|Giuliani: The new Nixon?
By Nicholas Stix
In Saturday's New York Times, David Brooks began beating the drum for Rudy Giuliani, either as presidential candidate or as John McCain's veep, in 2008.
This is not news. Rudy Giuliani may have known he wanted to become president at a younger age (while in his mother's womb?) than even Bill Clinton did. And the man who could say, with a straight face, that he didn't know that the first of his three wives was a cousin, is clearly a liar of presidential proportions – and he doesn't even need to bite his lip.
When he was cited, first for New York's "miraculous" crime-fighting revolution and then, after 9/11, for his Churchillian leadership during the city's darkest days, even liberals gave away in so many words, that the man had "chief executive" written all over him.
The GOP, of course, had already set Giuliani up as possible heir apparent (on a parallel track with another moderate Republican, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, should Sen. Orrin Hatch get his Schwarzenegger Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed, permitting itinerant Austrian politicians and other foreign-born, naturalized citizens (say, from Puebla) to run for President) at last year's Republican Convention in New York City. And Giuliani gave a marvelous speech, presenting himself as a national leader who nonetheless had not severed his local roots.
David Brooks touts Giuliani and McCain as partisans of a non-partisan politics of "courage." Call it "toughness" and I'm with you, Brooks.
Brooks writes, "The courage politicians organize their energies by picking fights with venal foes. They locate some corrupt power center that violates their sense of honor. For [Teddy] Roosevelt it was the trusts; for R.F.K., the mob; for McCain, the campaign finance system or K Street; for Giuliani, the bloated Board of Education or the self-indulgent edifice of urban liberalism.
"Then they charge in, never more tranquil than when in the midst of combat, never more convinced of their own value than when the foe is big and powerful.
"They demand complete, almost blind, loyalty from their friends, but their leadership is clear and unflinching.
"The courage politicians speak of character, not morality. That is to say, they are more comfortable talking in the language of the classical virtues - duty, honor, service, patriotism, honesty and fortitude - than in the language of what you might call the Christian virtues - love, compassion and charity. It's not that they don't value these private things. It's just that they are stoical by nature and are more comfortable publicly with matters of the gut than with matters of the heart.
"In public life they tend to flee from the politics of family values, believing that government can do little that is productive or good in this sphere. They handle social issues with obvious discomfort, and pick them up only reluctantly and out of political necessity."
Brooks closes, "As one reads through ‘The Prince of the City,' one question keeps reoccurring: Are we Americans so blessed with political talent that we can afford not to use the courage politicians we do happen to have in our midst?" Brook doth protest too much, when he claims that a Giuliani has no chance with the party hierarchy. What does he think was going on, when the party brass made him a keynote speaker in 2004?
And his "ideal type" of "courage politician," a hybrid between what Max Weber in his lecture, "Politik als Beruf" (Politics as Vocation) called the "politics of conviction" (Gesinnung) and the "politics of responsibility" (Verantwortung), is anything but ideal, having been the journalistic equivalent of a computer graphics program melding the faces of McCain and Giuliani. This project has been Brooks' since his days at the Weekly Standard, back in 2000, when he backed McCain for president.
Mr. Brooks, I knew Max Weber; he was a friend of mine, and Mr. Brooks, you're no Max Weber!
If you want to wax Weberian -- and Brooks does -- Giuliani hews to the pragmatic, responsibility side of the aisle. This politics of courage character is not a philosophical type in the same sense that conviction and responsibility are, assuming you even accept Weber's problematic dichotomy. Until fellows like New York City mayor John V. Lindsay (1966-1973) and Sen. George "I'll Get Down on My Hands and Knees and Beg for Our POWs" McGovern (D-SD), the 1972 Democrat presidential candidate came along, Democrats and Republicans alike expected toughness of their leaders.
Now, I love Fred Siegel. He's my favorite living writer on New York City. (My favorite of all is Roger Starr, but alas, Roger is no more. He has gone up to that Yale Club in the sky, where he is presently regaling lunchtime listeners with stories about Lenny Bernstein and the ‘60s.) And I confess to having wept, when I saw the cover of Siegel's Giuliani/New York City book. "The Prince of the City." Was there ever a more perfect title for a non-fiction book? (P.S. It turns out that I misread the meaning of Siegel's title. He meant "prince" in the Machiavellian sense! P.P.S. I have no connection to either Siegel or Giuliani.)
And yet, I am afraid that Siegel has bought into Giuliani's PR machine, rather than confront the reality of his New York, which is why he gives Hizzoner credit for long-lasting reforms which in fact have all the solidity of sand castles. And that's not a knock on Giuliani; that's life in the big city.
With that said, I am convinced that Rudy Giuliani was the greatest mayor in New York's history, and would have been, had 9/11 never happened. But do I want him as my president?
Brooks says that a "courage" politician shies away form social questions, but that's hogwash. John McCain is anti-abortion and supports the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. And Giuliani doesn't shy away from such questions, either. He is enthusiastically opposed to respecting American citizens' Second Amendment rights, and supports gay rights, women's (but not men's) right to abortion, and the "rights" of illegal immigrants.
What Brooks is talking about when he says that "handle social issues with obvious discomfort, and pick them up only reluctantly and out of political necessity," he means ‘I, David Brooks, and my neocon cronies, most notably Bill Kristol, handle social issues with obvious discomfort. (Although I made an exception, with my advocacy of gay marriage, even to the point of abusing Bible passages.)'
Brooks & Co. are actually pursuing two mutually contradictory goals: They would bring back the notion of technocracy, of a morally bereft, value-neutral managerial class of politicians who would avoid controversy, and yet they want these managers to be characterized by "courage." Courage to what end? For all of Brooks' fancy rhetorical evocations in various columns of his student days at the University of Chicago, he has little to offer, in matters of principle.
