Is Rudy “pro-choice”? Not hardly.

No, but that’s the way he’d spin it in a general election, and the “liberal media” will go along with being spun.

The objective of the “right-to-life” movement at the federal level has long been the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which would return the issue to the states. Only the most fanatical have expressed any hope of a Supreme Court decision giving fetuses the rights of persons under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment.

In the minds of the right-to-lifers, Roe v. Wade has always been the primary instance of “judicial activism,” as opposed to “originalism” or “judicial restraint” or “interpreting the law, not making the law” or whatever slogan the wingnuts are using this week to mean “deciding cases the way we want them decided.” (Yes, of course Roe simply applies the reasoning in Griswold, but since there’s not much support for making contraception illegal, that inconvenient fact rarely gets mentioned. See Update below for a correction.)

So when Rudy Giuliani says he would appoint “strict constructionist” judges, he’s pledging to appoint more justices willing to overturn Roe v. Wade; the fact that he sortakinda takes it back by saying there would be no litmus test doesn’t really matter. Nor does the fact that, as a private citizen and a local politician he supports abortion rights; on the one issue where a President has to act on abortion he’s fully committed to the RTL position. And Justice Stevens isn’t getting any younger.

Thus it’s not really right to describe Giuliani, the Presidential candidate, as someone who “supports abortion rights.”

It’s not clear how much this will help or hurt Giuliani in the primaries. But it could make all the difference in the general should Rudy be the nominee. To get the swing votes he would need, Giuliani would want to run as a “moderate” on abortion, which is about as close to the truth as his claim to be an “expert” on terrorism.

I’d like to hope that the press wouldn’t let him get away with it. But perhaps I’d be wiser to hope for a pony. After all, it’s not quite impossible that a pony might appear, and indeed the amount of horsesh*t in the newspaper makes it quite plausible that there are in fact ponies nearby. By contrast, wishing that our current cadre of political reporters could become capable of resisting this sort of GOP spin would, like a second marriage, represent the triumph of optimism over experience.

Footnote No, I don’t think this is “conservative media bias” Robin Toner probably votes Democratic. I do think it’s a huge structural advantage for Republicans.

Note that there’s no hint in the story of a tension between pleasing the anti-abortion fanatics in the GOP base and appealing to general-election voters.

Now try to imagine a story about Democratic candidates and the teachers’ unions that didn’t stress that angle, and clearly imply that supporting public-employee concerns reflects base pandering to a special-interest group. You can’t? Neither can I.

Update A conservative (though not especially RTL) reader thinks I’m misreading Giuliani:

Sure, “as a private citizen and a local politician he supports abortion rights; on the one issue where a President has to act on abortion he’s fully committed to the RTL position.” But any rational person would conclude that he’s LYING about the latter. It’s not even a particularly plausible lie. It’s certainly not taking in many pro-lifers! (We pro-gunners aren’t drinking he “I’m suddenly a federalist!” koolaid, either.)

This is one of those lies politicians tell occasionally, that they don’t really expect to be believed. It’s more an effort to give plausible deniability to potential supporters who don’t *really* give a damn about the social issues Rudy has trouble on, but who need some cover because they can’t afford to be seen not caring about them. They just come out for him, pretending to have fallen for the lies, and hopefully their followers decide that they’re gullible, rather than secretly on the other side.

I happen to think it would be poetic justice if he tanked because the people he’s pandering to weren’t buying it, AND the people opposing them did. (That’s what happened during the Clinton impeachment dive, to the Republicans; Democrats got mad because they thought it was serious, and Republicans because they could tell a dive when they saw one.)

Of course, I have no idea what Rudy believes, in his heart of hearts, other than that Rudy and his friends should have power and that people who aren’t like Rudy are BAD and deserve to suffer. If the pro-lifers want a candidate who actually shares their beliefs, as opposed to a candidate who will serve their goals, Rudy isn’t their guy.

But do I think he’d appoint more Scalia/Thomas/Alito/Roberts types to the Court? Absolutely! Why wouldn’t he? I hope my correspondent is right, and that Rudy’s waffling screws him up one side and down the other. But from the viewpoint of those who are pro-choice, he’d be a disaster, and they shouldn’t be taken in.

