Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Podhoretz on the Not-so-Liberal Guiliani

John Podhoretz here argues Guiliani’s merits as a conservative and offers an explanation for his lead in the polls.

Discussions - 28 Comments

John hits the nail on the head.

There is no need to go through the laundry list again. Rudy is a liberal on every issue except law and order. All these conservatives trying to justify supporting him are just outright sad. Have we really fallen this far?



Look on the bright side. If he moves the GOP far enough left, then maybe they can compete for the votes of all the new immigrants he will give amnesty to.

I am very interested in what kind of reception Rudy Giuliani will get at CPAC this weekend.



Will it be rock star like? Will it be polite but unenthusiastic? Will there be audible discontent?



How he is received will tell us a lot.



He likely belatedly decided to attend when he felt he could attend safely (from a PR stand point).

JPod nails it. Rudy didn’t just take the right positions. He fought. He commanded a liberating army and faced down the race-baiters, the Anti-Christian Liberal UnAmericans, and the rest of the Blob. WHO ELSE CAN SAY THIS??? Am I sold on Rudy yet? No, not yet. I’m open to Romney and hoping for a miracle that will make Newt electable, which is unlikely to happen. We need a reality focus, not the wishful thinking and, frankly, egotism, that is so endemic on the social right. Pro-lifers: Please understand that a president cannot end or restrict abortion. Nor can he bring back the Republican Senate that would be needed in order to pass another partial-birth abortion ban, should SCOTUS knock it down this spring. Wake up and smell the coffee. Without a candidate who appeals beyond the shrinking Republican base, we WILL lose the White House in ’08. Don’t hold the country and the world hostage to your single issue. Second Amendment obsessives, ditto.

2: Dan, yes, we really have "fallen this far." There is no consistent conservative who is also electable. That isn’t Rudy’s fault. It’s the fault of our twisted political system, and of an American electorate that is not easily reconciled to consistent conservatism and doesn’t reward it. Deal with reality. Whining will get us nowhere unless we follow up with CONSTRUCTIVE action. Rudy-bashing is unconstructive. It is the precise opposite of leadership, and EVERY conservative in this coming year of peril (’07-’08 presidential cycle) must be a LEADER. 2004 was hard enough. 2008 will be harder. Be there, not off in a right-wing corner somewhere.

David Frisk, please don’t hold the party and the country hostage to your single issue obsession. If you persist with Rudy you will hand the 2008 election to the Democrats. There is a good reason the republican base is shrinking, and Rudy and all he represents are that reason.

"Rudy-bashing is unconstructive."



Rudy pandering is unconstructive. It sends the message that we can be had. Rudy "bashing" sends the message that we aren’t going to take it any more.



"It is the precise opposite of leadership,"



Kissing Rudy’s butt is picture perfect followership.



"an American electorate that is not easily reconciled to consistent conservatism and doesn’t reward it."



Generally I agree, especially if you are talking about Ron Paul style strictly enforcing the Constitution, instead of just a rhetorical commitment to "limited government." People like to believe they can get something for nothing. The perils of too direct Democracy. So conservatives should draw a line in the sand and work hard, but consign themselves to losing now in order to win in the future.



There is NO WAY you get back to truly constitutional government by going left and vainly hoping some future candidate or movement will drag us back right.



Two serious questions. Do you think returning to Constitutional government is even desirable? And, what would the GOP candidate have to do for you not to support him?

Wow, what a crock that was by Podhoretz. In fairness to him, he is not and has never pretended to be any sort of conservative. What is everyone elses excuse?

Returning to constitutional government is desirable. Fighting the Islamofascists and the ACLU is more desirable. We have to get our priorities straight. We cannot insist on constitutionalist nominees until such time as the American people are ready for them. At this time, they aren’t. We also have to face up to the possibility that the Constitution simply cannot be restored. Wishing otherwise won’t make it so.

consign themselves to losing now in order to win in the future

How does that work, exactly? I honestly would like to know, because I don’t see it.

And, what would the GOP candidate have to do for you not to support him?

He would have to, on balance, be not a bit better than whichever candidate the Democrats nominate.

"He would have to, on balance, be not a bit better than whichever candidate the Democrats nominate."



By conceding that, the Republicans have ABSOLUTELY NO incentive to move right. Beside the obvious fact that there are more than two parties.



