win in Iowa and Thompson's solid conservative platform, the Republicans candidates whom I consider to be the most likely GOP nominee are Giuliani, Romney, and McCain. This essay evaluates these three candidates on the five issues that I consider most important for determining who our next president should be: the war on terror, immigration, the economy, health care reform, and Supreme Court appointments. (It goes without saying that I do not think any of the Democratic candidates should be elected!) Based on my analysis, Giuliani should be the GOP nominee.
War On Terror
By "war on terror" I am referring to the ongoing conventional and unconventional warfare that is being waged between the United States and its allies and the forces of militant Islam. This is something larger than Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a civilizational conflict that pre-dates 9/11, and which is being driven, not by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the economic desperation of the Muslim masses or past American support for Middle Eastern dictators, but by the sharply divergent religious and political ideologies of the Muslim world and the West. In the past forty years, the Muslim world has grown steadily in numbers, wealth, and technological sophistication. This growth has multiplied its ability, and willingness, to wage jihad against the West. What started in the 1960s and 1970s with mostly small-scale terror attacks (hijackings and shootings) has escalated to massive bombings, passenger jets flying into skyscrapers, and the specter of WMDs being detonated in American cities.
In this war, I strongly support the original Bush Doctrine, which employed aggressive military, intelligence, and law enforcement tactics to break up and destroy Islamic terror groups, to punish the regimes that harbor and support them, and to prevent rogue nations from obtaining weapons of mass destruction. Under the original Bush Doctrine, the emphasis was on protecting U.S. national security by defeating our enemies. I do not support the Bush Administration's present nation-building strategy (which should be called the Sharansky Doctrine, after its intellectual progenitor, Natan Sharansky), which is based on the hope that a "free" and "democratic" Iraq will spark the political and cultural transformation of the Middle East, nay the entire Muslim world, towards freedom, prosperity, and peaceful coexistence with the West. See here. In my view, this policy will result in strategic overreach, military frustration, and political failure, which is the path I believe we are on in Iraq. See here and here.
The candidate whose views on the war on terror come closest to the original Bush Doctrine is Rudy Giuliani. Only Giuliani is committed to fighting the terrorists with the full weight of American power. As Giuliani stated during the ABC News debate held on January 5, 2008, at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire:
I have little doubt that under a Giuliani administration, the United States will hunt down and "kill terrorists" (in Dennis Miller's words), that Iran will be prevented from developing nuclear weapons - a potentially cataclysmic scenario - and that any new attacks on American soil will be met with a swift and devastating response.
I do not have the same confidence in McCain or Romney.
For all his military and foreign policy bona fides, John McCain offers a more limited, defensive-oriented approach to fighting the war on terror. Consider this statement from McCain's official website:
Conspicuously, McCain does not pledge to attack terrorists before they attack us, or to prevent them from obtaining weapons of mass destruction, the critical threat of our times. Yes, McCain has long supported a more robust military presence in Iraq, which we now have in the so-called "surge." Giuliani and Romney also support the surge. It is McCain's lack of vision for defeating terrorism outside of Iraq that concerns me.
McCain also takes a dangerously civil libertarian stand towards how we wage the war on terror, asserting that "to impinge on the rights of our own citizens or restrict the freedoms for which our nation stands would be to give terrorists the victory they seek." Yet no basic rights of the American people have been infringed since 9/11. Instead, what McCain has in mind are the water-boarding of terrorists, the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and the Bush Administration's electronic surveillance program, all of which have proved vital in uncovering terror plots against this country - and all of which McCain opposes. McCain further believes that Islamic terrorism is rooted in "the doctrine of hatred and despair," which ignores what the terrorists themselves say motivates them: the desire to glorify Allah, to expel infidel Jews and Christians from Muslim lands, and to establish a global Islamic caliphate. See here.
In my opinion, McCain misunderstands the nature of the Islamic threat, and is not prepared to do what is necessary to combat it effectively.