Update A reader learned in the law offers a correction:

It is possible (I’d argue it’s wrong, but possible) to see Roe as a straightforward application of Eisenstadt; it isn’t a straightforward application of Griswold. Griswold focused on the well-established principle of marital privacy (which shows up in other contexts, such as compelled testimony). Eisenstadt is where the focus shifts to sexual decisions as themselves private, as opposed to arguing that sexual decisions within a marriage are, like other decisions within a marriage, privileged.

Richard Milhous Giuliani

Michael Gerson gets it right: Rudy is Tricky Dick.

Michael Gerson, much cleverer writing on politics than on religion, offers what I take to be the basic insight about the 2008 Republian field: Rudy Giuliani is the second coming of Richard Nixon. Gerson’s warning is directed at his fellow wingnuts, but they’re not the only ones who need to hear it.

Update Ed Kilgore at The Democratic Strategist thinks Gerson’s piece may be the opening salvo in a barrage by the religious and cultural right against the much-married mayor. I hope so.

Rudy vs. the Church

A fight I hope both sides lose. But it’s nice to see conservative Catholics calling Rudy on his support of torture.

Mostly, if conservative Catholics want to bash Rudy Giuliani for being unfaithful to Church teachings, I can heartily wish a pox on both their houses. I’m glad that he has comparatively reasonable positions on abortion, gay rights, the right to die, and stem cell research, and I’m also glad those stances will hurt him in the Republican primaries.

Giuliani’s treatment of his second wife was intolerable, and consistent with his generally bad moral character, but in principle I hate the thought that the bishops might do to him what they did to Kerry: in effect, make a negative endorsement by barring him from the communion rail. (Having elected as Pope the organizer of a massive worldwide cover-up of the sexual abuse of minors, the Church’s standing to lecture the rest of us on our reproductive morals is questionable, at best.)

Still, even a blind chipmunk finds an acorn every once in a while, and it would be bizarre if all of the Church’s moral teachings, or even all of the subset of those teachings that the institutional church uses in deciding how to throw its political weight around, were wrong. Kudos to the Church for its frank opposition to torture &#8212 as the Talmud says, in the place of a true penitent even a saint is not fit to stand &#8212 and to Catholics Against Rudy for listing his support of torture among his heterodoxies.

h/t Andrew Sullivan


The Firefighters’ video can do a lot of damage to Rudy Giuliani’s reputation.

If I were Giuliani’s campaign manager, I’d be sweating bullets about the Firefighters’ attack video. Cut up into 30-second spots, it would be devastating. It makes several points, and it makes them hard:

1. The NYFD’s radios failed during the first WTC bombing in 1993. The Giuliani Administration, despite cutting various corners &#8212 a no-bid contract, no field testing &#8212 didn’t get new radios into the field until April of 2001. They promptly failed. Orders went out to evacuate the two towers in plenty of time for the first responders to get out, and in fact all of the police officers escaped. But 321 firefighters died, apparently because they never got the order.

2. Giuliani testified to the 9/11 Commission that the radios worked fine; the firefighters must have received the orders and heroically refused to leave the building. That was a lie.

3. Giuliani chose as the City’s emergency command center WTC 7, despite the fact that the World Trade Center was an obvious target. When WTC 7 collapsed, the City was left without an command center.

4. Shortly after the Bank of Nova Scotia’s $200 million in gold was recovered from Ground Zero, the Mayor ordered an end to the search for bodies and valuables. Everything left, including the bodies of many firefighters, was to be scooped up and taken to a landfill. Firefighters who protested were arrested at the Mayor’s orders. As a result of the protest, the search efffort continued for another several months. But the effort was terminated a second time, and as a result families never got to hold funerals.

5. In sum, Giuliani has made tens of millons of dollars, and is now running for President, as the Hero of 9/11, but he didn’t earn his reputation; his performance was poor, and he’s been lying about it.

The NYT, the Daily News, and the AP apparently all swallowed replies from a couple of Giuliani cronies as if they represented legitimate expert opinion. The two cronies are quoted a pooh-poohing the accusations, but not rebutting any of the details, except for claiming that the radio failure was actually in one of the transmitters rather than the receivers. (That doesn’t explain why Giuliani invented the “heroically-disobedient firefighter” story to tell the 9/11 Commission &#8212 under oath, of course.) The best they can do on the story of the bodies is to claim that Giuliani allowed some of the rescue efforts to continue, which the original video specifically reports, attributing it to the firefighters’ protests.