"How does that work, exactly? I honestly would like to know, because I don’t see it."



If a large portion of conservatives stayed home and caused Rudy to lose, or better yet if 10 -20% voted for a conservative alternative candidate, then next time the Republicans would think twice about serving up some lib. If we vote for him like sheep, then we will be treated like sheep. And we will deserve to be treated like sheep.



"Returning to constitutional government is desirable. Fighting the Islamofascists and the ACLU is more desirable."



First of all, Islamofascists is a silly slur word. But fighting the "war on terror," which has almost no relation to 9/11, is not more important than restraining tyranny at home. I am not naive about Islam, but had we been minding our own business instead of trying to be globo-cop, we wouldn’t be such a target.



The immigrant invasion and runaway spending is a much larger threat to the nation than is a distant Islamic menace. How long do you think we can tolerate 3 trillion dollar budgets and 300 – 500 billion deficits and a Fed churning out the fiat currency? The economic disaster will make the terrorist threat seem like child’s play.



BTW, following the Constitution is not supposed to be optional.

"He would have to, on balance, be not a bit better than whichever candidate the Democrats nominate."

We’re just about at that point now.

When you mentioned "losing now in order to win in the future" I don’t think you were talking about the primaries. You were talking about nominating someone like Ron Paul with the understanding that he would lose, but that this would somehow set conservatism up for big victories in the future. However, there’s no precedent for this sort of thing. If the GOP did as you suggest the result would be a repeat of 1964, with conservatives being pushed even more to the margins of American politics than we are now. And four years later we’d get someone like...gulp...Richard Nixon.

If a large portion of conservatives stayed home and caused Rudy to lose, or better yet if 10 -20% voted for a conservative alternative candidate, then next time the Republicans would think twice about serving up some lib. If we vote for him like sheep, then we will be treated like sheep. And we will deserve to be treated like sheep.

This presumes that the vast majority of the GOP don’t actually like the policies supported by Giuliani but would simply be nominating him for electability reasons. I think this profoundly overestimates the conservatism of the GOP rank and file. I don’t think that the average GOP voter wants to get rid of all social programs and return to a Dan Phillips, Articles of Confederation-style republic.

Changing our government back to where we, as conservatives, would it to be is a slow process and one that will only be accomplished in degrees and by winning the policy debates. We have to win the hearts and minds of the electorate. We do this by nominating electable men for office that will begin that process, not attempt an all-or-nothing approach that most Americans, frankly, will think is looney. I support a lot of the policies that Ron Paul supports. But in today’s political environment, Ron Paul is not going to be taken seriously by very many voters. A nominee like Giuliani or McCain or Romney or Gingrich, while not perfect in all ways by any means, will hopefully move the argument in our direction and use their influence to change voters’ minds. If they are successful on some level, then the candidates that follow them can build upon their successes and, hopefully, over time we will convince the electorate that our way is preferable.

Politics is a process and candidates for office are only a single step in that process. Most attempts throughout history to jump over several steps and make radical changes in government all at once have been met with little electoral support.

"However, there’s no precedent for this sort of thing."



EXACTLY. We have been moving left ever since 1776. Time for a new strategy boys. At least pretend to not be OK with this. All this pre-emptive concession to Rudy is disturbing.



"but that this would somehow set conservatism up for big victories in the future."



I’m not sure I really said that. If we are very lucky it could turn things around. Or it could dome us to perpetual minority status as you say. (The more likely outcome unfortunately.) But it’s Hail Mary time gentlemen. If you seem like you are OK with it, if you act like you are OK with it, guess what, you will inevitably get more of it.



Consider my plan the "I ain’t going down without a fight" plan.

I too am not sold on Rudy or Romney and certainly not McCain.

What I do know is that I am extremely dissappointed in GWB and I will be an undervote in the general election if the Republican nominee does not distinguish himself from the big governmentism of this administration.

Why? Not because of making any bold political statement or anything. No, I am just tired of being taken for granted and I know that my happiness in life is not predicated upon who is or is not in power. Guess what? I’ll still be coaching my son’s and my daughters little league team and going hunting and fishing whether we get a Democrat or a Republican in the WH.

I’m not sure I really said that.

Well, here’s what you said:


So conservatives should draw a line in the sand and work hard, but consign themselves to losing now in order to win in the future.