While I am second to none in my admiration for Rudy Giuliani, and I have already asked myself the same question Brooks poses, I do not want a president who is pro-gay rights, pro-illegal immigration, opposed to obeying the Second Amendment, and whose stand on abortion is identical to that of NARAL.
The answer I came up with, was to hope that a future conservative president (or at least one that honors America's sovereignty) would name Giuliani to his cabinet.
Rudy Giuliani worked miracles in New York, but not the miracles (whipping crime and welfare and the Board of Ed) for which he is given credit. He is supposed to have whipped crime, but as several journalists (Bill Rashbaum, then of the Daily News, myself, and especially, Newsday's Lenny Levitt) have reported, going back to 1996, under Giuliani, the NYPD engaged in a fraudulent underreporting of crime statistics of revolutionary proportions, a systemic fraud that has continued unabated under Mayor Bloomberg. And as I showed already six or seven years ago, a healthy chunk of his reduction in the welfare rolls was achieved through shifting tens of thousands of clients from welfare (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANP) to much better paying federal disability Supplemental Security Income, which is disbursed through the Social Security Administration, and which is not counted in the welfare statistics. As for beating the Board of Education, which Brooks credits Giuliani with doing; it was in fact Giuliani's successor, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who wrested control of the city's schools away form the Board of Ed, which was eliminated.
And yet, for all of my criticisms of Giuliani, I think he was the greatest mayor New York ever had, because he ran the city under impossible conditions. He inherited the mayoralty from the second-worst mayor in the city's history, socialist David Dinkins (who might have been worse even than John Lindsay, had he managed to get re-elected). He faced a united front of racist black leaders who sought, even before his inauguration, to humiliate him, to make it impossible for him to govern, and to encourage even more violent crime than occurred under mayors Dinkins and Koch. (Fairy tales charging Giuliani with "racism" and "racial profiling" were only invented years later, as cover stories, to retroactively rationalize the racist campaign initiated against Giuliani before he had made a single decision.) And the New York media supported the various smear campaigns against him.
Had I been in Giuliani's position, facing so much united, concentrated, downright demonic hatred, I think I would have eaten the business end of a .38.
New York Democrats -- white, black, and Hispanic -- called him (and still do) a "right-winger." A "fascist." "Mussolini." "Racist." And their favorite, "Hitler."
You have to consider the context. New York Republicans are sui generis. Radical left-winger John Lindsay was first elected as a Republican. Liberal Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia (1933-1945), generally considered the greatest in New York's history, was a Republican.
To be a New York Republican means not to be a New York Democrat. The function of the Republican candidacy has gone, in recent years, from a suicide mission for a candidate whose name most New Yorkers will never even know, to a serious slot for: 1. A reform Democrat or technocrat from outside the Party (Bloomberg); or 2. A liberal Republican (Giuliani) who offers disaffected whites a chance at a little racial pride, sotto voce. (This is Steve Sailer's theory, which happens to hold true.)
Giuliani actually covers both bases, but David Brooks wants him exclusively for function #1 – that of a popular Democrat without party support. Brooks and his buddies (Bill Kristol, et al.) seek a "Republican" candidate who isn't a Republican at all, but rather a melding of certain corporate-type characteristics extant in both parties that Brooks & Co. consider clean and inoffensive. My colleague Jim Antle put it best back in 2000:
"[Kristol's and Brooks'] political strategy in essence was this: Jettison the boorish white Southerners -- a Weekly Standard bete noire held responsible for much of the GOP's troubles within its pages -- and their Christian right friends, as well as other elements of the Republican coalition easily caricatured by the Democrats. Replace them with a party that chablis-sipping sophisticates from the Northeast who dress like Tucker Carlson would be more comfortable with. Sprinkle generous amounts of happy talk about reform. Voila! A new majority is born….
"What is to be gained by reading the GOP's backbone constituencies out of the party in exchange for better coverage from the New York Times? It ought to be said that when the party looked more like what Kristol and Brooks envision, it was consigned to permanent minority status.
"Most of all, this formulation is utterly devoid of moral and intellectual substance…."
Well, Brooks gained a column at the New York Times, and invitations to even more of the best cocktail parties. So, there!
Where Nixon comes in, is that I see in Rudy Giuliani the reincarnation of Nixon. Nixon was as tough as they came, he was an anti-communist (though no more so than his political twin, Jack Kennedy, except that Nixon was to the left of JFK on economics, and it was Nixon who gave us affirmative action), and yet he can be most accurately described as a moderate or liberal Republican. (Writers not blinded by hatred often describe him as an Eisenhower Republican, but I think Nixon was too much of a hands-on tinkerer with the machinery of government to be so described, whereas Ike was much more of a hands-off kind of guy.) That Democrats described Nixon and (those old enough to remember him) still do in the same sort of demonic terms they now use to describe Giuliani, has nothing to do with Nixon's Or Giuliani's) actual character, and everything to do with Nixon's successful prosecution of communist traitor Alger Hiss, and with their rage at Nixon's continuing success.
And just as Giuliani assumed control of New York in 1994, when it threatened to disintegrate into chaos, Nixon inherited a similarly plagued body politic in 1969.
And yet, as much as I admire Nixon, may he rest in peace, were he running for the presidency in 2008, I doubt I would vote for him.
In any event I don't see any value in remaking the national Republican Party in the image of the New York City Republican Party, even if that means that some folks will lose out on cheap help.
Nicholas Stix can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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