Mitt Romney appears to have a better understanding of the Islamic threat than McCain. As he states on his website:
So far, so good. However, Romney believes, like President Bush, that the solution to this "nightmare" is to "change the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of Muslims." As Romney put it during the January 5 debate:
This is a preposterous, indeed impossible, goal. Nor -- it must be emphasized -- was this how Nazism and Soviet Communism were defeated. In keeping with this vision, Romney's anti-terror strategy proposes "humanitarian and development assistance" and a "new type of Marshall Plan" to provide Muslim nations with "public schools, micro-credit and banking, the rule of law, human rights, basic health care, and competitive economic policies." This is liberal internationalism run amok.
Contrary to what many conservative commentators have argued, Rudy Giuliani is not the inheritor of President Bush's current project to bring freedom and democracy to the Middle East. That candidate is Mitt Romney. Although Giuliani, like all of the Republican candidates, sensibly rejects the idea of a fixed timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, his publicly articulated anti-terror strategy (#1 on his list of "Twelve Commitments") reflects the more realistic, national security approach of the original Bush Doctrine. Consequently, I believe Rudy Giuliani is the best candidate on this issue.
If Islamic terrorism represents the gravest immediate threat to American national security, out-of-control immigration represents the gravest long-term threat.
As a result of the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which shifted the focus of U.S. immigration policy from European to Third World countries (see here), and the massive influx of immigrants from Mexico beginning in the 1980s, the historical identity and culture of this country has been severely weakened. Today, parts of the Southwest and many big cities have been completely transformed, and corporate America routinely asks customers to "press one for English."
Last year witnessed a great popular outcry against this policy of "national suicide" (in Pat Buchanan's words), as the American people soundly rejected -- twice! -- the Bush-Kennedy-McCain amnesty bill. This opposition was driven mainly by the cultural aspects of the immigration issue. Our current approach to immigration -- which results in large numbers of uneducated, low-skill immigrants -- also imposes significant economic costs on the country, in terms of higher taxes and government spending (e.g., for schools, hospitals, welfare, and law enforcement) and lower wages for America's poor and working class citizens. Then there is the raw political impact of immigration, with the majority of recent immigrants supporting the Democratic Party (e.g., between 1952 and 1988, California voted Republican in every presidential election except 1964; since then, it has become a solidly Democratic state).
For these cultural, economic, and political reasons, we desperately need a "restrictionist" immigration policy. That is, one that secures the border with Mexico, ends birthright citizenship, sanctions employers who hire illegal workers, reduces the level of legal immigration, and places a premium on immigrants who bring desirable character, skills, and wealth to the country. We do not need a "guest worker" program. As for the 12-20 million illegal immigrants already here, turning off the illegal immigration spigot and pursuing a policy of "attrition through enforcement" is the most feasible approach for reducing their numbers. See here.
Unfortunately, none of the leading Republican presidential candidates endorses a restrictionist immigration policy. As a vocal proponent of last year's amnesty bill, John McCain completely lacks credibility on this issue, regardless what he says during the campaign. Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney also have mostly liberal records on immigration. Given a Democrat-controlled Congress, it is clear that a conservative immigration reform bill is not in the works.
Nevertheless, the single most important step in getting immigration under control is securing the Mexican border. Both Giuliani and Romney make this the top priority of their respective immigration plans. The question is: Who is more likely, in the face of strident opposition from Democrats and big business, to achieve this goal? I give the edge to Giuliani.
As Mayor of New York City -- which has a larger population and economy than most states (including Massachusetts) -- Giuliani proved that he can get things done in the face of virulent liberal opposition. Under his leadership, crime dropped, drugs and pornography were driven out of the public square, taxes were reduced, the economy boomed, and quality of life improved significantly for ordinary New Yorkers. The magnitude of Giuliani's achievement in New York City should not be underestimated. See here and here. Neither Romney nor McCain can tout similar records of achievement.
Given the political saliency of this issue, I expect Giuliani to bring the same vision, energy, and tenacity he displayed as Mayor of New York City to the problem of securing the border. Will he succeed? Maybe. The nation's track record over the past 20+ years is not promising. In my opinion, however, the prospects for achieving this goal will be even lower under Romney or McCain.
Regardless what the naysayers in the mainstream media and Democratic Party tell us, the American economy is strong. We have the largest GDP in the world. Unemployment and inflation - the twin scourges of the 1970s, the last time the U.S. economy seriously struggled - are low. Personal income, rates of home and automobile ownership, and discretionary spending are high. American businesses and universities lead the world in scientific, medical, and technological advances. Economic mobility remains one of the defining features of American society. No country enjoys a higher overall standard of living.
