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Oct 29, 2007 4:48 pm


Greenberg's Reply to Johnson on Giuliani



I invited David Greenberg to reply to KC's critique of Greenberg's op-ed about Rudy Giuliani in the Washington Post. Short on time, Greenberg sent this brief reply:
I think if readers read my full piece they'll get the critique: a) that the media are wrong to define social issues so narrowly (even adding immigration to the other three that I cite); b) that if you look at a vast range of other social issues, Giuliani is clearly a rightist; c) that even on abortion and gays, he's no liberal, and that his gun-control stand is more than outweighed by his crime posture overall.

On the matter of Michael Long, of the Conservative Party, I believe he'd fall in the group of people like Dobson and Viguerie whom I mention -- folks who are themselves quite far to the right and whose perspective therefore shouldn't be relied on in assessing who's"liberal."

I think what KC ultimately raises is a matter of weighting or emphasis. So be it. He, I take it, sees the 3 or 4 issues of Rudy's purported liberalism as very important. I see them as much less important in taking stock of what kind of president Giuliani would be.

As for flip-flopping and opportunism, I think all candidates are guilty of this to some extent and I don't think our discourse is productive when we dwell on it. It's part of politics. I think that despite whatever shifts Rudy has made, we do have a fairly good sense of what kind of president he'd be -- but only if we look past abortion, gay rights, and guns. And that kind of president would be a fairly authoritarian one.


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Ralph E. Luker - 10/30/2007

It seems to me that Greenberg's concluding word in response to KC raises a key, if not the key issue: authoritarianism. The social issues may be just a side-show compared with that one. Another Republican administration, following on this one -- bent on construing executive power as broadly as possible, as reckless fiscally as this one, as aggressive in international affairs as this one -- and we might as well kiss the Republic goodbye. Clearly, there are authoritarians of the left and authoritarians of the right. Maybe Giuliani is an authoritarian of the right. I want a President -- right or left -- who is willing to abide by his oath of office and operate within a constitutional framework.


HAVH Mayer - 10/30/2007

Seems to me this argument isn't about Giuliani, but about what "liberal" means. I had my head bitten off, about 40 years ago, by Henry Steele Commager for implicitly classifying Nelson Rockefeller as a "liberal Republican," so the issue, as regards NY Republicans, is perennial.

Giuliani, I think, is an oddity: a conservative prosecuter with libertarian social tendencies. (Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld is another.) The most anomalous of his positions is gun control, but a lot of otherwise conservative law enforcement professionals favor it as a crime-fighting measure.


Robert KC Johnson - 10/30/2007

I guess I disagree with David on a couple of points.

First, it seems to me simply wrong to suggest that no one (or even virtually no one) in 1990s New York considered Giuliani to be a liberal or a moderate. (This was, after all, a man who endorsed Mario Cuomo's re-election in 1994.) Likewise, I think that comparing Mike Long to James Dobson is a bit of a stretch.

Second, it seems to me on key social issues (guns, gay rights, abortion, immigration) Giuliani is taking a much more conservative position now (which David accurately notes in his op-ed) than he did in his period as mayor, and I think it's a mistake to conflate the two.

Lastly, I agree completely with David that a President Giuliani would likely be authoritarian--but I'm not sure I would define that as a 'social issue,' at least as we commonly use the term.


mark safranski - 10/30/2007

The argument here is less over political categories than temperment.

Giuliani - arguably like Clinton and McCain - has a fairly authoritarian personality that adds a quality of militancy or " edge" to his public persona.

Objectively, it would be difficult to rate Giuliani on the issues as politically conservative as his rivals. Certainly, the movement conservatives see him that way. On the other hand, Giuliani comes off as being " tougher" or harsher or more " hardball". Sort of like Nixon who was characterized (incorrectly) as a conservative despite moderate to liberal domestic policy positions.

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