None of the stories provides a detailed summary of the charges made in the video, or quotes any independent source evaluating those claims. The Times, in criticizing the video, misstates the point the video makes about the gold: the video doesn’t claim that Giuliani gave priority to finding the gold over digging up the bodies, merely that once the gold had been dug up he was willing to haul whatever and whoever was still buried at Ground Zero off to the dump.

Unless one of Rudy’s Republican opponents picks this up, it won’t hurt him much in the Republican primaries. But Willie Horton didn’t hurt Mike Dukakis much in the Democratic primaries in 1988. The video goes after the Mayor on his signature issue, and it scores some body blows. I think the Democrats’ chances of taking the White House just improved.

Fearless prediction None of the people who criticize the Firefighters’ attack as “swiftboating” will have actually denounced the Swift Boat lies when they were told.

Crime, lead, and Rudy

Yes, getting the lead out of gasoline no doubt explains a large share, maybe even the bulk, of the crime drop from 1990-2005. But that doesn’t meant that more and better police services didn’t count. Only the liberal (and libertarian) Bourbons, who have learned nothing and forgotten nothing, still regard law enforcement as a bigger problem than crime.

Lead exposure in childhood greatly increases the probability that a child will become criminally active. It’s quite plausible that the removal of lead from gasoline in the 1980s had more to do with the crime collapse of the late 1990s than any other single factor. Lots of things probably contributed: smarter policing, more cops, more prison cells, fewer unwanted children due to legal access to abortion, the tightening low-wage labor market that went along with the late-90s boom.

Kevin Drum is right: if we can get rid of most of the remaining residential lead for $30 billion, that’s a huge bargain. (Right up there, I’d say, with nurse home visits for first-time mothers and literacy programs for prisoners and probationers.)

None of that provides any excuse for this dim-witted Washington Post story by Shankar Vedantam. Of course Rudy Giuliani doesn’t deserve all of the credit for New York’s crime drop; he gets points for hiring Bill Bratton, but loses points for firing him because Giuliani wanted to hog the limelight. And of course policing wasn’t the only factor that led to the decline, and of course the growth in the size of the police force, and some of the “quality-of-life”-focused tactics, started under David Dinkins and his police commissioner (also the current commissioner) Ray Kelly.

Still and all, even if those policies were responsible for only 10-20% of the crime drop (a figure Vedantam quotes from a study by Rick Rosenfeld and Steven Messner) that’s not chopped liver. There are about 1500 fewer homicides each year in New York now than there were at the peak. Fifteen percent of 1500 is 225. Saving 225 lives a year, year after year, is worth bragging about.

But it’s the final graf that’s most annoying. Vedantam says, in his own voice, that the finding about the correlation between lead and crime

…implies a double tragedy for America’s inner cities: Thousands of children in these neighborhoods were poisoned by lead in the first three quarters of the last century. Large numbers of them then became the targets, in the last quarter, of Giuliani-style law enforcement policies.

Even if we ignore for the moment the fact that police shootings of civilians in New York dropped right along with the crime rate, Vedantam seems to be assuming that law enforcement has only costs and no benefits for residents of high-crime inner city neighborhoods. Just precisely who does he think would have been the victims in all those murders that didn’t happen? Yuppies? Not likely. And it’s not the residents of apartment buildings with doormen that benefit most when burglary drops and the streets become safe.

If Vedantam wants to see a bad example, he doesn’t have very far to look. I don’t know the statistics on lead exposure in Washington, DC, but I do know that one reason DC still has stratospheric murder rates (35 per 100,000 population in 2005, compared to New York’s 6.6 per 100,000) is because it never had a Bill Bratton as police commissioner.

There are lots of reasons to pray that Rudy Giuliani never achieves his ambition. And I fervently hope that Democratic candidates pick up the theme that there are lots of things that control crime other than hiring cops and building prison cells. We can and should get rid of the pointless cruelty that now defaces our criminal justice system. But that’s perfectly consistent with keeping our sympathy focused on the victims of crime rather than the “victims” of law enforcement. On crime as on national security, the right critique of the Republicans isn’t that they’ve been too hawkish, it’s that they’ve been grossly incompetent, ideologically blindered, and bound to special interests, and have consequently neglected important opportunities to make us safer.