But now you’re saying this:

Or it could dome us to perpetual minority status as you say. (The more likely outcome unfortunately.)

That doesn’t sound to me like the "I ain’t going down without a fight" plan; it sounds more like the "I’m going to make myself completely irrelevant by making futile gestures" plan.

John Moser: "And four years later we’d get someone like...gulp...Richard Nixon."

We already have someone like Richard Nixon. And we seem set to replace him with someone equally bad.

Dominick Roark: "This presumes that the vast majority of the GOP don’t actually like the policies supported by Giuliani but would simply be nominating him for electability reasons."

Are you suggesting that the vast majority of the GOP are actually pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro gay marriage, pro-immigration? It seems pretty obvious that the vast majority in the GOP who are supporting Giuliani are doing so for electibility reasons. Either that, or they are very stupid.

"I think this profoundly overestimates the conservatism of the GOP rank and file. I don’t think that the average GOP voter wants to get rid of all social programs and return to a Dan Phillips, Articles of Confederation-style republic."



Sadly, I agree. I don’t think Rudy will win the nomination once the barrage starts, but the average "conservative" even doesn’t want to get rid of all social programs. But this is partially the fault of historical conservatism in this country which has never stood fast against anything. It fought the New Deal and then it accepted it. It fought the Great Society and then it accepted it. It fought Medicare then it accepted it, and then it voluntarily expanded it. Bob Dole voted against Medicare initially for crying out loud. Now a “conservative” would react in horror if you suggested they wanted to eliminate it. Way to go there boys. Way to fight that good fight. The people, as I said before, want something for nothing. That is why leadership in the correct direction is needed. Not "leadership" more slowly in the wrong direction.



I am certain that people were having this same conversation after WWII. One would say, “But the New Deal is unconstitutional. We need to roll it back.” And some snake oil salesman would then say, “Now is not the time. We have to work slowly within the system. We have to change the hearts and minds of the people first. The people like their New Deal. In the future after the people’s mind has been changed we will roll it back. Etc. etc. etc.” And the result of that demonstrably failed strategy is a 3 trillion dollar budget. Perhaps you should rethink that strategy. It ain’t working for you.



More later.

But this is partially the fault of historical conservatism in this country which has never stood fast against anything.

I’m curious as to which country’s "historical conservatism" you’re comparing ours to. The Chinese Confucians, who blocked any effort to modernize in the 19th century, thus dooming the country to being carved up by the West? The Polish magnates who clung to their historic liberties while Prussia, Austria, and Russia dismembered their country? The Russian hardliners who "stood fast" to protect Stalinism from Gorbachev’s reforms in the 1980s? The British Conservative Party, which embraced the welfare state far earlier than did their American counterparts?

Are you suggesting that the vast majority of the GOP are actually pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro gay marriage, pro-immigration? It seems pretty obvious that the vast majority in the GOP who are supporting Giuliani are doing so for electibility reasons. Either that, or they are very stupid.

I’m not saying that, but I am saying that the vast majority of voters, GOP and otherwise, aren’t like those of us who think about these issues every day. A hefty percentage of voters only have fairly tepid positions on a lot of the issues and someone, like Giuliani, who may not hold all of the positions that they loosely associate themselves with, but who seems to be a strong leader who will move the country forward on the main issue that they are concerned about, in this case foreign affairs, has great appeal. Especially when that candidate is at least claiming that he will do no harm on the other issues, as Giuliani has already begun doing.

The biggest mistake that political junkies like ourselves can make is to assume that everyone else cares about this stuff as much as we do. The sad fact is that a race like this can be won or lost on a few issues and with good name recognition.

But this is partially the fault of historical conservatism in this country which has never stood fast against anything. It fought the New Deal and then it accepted it. It fought the Great Society and then it accepted it. It fought Medicare then it accepted it, and then it voluntarily expanded it. Bob Dole voted against Medicare initially for crying out loud. Now a “conservative” would react in horror if you suggested they wanted to eliminate it. Way to go there boys. Way to fight that good fight. The people, as I said before, want something for nothing. That is why leadership in the correct direction is needed. Not "leadership" more slowly in the wrong direction.

I think these programs were accepted because, sadly, we haven’t won the debates on these issues in the public. Progressives have been very successful in making their case to the American people historically, while those who have opposed them have only succeeded in looking grumpy and reactionary while failing to make a compelling argument against progressive policies.