The keys to the enormous wealth and opportunity produced by our economy are individual freedom, private property, and the free market. In a word, capitalism. Not government. The touchstone for economic policy, therefore, must be strengthening the capitalist base of the economy. In practice, this means cutting taxes, eliminating regulations, reforming the legal system, and reducing the size of government.
All three leading Republican candidates promise to pursue these traditional Republican policies. There are some differences between them, however.
Most importantly, whereas Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney both can be described as "supply-siders," John McCain is more of a "deficit hawk." The significance of this difference, I believe, is that it is much more likely McCain will agree to raise taxes as part of a "comprehensive budget deal" than either Giuliani or Romney. McCain's record of opposing President Bush's tax cuts does not inspire confidence that, as president, he will fight to keep taxes low.
But will he reduce spending? McCain undoubtedly is sincere when he promises to "veto every pork-laden spending bill" that Congress passes. In the absence of a line-item veto, however - which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 1998 (in an opinion joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Kennedy and Thomas) - such a promise is woefully unrealistic, because every spending bill that comes out of Congress contains pork. The prospects for amending the Constitution to add a line-item veto (which Giuliani says he supports) are nil. Consequently, unless McCain narrowly defines what he means by "pork-laden," which would undercut his pledge, in effect he is promising to bring the federal government to a halt. McCain will not do this. Consequently, under a McCain administration, we are more likely to end up with higher taxes and higher spending.
For this reason, Giuliani and Romney are much better than McCain on the economy. As between Giuliani and Romney, it is worth noting that the Club For Growth assesses Giuliani's economic record somewhat more favorably than Romney's. See here and here. Nevertheless, there is little reason to believe that either candidate will be better on basic economic issues. Both Giuliani and Romney are committed to pursuing pro-growth policies.
Health Care Reform
Health care reform is a different matter. On this issue, Rudy Giuliani unquestionably is the best candidate.
Giuliani believes, quite properly, that the amount and quality and cost of health care in this country -- just like food, clothing, housing, transportation, education, entertainment, and so on -- should be determined primarily by the free market, not by the government. It is the free market, not the government, that is responsible for the United States having the most advanced health care industry in the world, with more Americans enjoying access to the best doctors and the most sophisticated drugs, machines, and procedures than the citizens of any other nation. The current push for universal health insurance, with guaranteed benefits and mandated cost controls, i.e., socialized medicine - which both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have made a centerpiece of their respective campaigns - threatens to destroy the U.S. health care industry as we know it.
Giuliani is the most outspoken opponent of socialized medicine among the Republican presidential candidates. As he stated during the January 5 debate at St. Anselm College:
Giuliani proposes a staunchly free market approach to health care reform, including offering tax breaks to low-income individuals, reforming medical malpractice laws, allowing individuals and businesses to purchase health insurance across state lines (thereby using competition to reduce burdensome and costly state insurance regulations), and expanding the availability of private health savings accounts. Significantly, Giuliani does not endorse the concept of "universal coverage."
Neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney is as committed as Giuliani to a free market in health care.
McCain's campaign website demonstrates that his thinking on this issue is much closer to Hillary Clinton than Adam Smith. For example, McCain states that "controlling costs" is his top priority, and that "nothing short of a complete reform of the culture of our health system and the way we pay for it will suffice." This is a recipe for massive government interference in the health care industry. McCain also supports universal coverage, claiming that "we can and must provide access to health care for all our citizens." Completing the liberal trifecta, at the January 5 ABC NEWS debate, when Romney criticized McCain for "turn[ing] the pharmaceutical companies into the big bad guys," McCain replied, "Well, they are." Plainly, if he were president, McCain would serve as the Democrats' "useful idiot" for their plan to impose socialized medicine on the nation.
