I met former New York Mayor Rudy Giuiliani on Friday at a pre-fundraising mixer and got to size him up a bit.
Rudy Giuliani is coming out on top in numerous polls — and surprising a it may seem, he is shown in some of these surveys as the only Republican able to beat either Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards — if the election was held today.
Polls this early are deceptive, but this enthusiasm for Mayor Rudy may indicate another political reality that could hamper the many in the Senate who hope to move into the White House.
Americans don’t seem to like to elevate Senators or Congressmen directly to the White House. They seem to need to show other executive abilities — being in charge of something rather than just voting on legislative proposals.
Warren Harding and John F. Kennedy are the only two presidents in American history that moved from the United States Senate directly to the White House. Nearly every other President was Vice President or a Governor or a General when running for the presidency — anything it seems but a U.S. Senator or U.S. Representative.
This proclivity to promote “executive types” to the White House over “legislative types” is more nuance than definitive but does give some extra sizzle to the candidacies of wannabe White House occupants like New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Mayor Giuliani ran a city and has been inducted into a virtual American Hall-of-Fame in the minds and memories of many citizens for the decisive and brave leadership he showed when New York was hit hard by Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda acolytes on September 11, 2001.
But what does he think about things?
At the event on Friday at the venerable Hotel Washington — recently purchased by Dubai Ports World after being thwarted in its effort to buy the Port of Miami and other U.S. ports — former Congresswoman Susan Molinari kicked things off.
Molinari said that Giuliani was a man of determination and quite courage and that he was one of very few in the race who would have the confidence of Americans in George Will’s seven minute test. That is in the case of an impending threat to the nation that the President could assemble information in three minutes and make his decision and respond in the remaining four. Molinari asked the assembled group of Washington’s top tier PAC representatives and association czars “Which candidate would you must trust?”
I have to say that rumors of Giuliani’s charisma are true. He’s a fascinating personality, and he comes across as an honest, serious guy — despite my previous commentary and concern about his relations with folks like Bernie Kerik.
Here are some of the things Rudy said at the meeting.
First, he’s looking forward to the possibility of a rematch against Hillary Clinton — at least the idea of one, as his prostate cancer episode knocked him out of his challenge to Hillary in the New York senate race. He showed humility. He said the presidency is an incredible job, “humbling” as he said — and that “no one could do it. . .really. . .alone, without the help of many others.” He hoped to take the country forward and hoped to improve things and believes he is the best candidate to do so.
Giuliani thinks that things are going better in the “War on Terror” that people think — and that American perceptions of things are out of line with reality.
He made the comment that when he came into his job in New York as mayor, 65% of New Yorkers thought that things were terrible and deteriorating badly. They were right, he said. But he takes exception to these same sorts of poll numbers today and suggested that we were on “the right side” in th this war on terror. He furthered this line saying that we had a fundamentally sound economy, had the best health care system in the world, and that things weren’t as bad as people thought.
I think that this is a tough line to take — because it suggests that Rudy is going to try and Americans that their perceptions of things — and their frustration with the President and this fumbling of America’s moral and military prestige in the Middle East — is wrong. That’s not a winning hand, but we’ll see.
Giuliani said five times “our health care system is the best in the world.” He spoke out against socialized approaches to correcting health care provision and offered a few obligatory sentences on the outrage of malpractice suits driving up costs and driving many good medical practitioners out of business. He mad the comment, “Which of our friends would go elsewhere in the world for treatment of cancer or for other serious health problems? They all want to come to America.”
Giuiliani is right that Americans who have the resources and are enfranchised would love to be treated in the best parts of the American health care system.
What I don’t think he hears in his comments — yet — is how he is making his comments to the privileged. And that is not the problem.
In response to his question, I think that many of the increasing numbers of US citizens not covered by any kind of health insurance would gladly take treatment in France, Canada, even Cuba — rather than get no treatment at all in our current health infrastructure which so poorly serves those at the middle to low end of our socio-economic ladder.
But I think Giuiliani will tweak that comment at some point so as to address the problem of Americans uncovered by health insurance. I think he should look at the Massachusetts or California health care proposals that don’t offer a socialized approach on health provision but rather keep the private system in place and mix corporate incentives for offering health care with an individual mandate requiring coverage combined with subsidies and coverage for those least capable of securing coverage. This is what Schwarzenneger has been pushing — and it might be useful for Rudy to take a look at this ‘in-between’ kind of proposal.
