Commentary Magazine


Electability

To the Editor:

Fred Siegel touts the presidential prospects of Rudolph Giuliani as only a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker can [“Candidate Giuliani,” July-August]. But in listing the obstacles that stand between the former mayor and the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, he misses a few.

First, on social issues, Giuliani will have to overcome his record not only on abortion, gay rights, and immigration—all of which Mr. Siegel duly notes—but also on guns. Gun control is such a potent issue that Bill Clinton said that Al Gore’s support for it cost Gore the 2000 presidential election. This is probably equally true of John Kerry’s failed run in 2004.

Giuliani, whose record is that of a strong gun-control advocate, will have to survive Republican primaries in which the strength of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other Second-Amendment groups is many times greater than in a general election, where it is strong enough. The NRA could not give Giuliani a pass and remain credible with its members.

Mr. Siegel also too quickly glosses over the significance of what he calls Rudy’s “messy personal life.” I wonder if he underestimates how the mayor’s adulterous affair and ugly public divorce will be perceived in the Republican heartland. As things stand, most people out there do not even know about it—at least not yet.

There is also the matter of Giuliani’s health. After developing prostate cancer, he declined to challenge Hillary Clinton for the U.S. Senate in 2000. The cancer is now in remission, but American voters are famously health-conscious, and many of them will not want to take a chance that Giuliani’s condition will flare up again.

Finally, Giuliani has no military and little foreign-affairs experience. He is seen as a terrorism expert, but that image is shallow. One could argue that George W. Bush was similarity handicapped in 2000, but that was in a world before September 11.

Giuliani could make a formidable candidate for a number of cabinet positions. But as the top man, no way. Even the GOP vice-presidential nomination seems unlikely given the heavy baggage he carries.

Peter Skurkiss

Stow, Ohio

 

To the Editor:

One small correction to Fred Siegel’s “Candidate Giuliani”: Mr. Siegel writes that the 2008 presidential race “is likely to be a wide-open affair—the first since 1948 without an incumbent President or Vice President on the ballot.” He should have written “since 1952.” The race in that year pitted Stevenson-Sparkman against Eisenhower-Nixon; none of the candidates was an incumbent.

David Wesolowicz

Wheaton, Illinois

 

Fred Siegel writes:

Peter Skurkiss lists a number of obstacles to a run by Rudolph Giuliani for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination that went unmentioned in my article. In ordinary times, he would be right to argue that Giuliani’s position on gun control or his lack of military service could hurt his chances among Republican primary voters.

But these are not ordinary times, and Giuliani’s prospects, for all his liabilities, are likely to hinge on events. If the national concern about Islamic terror continues at its current high level or intensifies, then Giuliani, who was an unconventional mayor and would be an unconventional candidate, could make a serious run.

I thank David Wesolowicz for his correction.

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