I also have my doubts on this score about Romney. True, Romney's health care plan, like Giuliani's, emphasizes the free market. The difference is that Romney, like McCain, believes that "reform of our health care system must address the twin problems of high costs and the uninsured." The "solution" that Romney endorses, which he implemented as governor of Massachusetts, is to require every person living in the country to obtain health insurance, either directly from an insurance company, through an employer, or through the government. Romney may not carry his universal coverage plan as far as the Democrats - he claims that there will be "no government-managed health care and no increase in taxes" - but his plan represents a giant step towards socialized medicine. The top-down nature of Romney's thinking is further revealed by his statement that "we need to find a way to reduce the rate of growth of spending in health care in our country." In other words, Romney believes that the government should decide how private citizens spend their health care dollars. I easily can envision the day when a Romney-Clinton-Kennedy health care bill is signed into law. I foresee no such event under a Giuliani administration.
Supreme Court Appointments
After the president, the most powerful citizens in the country are the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. They make decisions that define our most basic rights and freedoms. When these decisions are clothed in the language of the Constitution, they cannot be overturned except by a constitutional amendment or by a later decision of the Supreme Court itself. I hardly need explain how crucial it is - to conservatives and liberals alike - that judges sharing their worldviews are appointed to the Court. In the balance hangs whether there is a right to abortion or whether affirmative action is unconstitutional or whether gay marriage must be recognized by the states, and numerous other issues central to American life. As a result, there are few events in American politics more momentous, and more contentious, than the selection of Supreme Court justices.
In the next four to eight years, we can anticipate that there will be at least two and perhaps as many as five new appointments to the Court. As of November 2008, when the next president will be elected, the ages of the current justices will be as follows: John Paul Stevens (88), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (75), Antonin Scalia (72), Anthony Kennedy (72), Stephen Breyer (70), David Souter (69), Clarence Thomas (60), Samuel Alito (58), and John Roberts (53). The good news for Republicans is that the three youngest justices are solid conservatives, while the two oldest are strident liberals. These two, Stevens and Ginsburg, almost certainly will leave the bench during the next president's tenure in office. By 2016, Kennedy, Breyer, and/or Souter (not to mention Scalia) also may succumb to age or infirmity. Replacing these justices with solid conservatives may finally accomplish the conservative counter-revolution on the Supreme Court that Republicans have worked tirelessly to achieve for decades.
It is absolutely imperative, therefore, for the next president to appoint judges in the mold of Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito for these vacancies. Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and John McCain all pledge to do so. All three candidates promise to nominate "strict constructionist" judges, meaning judges who (in words taken from Giuliani's website) "will follow the text of laws and of the Constitution and will not make policy from the bench." There is no reason to believe that one of these candidates will appoint "better" judges than the others. All of them will select judges from the same broad pool of potential nominees. Nevertheless, as we have seen, for example, with Kennedy (appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1988) and Souter (appointed by George H.W. Bush in 1990), it is impossible to predict how a judge will decide cases once appointed to the Court. So a little humility is in order when evaluating candidates on this issue.
Few Republicans question whether Romney and McCain will appoint solid conservative judges to the Supreme Court. Because Giuliani personally holds liberal views on abortion, gay rights, and gun control, however, many Republicans do not believe him when he promises to appoint strict constructionists to the bench. I do not share this concern. Giuliani is an experienced lawyer and a sophisticated student of the American legal system. He understands the fundamental principles of rule of law, separation of powers, and enumerated rights. It is perfectly consistent for him to believe that the Constitution should be interpreted narrowly, while believing that the people and the states retain the right to pass laws of their own choosing (which may include, for example, laws authorizing abortion). Moreover, in general, Giuliani is more committed to individual freedom and limited government than either Romney or McCain. The idea that he is going to appoint more Ginsburgs and Breyers to the Supreme Court is absurd.
My final scorecard on these five issues is as follows:
On the war on terror, Giuliani is the best candidate; McCain is a distant second.
On immigration, Giuliani is the best candidate; Romney is a close second.
On the economy, Giuliani and Romney are equally strong; McCain is a distant third.
On health care reform, Giuliani is the best candidate; Romney is a distant second.
On Supreme Court appointments, all three candidates are equally strong.
In sum, Rudy Giuliani is the best choice among the three leading GOP candidates. He is not a "perfect" choice. His liberal social views and his messy personal life are hardly what we would like to see in a Republican president. Nevertheless, on the issues that matter most, he offers the most conservative policies and the most effective leadership.
Rudy Giuliani should be the GOP nominee for 2008.