I got to ask one of the two questions posed to him, and I asked something along the lines of:
Many Americans will remember and revere you for your leadership on September 11, 2001 and your ability to make quick, good decisions. But the Presidency is not one of crisis every day. At least if it is, then the President has to fake it because Americans need to have confidence and trust in a future — not fear. I’d like to hear more about Rudy the strategist, rather than just Rudy who is good in a crisis.
Many Americans think that the security deliverables that they are getting from their deployment of money and military forces abroad are not yielding what we should expect. We have now been engaged in this so-called war on terror for a period longer than World War II. I’d like to hear how you would manage America’s national security portfolio better than it has been. What would you do that hasn’t or isn’t being done to address this sense that there is no end in sight to this war?
Giuliani said quite bluntly that America had to do more to get momentum moving in a better, right direction. He said that we needed to make more of diplomacy — needed to talk with Muslim nations in the region. He said we should use close relationships with nations like Dubai [I think he meant UAE] and Qatar to leverage better security opportunities in the region than we were putting together today.
He thinks we need to do business with these unstable nations — and get to an economic dynamic where there are clear benefits for citizens in these unstable regions.
He made the comment that Ronald Reagan had a vision of no more Soviet Union, no more threat of communism, and no nuclear weapons. He said that Reagan was no appeaser of the Soviets — but that he worked out a policy and political game to nearly accomplish this vision, and much of that plan depended on engagement.
Rudy said that when the final push against the Soviet leadership came at the top — when Reagan had helped drive the Soviets into over-spending on security — the kids were drinking Pepsi-Cola, wearing American jeans and listening to American pop music. He said engagement economically creates opportunities for convergence that we are missing in places like Iran.
I would have asked about Cuba if I had had the chance — and Giuliani seems to be the type who would say that we need to engage Cubans and end a counter-productive economic embargo that keeps the hardline in power and doesn’t allow much headway with average citizens.
Giuliani said that this war we were in was a “philosophical, psycholical, political war” and that we would be at this against radical variants of Islam for a long time. He said that we needed to reorganize to deal with this challenge — reorganize the State Department and the Pentagon and reconsider our approach to these problems.
I think that for an off the cuff response, Giuliani gave a solid answer — more forthcoming than I expected.
I thought he’d give us a lot about the terrorists being the bad guys and our side being the good guys and that we were in a high-fear world that required bold, decisive action in the White House.
That was the tenor that Susan Molinari gave at the beginning of his talk, but Rudy Giuliani himself — while I don’t agree with him on everything — was nonetheless smartly nuanced in some of his answers and wasn’t all attitude and bravado, like I expected.
Giuliani told the crowd he didn’t like abortions but that that wasn’t his choice to impose on others. He said that while Mayor of New York, abortions declined and adoptions went up. He said that he really believed that a woman had to make her own choices on that highly personal issue.
He also said that he supported marriage as an institution of a man and woman marrying each other — no other variants. He said that he had been to more than 120 marriages over the last few years and that in every case a man and a woman was involved in each one — at least as far as he could tell. He joked that you couldn’t be too sure in this modern world and that a YouTube clip could appear from a wedding where the gender realities had been blurred. He was poking fun at his own recent drag appearance as a woman hanging out with Donald Trump.
But all of the joshing aside, in front of this fairly conservative crowd, Rudy made no apologies for his support of men and men and women and women deserving the full protection of all laws for their domestic partnerships.
He went into a lot more.
Giuliani does impress. He talks too long — but so do I. He gives off an edge of being a pragmatic, non-ideological problem solver.
I found myself much more impressed than I had planned to be — but as in any campaign, it’s sort of like Rudy’s joke about not being sure that seeing is believing at all of the weddings he went to.
There is much more about Giuliani or Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or Joe Biden or Chuck Hagel [hopefully] or John McCain or Mitt Romney or Richardson, Kucinich Huckabee, Dodd, Brownback, and the list goes on that we need to know and inspect before getting into bed with any of them.
— Steve Clemons