Footnote Lead was banned from gasoline during the 1980s. The job was done by the Reagan Administration. Vice President George H.W. Bush and his “regulatory reform” task force had proposed loosening lead limits, but a brilliant analysis spearheaded by my friend Joel Schwartz (then at the EPA, now at the Harvard School of Public Health) managed to turn the proposal around; even the folks at OMB couldn’t deny the data when they had their noses rubbed in them. Such deference to fact would be unthinkable today.

That’s the difference between old reactionary Republicans and contemporary reactionary Republicans. As a friend of mine at DoJ said to me in the summer of 2001, “I never thought I’d look back on the Reagan Administration as the good old days.”

How low can they go?

A former Republican Congressmen, now chairing the Giuliani campaign in South Carolina, has son with Downs Syndrome. He once publicly referred to the NAACP as “that organization known as the National Association for Retarded People.”
Words fail.

If the press didn’t keep telling me that Rudy Giuliani was a “moderate” and a “centrist,” I might not be sure. He just replaced Thomas Ravenel, his SC campaign chair &#8212 facing Federal cocaine charges &#8212 with Thomas’s father Arthur Ravenel, who once asked the crowd in a rally against removing the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capitol:

Can you believe that there are those who think that the General Assembly of South Carolina is going to . . . knuckle under, roll over and do the bidding (of) that organization known as the National Association for Retarded People?

Ravenel now says that the remark was a slip of the tongue. But that seems to be only the latest spin. Back in 2000, he was quoted by the Charleston Post and Courier this way:

“I didn’t apologize to the NAACP. I apologized to the retarded folks of the world for equating them to the national NAACP,” said Ravenel, the father of a son with Down’s Syndrome. “No apologies to the NAACP or the national NAACP.”

Forget the racism for a second: The guy has a Downs Syndrome son and makes fun of “retarded people” for political laughs? Gag me with a spoon.

Against the “greedhead Giuliani” theory

When he dropped off the ISG, he was acting out of political cowardice, not greed.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no brief for Rudy Giuliani. But I find it really hard to believe that Giuliani dropped off the Iraq Study Group because he was too greedy to give up the speaking dates.

Of course, I also don’t believe that he selflessly decided to forgo the opportunity to burnish his national security cred in the run-up to the election lest his presence “politicize” a process run largely by Jim Baker. But if I had to guess which of Giuliani’s ruling vices was on display, my money would be on ambition and cowardice, not greed.

True, the fact that he decided to join ISG after he was already contemplating a run for the Presidency makes nonsense out of his claim that he dropped off to avoid politicization; why get on in the first place, then? (And of course that claim is also inconsistent with Giuliani’s resignation letter to James Baker, which simply pleads “previous time commitments.”)

But, by the same token, when Giuliani agreed to join the ISG he was already well launched on his career of exploiting the memory of 9/11 for boatloads of money. It’s hard to believe that it was news to Giuliani that ISG would have meetings, or that the meetings would conflict with speaking dates. And it wasn’t as if he’d suddenly discovered that he had a narrow time-window in which to make his pile; he’d already been cashing in on the “America’s Mayor” shtick ever since he left office in 2002.

What seems much more likely is that Giuliani joined the ISG because he thought it would help him in his quest for the Presidency, and then dropped off when he figured out that it would hurt him instead. Maybe he was quick enough &#8212 I never claimed the man wasn’t shrewd &#8212 to figure out before the rest of us that the ISG would come down on a position that Bush, and more important the Republican primary voting base, wouldn’t swallow. That made him decide to distance himself from the ISG by accepting rival speaking dates. Then when Baker said “Start showing up or quit,” Giuliani quit, with a sigh of relief. The Republican base will tolerate someone with no coherent position on Iraq, or someone who doesn’t know for Shi’ite about the actual problem of Islamist terrorism, as long as he makes it clear he purely loves killin’ him a buncha A-rabs, but if Rudy’s signature were on the ISG report Mitt Romney would wrap it around his neck: “my opponent, who seems to think that talking is a good response to terrorism …”

Rudy saw the bullet coming, and he ducked it. No, this explanation isn’t any more creditable to Giuliani than the “greedhead” theory, but it’s more in keeping with his character.

