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March 23, 2007

Giuliani Moves, Tepidly, To The Right

He has to do it at some point. I just don't buy claims that Republicans want an "authentic" Rudy who's is "maverick" enough to buck the orthodoxy. If they wanted that, we'd have already coronated John McCain. What Republicans want is somewhat authentic Rudy who's maverick enough to buck the New York Times editorial page and push the Republican agenda. Recanting all those well-known (though not quite universally known) liberal positions is going to be messy and look an awful lot like pandering, but he has to take the hit if he really wants to win this.

So far it's a bit of dog's breakfast of "maybes" and half-steps, but perhaps it signals a willingness to "evolve," as the New York Times calls it when Republicans move to the left.

On guns (NYT link):

As mayor of New York City, Rudolph W. Giuliani became the favorite Republican of gun control advocates.

He spoke in favor of a licensing system for gun owners that would require trigger locks and firearms training, and he lobbied Congress to outlaw most military-style assault weapons. He was the only Republican mayor to join a lawsuit by dozens of cities against the gun industry, and he complained that Southern states had lax gun laws that fed the illegal weapons trade in the Northeast.


But as a presidential candidate, Mr. Giuliani now talks very differently about guns as he tries to allay the concerns of Republican primary voters. He says he supports the right of individuals to bear arms, and that states — and generally not the federal government — should decide whether to put some limits on that right. He also spoke in favor of a federal appeals court ruling this month that struck down a District of Columbia ordinance barring people from keeping handguns in their homes.

Perhaps most striking, Mr. Giuliani’s campaign says it is not clear that he would support a measure he once championed, an assault weapons ban. In explaining his past positions, he and his aides say they were about fighting crime in New York City when he was mayor, adding that restrictions that make sense there can be wrong for other parts of the country.

While skeptics have paid more attention to Mr. Giuliani’s favoring of abortion rights and same-sex civil unions as potential problems with conservative voters, many Republicans say his positioning on guns could be just as problematic in important primary states. Fergus Cullen, the Republican Party chairman in New Hampshire, said Republican voters there were divided on questions like abortion, but nearly unanimous on guns.


There are people on both sides of the gun control issue who say Mr. Giuliani has changed positions, not just language, on a matter of vital importance to many voters. The most important example, they say, is that as mayor he advocated national standards, while recently he has said that gun control issues should be decided by state and local governments.

“There can be reasonable restrictions, and they largely should be done by state and by — and then, you know, done by legislatures,” he said at a news conference on March 12 in Washington.

People on both sides of the issue say that represents a shift.


Mr. Giuliani’s aides say his basic view — allowing reasonable limits on gun ownership — has been consistent over the years.

“His history is of enforcing gun laws, not of gun control,” said Anthony V. Carbonetti, a senior adviser. “Rudy took over a city that averaged over 2,000 murders a year, and 90-some-odd percent were gun-related murders. It was all about taking guns out of the hands of criminals.”

Mr. Carbonetti added, “Responsible gun owners will see him as an ally.”

Well, that's yet to be seen. The gun issue hurts him more than the abortion issue. Simply appointing conservative judges is all a president can really do to limit abortions, and he's promised to do so. Not so on gun control, where courts have been generally happy to pretend the second amendment doesn't exist. The President and Congress can sharply limit gun rights, if they choose to do so.

It should be said that President Bush -- generally acceptable to conservatives for five or so years of his presidency -- always promised he'd sign the assault weapons ban renewal if it came to his desk. Thanks to a Republican Congress, it never did, and given how many Democrats are hawks on the 2nd Amendment due to the demands of their voters, an new ban not likely to land on Rudy's desk, either.

Still, Giuliani needs to go further on this issue than claiming it should be almost exclusviely a "local issue." It's not exclusively, or even mostly, so. The trick is changing his substantive position while claiming, with superficial plausibility, that he's merely changing his language and has been consistent. That'll be, um, difficult.

On gay marriage:

Mr. Giuliani supports civil unions, but not same-sex marriage. He has said he would likely oppose a constitutional amendment banning it, but he has not ruled out supporting it in the future.

Again, it should be noted that Bush didn't exactly put his presidency on the line for this issue, and, even if he had, it's unlikely that any Congress would pass the measure with the supermajority required. Unless facts on the ground change, such as more courts getting a little feisty on the issue and deciding to impose gay marriage on reluctant states. That is, I guess, the escape-clause implicit in his hedge about "not rul[ing] it out in the future."

Giuliani continues courting the Log Cabin Republicans, which most Republicans keep far away from.

Support from the Log Cabin Republicans likely wouldn't help Mr. Giuliani get the party's nomination, and it could hurt, a political science professor at the University of Virginia, Larry Sabato, said. "My guess is if Giuliani gets nominated, he will have had to have made some pledges to evangelical Christians along the way," he said.

Um, yeah.

Meanwhile, Fred Thompson's credentials on the abortion issue just took a hit with new reportage about his pro-choice position back in 1994. If Romney and Giuliani can change their positions, of course, so can Thompson (and, he says, he already has).

Via Hot Air, which leads with lots of polling news, including the fact that Fred Thompson beats Hillary 44-43 in a Rasmussen head-to-head, but trails Obama.

Oh! The Pajamas Media straw poll is open again. Actually, I think it's more or less always open.

Still no Fred Thompson on the list. So go ahead, vote for Tommy Thompson, you idiots.

Actually, it really is the only way to register support for Fred Thompson if they continue omitting him from the ballot.

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posted by Ace at 05:09 PM

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