Blogs > Cliopatria > Revising Giuliani's Record

Oct 29, 2007 7:20 am

Revising Giuliani's Record

Below, Ralph references David Greenberg's Post op-ed on Rudy Giuliani. Writes Greenberg,"As any New Yorker can tell you, the last word anyone in the 1990s would have attached to the brash, furniture- breaking mayor was 'liberal' -- and the second-to-last was 'moderate.'"

That's more than a bit of an overstatement: take, for instance, Conservative Party chairman Mike Long, who repeatedly withheld the party's line from Giuliani because of the former mayor's positions on abortion and gay rights. Former Staten Island borough president Guy Molinari, a Giuliani ally, even accused Long of being"on a mission to destroy Rudy Giuliani."

There's no doubt that on some social issues (usually related to crime or education) Giuliani took positions as mayor that were strongly opposed by New York City liberals. (He also enjoyed considerable success in both of these areas, especially education.) And there's also no doubt that Upper West Side liberals never warmed to Giuliani—as illustrated in their strong support for David Dinkins and their enthusiastic backing of Giuliani's second opponent, Ruth Messinger, who the mayor crushed in his 1997 re-election bid.

But I fear that columns like Greenberg's minimize what should be the central critique of Giuliani—namely, that on four key issues (gay rights, abortion rights, gun control, and immigration) candidate Giuliani has offered dramatically different positions than did Mayor Giuliani, even though at least the first three of these are the sort of issues that should illustrate a candidate's core beliefs. In that respect, candidate Giuliani has seemed like nothing more than an opportunist, and has tarnished his mayoral legacy.

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Kurt Niehaus - 10/31/2007

When "Everyone in NYC" claims someone is a conservative, does that mean he is? Especially after electing him twice? I do not think that word (conservative) means what they think it means.

Robert KC Johnson - 10/29/2007

I think it's not only fair game but vital for the press to explore this issue (for Romney as well). In some ways, what Giuliani has done is worse. Romney took socially liberal positions as a candidate against Ted Kennedy, and (to a lesser extent) when he ran for governor in 2002. But there was very good reason to believe he was simply pandering, and that he didn't believe a word of what he said--as became clear after he took over as governor.

Giuliani, on the other hand, actually either adopted policies or used his position as mayor to advocate for policy changes on gun control, gay rights, and abortion. (He also adopted a position on immigration wholly at odds with the GOP's hard right.) Now, he's assuming quite different positions on all four matters--suggesting that he believes he might have been misguided as mayor. But he's running for President solely on the strength of his record as mayor. There's a real problem here.

My concern with the Greenberg column is that it essentially lets Giuliani off the hook. By claiming that Giuliani never really was socially liberal (or even moderate), and that no one in NYC considered him so, it allows Giuliani to argue that, in fact, he hasn't changed his positions from his time as mayor, that he always was, essentially, a hard-rightist.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/29/2007

KC, I'd be interested in hearing from both you and Greenberg about how you decide what a politician's position actually is on these kinds of issues. When someone like Giuliani has to appear to run counter to his record on major social issues in order to make himself acceptable to major national party constituencies, do you dismiss what he *says*, do you let his record speak for itself, or do you draw the contrast and let readers decide for themselves?