Low blow

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Rhode Island compares Rudy Giuliani to Pontius Pilate. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, of course. But … ick!

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence on Rudy Giuliani’s abortion position:

I can just hear Pilate saying, “You know, I’m personally opposed to crucifixion but I don’t want to impose my belief on others.”

I had assumed it was only Democratic politicians who had to put up with this sort of poisonous, intellectually dishonest crap. But if it spreads to other bishops, and in particular if they start saying that Giuliani can’t take Communion, it’s going to hurt him, just as it hurt Kerry last time. (If Kerry had gotten the same share among Catholics Gore got, he’d be President today.)

If the Catholic hierarchy really wants to make sure that John F. Kennedy will be not just the first Catholic President but the last as well, they’re going about it in just the right way. In the meantime, those of us who think that Giuliani is both the Republican most likely to get elected and the single most dangerous person seeking the Presidency can sit back and chortle.

Nice try. Try again.

Reagan said in his diary that he thought Rudy Giuliani was crazy. Rudy’s people are offering a letter from Reagan to Giuliani as evidence that they were friendly. That would be more convincing if the letter were signed instead of rubber-stamped.
But wait! It gets better. The letter focuses on Giuliani’s role in drug enforcement, which was a complete failure: while he was in charge, prices fell and volumes soared. Heckuva job, Rudy!

Apparently one entry in Ronald Reagan’s diaries says of Rudy Giuliani “I think he’s crazy.” (This was with reference to a scheme to indict Ferdinand Marcos, then still ruling the Philippines.)

Well, the Giuliani people needed to respond somehow. And of course they couldn’t criticize St. Ronald. So they dug up a letter from Reagan to Giuliani and gave it to’s Jonathan Martin, who’s either astonishingly gullible even by journalistic standards or simply in the tank.

The letter was written when Giuliani switched from being Associate Attorney General to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Naturally, it says nice things. But, as Colombo would say, there’s just one thing: Reagan didn’t even sign the letter. The signature is rubber-stamped (not even robo-penned). The normal personalization of a business letter &#8212 crossing out “Mr. X” in the salutation and substituting the first name &#8212 is omitted. It’s so blatant a form letter that it amounts to an insult. Yes, as Martin says, Giuliani is the only current Republican candidate who had a job in the Reagan Administration. But to say that Giuliani “actually worked for the guy” (meaning Reagan) is a considerable stretch.

Reagan’s letter has one element that Giuliani has to hope the voters don’t pay attention to. Reagan singles out Giuliani’s role in drug policy, and in particular in the South Florida task force, which tried to stem the flow of cocaine into Miami. Even when the letter was written, its assertion that the interdiction effort held out “real hope of success” was dubious, at best. But now we know how the story ended: in tears. The cocaine price collapse that paved the way for the crack trade happened largely on Giuliani’s watch.

I was working on drug policy in the Justice Department during the Giuliani years. No one in his right mind thought that a program focused on catching smugglers ever had any real hope of working from the get-go; by the time Giuliani left, the failure was obvious, with prices in free-fall and volumes soaring. The speculation when Giuliani took what was at best a lateral transfer (Associate AG is the #3 job in the Department) was that he’d figured out that his counter-drug efforts had been a disaster and wanted to be out of the way when the fecal material hit the air-moving equipment.

Heckuva job, Rudy! Giuliani bragging about his effectiveness in drug enforcement is like Hillary Clinton bragging about her effectiveness in reforming health care.

$100 million? What for? Who from?

Giuliani Partners won’t release its client list. Hard to see how Rudy gets away with this one. But of course he gets away with a lot.

Giuliani Partners “earned” (not clear whether that’s revenues or profits) $100 million, and won’t tell us from whom or for what? I don’t think so.

John Solomon and Matthew Mosk have a nice list to start with: the company that invented the OxyContin problem and a former cocaine smuggler who wanted to get homeland security contracts from the federal government, for a program that has since been abandoned. The list of employees is also impressive, including an FBI official who “collected souvenirs” from Ground Zero (that’s technically known as “looting”), a child-molesting priest, and of course Bernie Kerik.

But the main point is that the voters ought to know to whom Giuliani has been peddling his influence. We’ve seen what happens with a Vice President beholden to a former private-sector employer; do we really want to find out what it’s like to have a President beholden to a large number of secret former private-sector clients?