Michael Tomosko has a long piece in the latest American Prospect on Rudy Giuliani and the question of what he really believes. It’s worth consideration by supporters and detractors alike, but here’s the money quote:
When Giuliani was mayor, did he really believe in abortion rights and gay rights and strict gun-control laws and very liberal immigration policy? “That’s a very, very tough question,” says David Garth, the legendary New York political consultant who handled Giuliani’s 1993 and ’97 mayoral races. “My feeling was, the positions he took, he felt them. Whether he really felt them, if you know what I mean ? I don’t know.”
Mitchell Moss, the New York University professor and longtime municipal politics savant (and occasional adviser to Mayor Mike Bloomberg), paused when I asked him the question and delivered almost the exact same answer: “That’s a very interesting question.” Moss sensed that of the four issues mentioned above, immigration was the one Giuliani believed in more than the others. Indeed, his position was one that many Democrats, let alone Republicans, would have trouble with: He prevented city employees from contacting the federal government when they turned up immigrants with no legal documentation, and he fought for his position in federal court.
That’s two veteran Rudy-watchers, neither of whom can say for sure that he meant it. I’m a third, and I can say it more bluntly: He did what he needed to do to attain and maintain power. New York City is 5-to-1 Democratic. Early in his first race, in 1989, Giuliani tried to say that abortion was irrelevant to the mayoralty. This was technically true but emotionally dissatisfying to a liberal electorate that was suspicious of him, so after that didn’t work, he threw in with the pro-choicers. And since he does things in only one gear — overdrive — it could appear to the casual observer that he was the most principled supporter of abortion rights on the planet.
This isn’t to say he didn’t believe his positions at the time, or think they were right for the city. Garth’s calibration seems to me correct. But it is to say this: He did what he needed to do politically then, and he’ll do what he needs to do politically now. It’s entirely possible that if he does become president, he could be more anti-choice than Bush and do more to appease his party’s anti-immigrant wing — certainly he’ll have more to prove to the people who nominated and elected him than Bush did. He’ll flip on guns in an instant.
This, I think, is what truly bothers me about Rudy Giuliani. I get the impression that ideas aren’t important to him, that it’s winning elections and obtaining power that matters. When he was running for Mayor of New York he ran, and largely governed, as a liberal. Yes, there were tax cuts here and there, but the main reason he could afford to do that without alienating the city unions and other constiutiencies that he had to deal with is because he was successful at getting Albany and Washington to fund many things that the City of New York, arguably, should have been paying for. He also benefited from an incredibly stock market boom that transformed the city’s financial industry and increased the tax base significantly.
Now, he’s running for the Republican nomination for President. He talks about fiscal restraint, gun rights, and enforcing immigration laws. Heck, people even claim he’s some kind of libertarian. But does he really believe it ?
Quite honestly, I don’t think that he does and I don’t think I’d like the kind of President he’d be if he were elected. That, the idea of a man who changes his positions as needed and sees the attainment of electoral success and political power as an end in itself, is what really bothers me about Rudy.
Originally posted at The Liberty Papers