I agree that we do need more leadership in the correct direction, but that’s just what you (Dan Phillips) are arguing against. You don’t seem to want directional leadership, you want perfect leadership and will settle for nothing less. If you don’t get a candidate that agrees with your view that all social programs should be eliminated and the Constitution should be interpreted as it was in 1783 (or perhaps even chucked for a return to the Articles!) then you may just not vote or vote for someone who hasn’t a chance just to make a point. What I have been trying to say in this debate is that those of us who want to see progressive policies dialed back and eliminated need to understand that politics is directional and, for that reason, we need to support candidates who will move us in the right direction, even if they themselves aren’t as pure on the issues as we would like. We also need to support candidates who can be elected so that they can actually move us in that direction. Over time, the hope is that we can dial some of these policies back. But that certainly won’t happen if conservatives drop out of the political process and allow the Hillarys and the Obamas to control the debate.

"I think these programs were accepted because, sadly, we haven’t won the debates on these issues in the public."



Very true, but I would argue we never really debated them. We accepted them as done deals and chose to move on. One of the founding premises of the post-WWII modern conservative movement was that the New Deal was essentially off the table. We had Commies to fight.



"Progressives have been very successful in making their case to the American people historically, while those who have opposed them have only succeeded in looking grumpy and reactionary while failing to make a compelling argument against progressive policies."



Agreed. That is why gradualism is a winning strategy for them. Because the historical trend is in their favor. That is why we can not play their game. We have to first stem the tide and then turn it back. Ours is an essentially different project than theirs. Think Newton’s law of inertia and apply it to politics/culture. For leftists the mass may speed up and slow down, but it continues to progress left. We have to halt the mass, and then get it going in the opposite direction. This takes a lot more “energy."



I disagree that you are talking about direction. You are talking about trajectory. Do we move left slowly or quickly? I would be more than happy to move right slowly. I am not all or nothing. But moving left is never moving right. Would government spending be more, the same, or less, when Rudy leaves office? (Accounting for any savings that might come about if the War ends.)



"If you don’t get a candidate that agrees with your view that all social programs should be eliminated and the Constitution should be interpreted as it was in 1783"



I don’t need a perfect candidate. I would vote for Tancredo who is not a pure Constitutionalist and who I disagree with vehemently over the War. But I have certain non-negotiables of which immigration is one. I would vote for no amnesty candidate.



I think that all honest conservative would agree that the Constitution "should" be interpreted as it was in 1787. That is the point of original intent. It is liberals who speak of a "living breathing" Constitution. If liberals were honest they would attempt to amend the Constitution for every expenditure that is not authorized.



"We also need to support candidates who can be elected so that they can actually move us in that direction."



Seriously, how does Rudy move us in the right direction? He is just less bad than Hillary.

Here is something from Donnie Kennedy. Everywhere he uses the word Southerner/South just replace it with the word conservative.



"...for the past 75 years the Republican Party has been just as responsible for the growth of government as the Democrats. Every socialist scheme of Roosevelt, Johnson, and Carter has been protected and enlarged by Republicans. Is it any wonder that both political parties today view the South, the last advocate of State’s Rights, as their enemy? To add insult to injury every four years the Republican Party sends its anointed candidates to Dixie to convince Southerners that they are good Republicans...



As long as Southerners tolerate being treated as a political whore to be used once every four years by the “official” Republican Party, we can never expect principles that we love to be respected by members of the officially sanctioned Republican Party. The National Republican Party will respect the South only when the South forces Republicans to respect us. Another good Republican, even if he is from the South, will not force a change in the Republican Party and ultimately America—we must have one of our own...

Replace "Republicans" with "Democrats" and you essentially get the Southern strategy in 1860, which got Lincoln elected.

Had we been allowed to peacefully secede, then Lincoln’s election wouldn’t have been a problem, would it? It just confirmed what was already known. The regions needed to go their own separate ways.

Well, as they say, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.

In any case, whatever the virtues of secession might be, it’s not likely that we’re going to see a repeat of 1861 anytime soon, which means that you (as in southerners) and we (as in conservatives) are stuck with whichever candidate gets elected. I’d rather that person be Rudy Giuliani than Hillary Clinton, even though Rudy is far from my ideal choice.

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