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March 9, 2007
Contra Rudy (updated with rejoinder)
Some thoughts on Richard Baehr's article on the GOP presidential field today.
Glad to hear it is too early too call! Because Rudy will not win. He will not even get the nomination. Nor will McCain. Republicans had better get on the ball and start looking for a viable candidate.
Social conservatives are the key to primary elections. McCain is detested by most. Giuliani is to date a largely superficial presence who will only anger the religious right as his views and past become more widely known to grass root voters. (One picture of Rudy in a dress at the gay-pride parade is all it will take).
Lining up electoral votes, and states, and regions, can be a fun exercise twenty-one months out. And poll-watching may be irresistible to political junkies and party-establishment types of the left and right. But as history teaches, and common sense dictates, Republican Presidential candidates can only win with the enthusiastic support (and efforts) of social conservatives and the religious right. Calls to eschew ideological purity in search of a realpolitick "winner" are a recipe for disaster.
Unlike leftists who see politics as everything, social conservatives have lives outside politics and when dispirited by politicians they have supported (Bush)(Congress) turn off to the process and seek other means to achieve their goals.
And fund raising constraints are no reason to quit looking and settle on a "winner." Money alone won't do it either. Dole had plenty of money, and he was a legitimate war hero, with wounds.
Party leaders need to get real and work hard to support or enlist a unifying conservative candidate now. Wishing away primaries and projecting winners in a general election this early in the game is irresponsible and dangerous for the party and ultimately, the nation.
Update: Greg Richards files a rejoinder
Andrew Sumereau has a predilection against Rudy which he imagines "social conservatives" share. Not likely.
Our civilization is under attack - both externally from radical Islam and internally from forces of dissolution. Rudy knows how to defend it from both and is tough enough to do it. His more liberal leanings - abortion, gay rights - are not that relevant to this struggle. Yes, they make him an imperfect champion, but not that imperfect. His showing up in drag was a unit of fun, nothing more.
Rudy was able to retake New York from the forces of dissolution, forces which bien pensant opinion said could not be reversed. They were. Dramatically. And Rudy did it in the face of withering criticism from all the principal liberal opinion-makers.
Rudy is a superb executive who has run the most difficult polity in the country - New York City. He is a politican in the best sense of the world, totally in touch with the human condition and the difficulties of actually getting things done in the face of bureaucracy and self-interest. I remain a supporter of the Iraq War, but it is pretty clear now that whatever post-combat strategy we had in Iraq was a failure of both planning and execution. Executive ability is going to be important in the next Administration. Even the United States does not have sufficient strategic depth to totally surrender the initiative on execution of our policies as seems to be a reasonable reading of what happened in Iraq after the statue came down in 2003.
Rudy is not, in fact, a nice guy. He will try to be more nice for the primaries, but he is a man of principal and vision, who is also egotistical and chilly. We are up against a bunch of very nasty guys in the Islamic radicals and the country will want someone who is nasty enough to take them on. Rudy is that guy. Remember, he got The Mob in New York. The country will overlook his shortcomings, which are small in any case. In fact, the president can do little about gay rights or abortion absent the appointing of judges, where Rudy has already said he will follow Bush's league.
Rudy is not a prosetyzer for radical social causes. He is more live and let live on these issues as are, in fact, social conservatives so long as the radical social agenda is not being promulgated by law or in the schools. Rudy is a conservative of the type who thinks the kids should do their homework and be in bed by 10:00 and the cops should be out on the beat arresting the bad guys.
Three words for 2008 (hat tip to Cary Grant): Rudy, Rudy, Rudy.