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January 29, 2007

Giuliani V. Romney

I hope I'm not letting forbidden cats out of the embargo bag when I mention that an NR guy told me that the last speaker was planned, for some time, to be Rudy Giuliani, who later backed-out and was replaced by Tony Snow. (Who rocked the house -- and more on that later.) This NR guy (who I won't name, as he wasn't speaking on the record, and also because I forget his name) said he figured Giuliani had decided not to attend because he hadn't figured out how to address a truly conservative audience yet, nor had he decided yet how he was going to handle his famously liberal positions on gay marriage, immigration, guns, and abortions.

I objected that he could just deliver a similar speech to his RNC address, and that the delegates at the RNC were every bit as conservative (if not more so) than those attending the NR Symposium; then again, he was addressing the RNC in support of Bush, whereas he'd be addressing the Symposium in support of himself. A big difference, I guess.

This leads to my problems with Giuliani and Romney.

Romney's Boy Scout flag coda seemed a bit synthetic to me -- an attempt to evoke, weakly, the same emotions many Americans associate with the Steel Cross that remained standing in the aftermath of 9/11. It's not as powerful a symbol, nor is it associated with as epochal an event, but it's somewhat similar. Same but different. And also, a little bit forced. An echo, but a quiet, tinny sort of echo.

My one big problem with Romney is that, policy-wise, I have no problems with him whatsoever. I began to get interested in him when I began to notice that I liked everything he said. He just didn't seem to strike a single false note.

After a time, however, I began to find the lack of false notes to be itself a false note -- is it just pure coincidence that Mitt Romney happens to (now) be a passionate supporter of virtually every consensus position of the conservative primary-voter mainstream? Did he just sort of luck into that happy circumstance?

Like the flag story, is Romney himself a bit too synthetic for his own good?

Authenticity is greatly overvalued in candidates. After all, we're electing a government official, not a drinking buddy. Who cares if someone is altogether sincere in his beliefs so long as he votes the way you want him to? Is it better to have a president who sincerely, authentically puts forward policies you object to or one who insincerely, inauthentically champions policies you prefer?

Still, if there's one thing that keeps me off the Romney train, it's the suspicion that I don't really know what Romney's core is. Perhaps it'll turn out Romney's core is simply whatever will please the conservative base -- which would be fine enough, I suppose, but there is something on a gut, drinking-buddy-evaluation level that wants to know what he's really all about.

On the other hand, there's Giuliani. I have long believed that Giuliani would begin walking back his very liberal positions towards something more palatable to conservative primary voters. I never expected him to completely renounce his former positions nor reverse himself completely; I did, however, expect him to begin changing his positions on social hot-button issues from liberal to moderate, at the very least. No, he can't out-conservative Sam Brownback. But could he at least try to to out-conservative Dennis Kucinich?

Why he hasn't done this yet I don't know. Maybe it's just because he's a proud man, and he's delaying doing something that's going to cause a lot of controversy and mocking -- Bush the Elder was savaged for his sudden coversion to the pro-life cause when he joined the Reagan ticket, and I can't imagine Giuliani is looking forward to his own time in the fire.

Or it could be that he just actually believes in those positions too strongly to change them.

Or it could be that he wants to gamble and see if he can win the Republican primaries still having those positions, and then go on to the general elections holding them, where they'll actually help him a bit. (After all, if you've already got the Republicans on board, having more liberal positions can only help with Independents and even some Democrats.)

If he's thinking along the latter lines, he's fooling himself. As a dedicated Rudy guy, sure, I'll vote for him, assuming his candidacy is even still alive when voting comes to my state. But I won't consider him a truly serious candidate, and my real candidate will be my Plan B guy, whoever I think can actually win the nomination, even if I like him a little bit less.

I imagine the Giuliani people keep their eyes on blogs, especially a pro-Giuliani one like this one, so let confirm to Giuliani's guys what they already know but seem to be resistant to believing: Yes, indeed, abortion is a very important issue to Republican stalwarts. Trust me, guys, this blog isn't exactly the most Christinist of venues, and even here, the pro-life side has both the numbers and the passion. The sooner you confront this reality, the better.

So the two guys I'm most supportive of seem to have opposite problems. Romney's positions seem suspiciously carefully-tailored to win in the South Carolina primary, whereas Giuliani's seem to win... well, not really anywhere, really, except maybe in New York in the general elections, which he'll never make it to anyhow if he holds to his current stances. If Romney's a bit too synthetic and shameless about adapting his positions to Republican primary voters, Giuliani's too proud and "authentic" for his own political good. I could stand to see Romney taking a couple of unexpected positions I don't necessarily agree with, and I sure the hell could stand to see Rudy trying to meet Republican primary voters at least half-way.

We don't need Giuiliani to be a True Believer, but at least need a little lip-service, I think. A little bit of insincerity goes a long way.



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posted by Ace at 01:51 PM

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