It is the greatness of the United States that daunting challenges inevitably summon to the fore leaders with the steel to rise to the occasion and the grasp to raise us up with them. Leaders whose confidence and command cut through the noise and the naysayers. Leaders who stir us not only to the urgency of action but to the achievability of victory through America’s exceptional gifts.
Rudy Giuliani is such a leader. In our perilous times, his is the unique combination of vision, guts, and perseverance that we need in the Oval Office. That’s why I hope we have the good sense to make him the next president of the United States.
The 2008 election is still 21 months away, and one recoils from the prospect of so long a contest. Still, last week’s announcement that Mayor Giuliani is seeking the presidency was welcome. Our government is adrift. Vigor and course correction will have to come from outside — from a presidential campaign’s demand that we open our eyes and choose sides.
Though our nation is profoundly threatened, never before has our security been so cavalierly politicized. The new Democrat-controlled Congress does not merely oppose fighting a war it would be disastrous to lose. Without the courage of its stated conviction that America’s mission in Iraq must end, it lacks the gumption to match its anti-war rhetoric with meaningful action. As Rome burns, our heroes are Neros, fiddling with oxymoronic “non-binding resolutions.”
No, Congress doesn’t dare de-fund the mission. So this craven display of “resolve” accomplishes only three things: It tells our troops in harm’s way that the people’s representatives think their sacrifice is pointless; it informs the Iraqis being pressed to make hard choices that Americans may not be around to back those choices; and it reveals to our firmly committed enemies that we neither understand the stakes nor have the stomach to fight for them.
Meanwhile, the once-shining clarity of the Bush Doctrine has dimmed. The great calling of our age, President Bush declared while smoke billowed from 9/11’s wreckage, was to defeat jihadists and quell the rogues who might abet them. He couldn’t have been more right. Five weary years later, though, the administration seems at times to be running on empty. The answer to our great calling has tapered to stabilizing Baghdad — while we abide Russia and China’s enabling of Iran, promote Fatah terrorists in their standoff with Hamas terrorists, and indulge Kim Jong-il’s remaking of the same dozen-year old promises whose flouting has graduated North Korea from extortionist to nuclear extortionist.
It’s hard to blame the president. He’s got to fight for every inch now. He is trying to move forward by meeting his critics halfway — decency they meet with bile. But he is in this fix because his administration has failed to rally the American people to the cause, to make them own it, rather than delegate it to 150,000 of our best and bravest while the rest of us go shopping. The Left has gleefully filled that void. With the help of its media allies, it daily saps the national will to stay on guard and take the fight to those determined to kill us.
I don’t think a President Giuliani would let them get away with it.
As a young prosecutor in the 1980s, I was privileged to work for him when he was the United States Attorney in New York City. By the sheer force of his intellect, his energy and his ability to inspire, he accomplished things that others before him had dared not try — like vanquishing the long entrenched mafia, which has been an epigone ever since his onslaught.
But Giuliani’s greatest asset may have been his unique understanding that success in any great endeavor hinges on the capacity to explain, relentlessly, what you are doing and why. With that, the public can understand and support you, the bad actors are under no illusions about your commitment, and those on the fence are apt to think better about choosing the wrong side. It is a Reaganesque gift.
Mayor Giuliani grasps the global nature of the jihadist challenge. He has demonstrated in spades — especially by his leadership in a New York City ravaged by the enemy on 9/11 — that he has the fortitude and constancy that will be required for victory. But just as much, he gets both the advantages and the obligations of the bully pulpit. He will make the case, cogently and compellingly, day in and day out: Why we are fighting and why it is vital to win.
This was on display last Monday in New York, when he told Sean Hannity that, as Iraq-centric as we’ve become, the war is still about a lot more than the Battle of Baghdad — whether we choose to see it or not:
[H]ere’s the reality of it: We’re at war. And we’re at war because they’re at war with us…. [W]hen you listen to these debates in Congress, and you listen to the politicians debating, you sort of get the impression that they think we’re in control of whether we’re at war or not. It doesn’t matter what we think. They’re at war with us. They want to come here and kill us. And they did on September 11, and they did a long time before September 11. Way back in 1993, they came to this city and killed people.
So we’ve got to put Iraq in the context of a much broader picture than just Iraq. And getting Iraq correctly, in other words, getting stability there is real important. And I support what the president asked for support to do [in surging combat troops] and what General Petraeus has asked for support to do, not because there’s any guarantee it’s going to work. There’s never any guarantee at war. But if we can come out with a correct solution or a better solution in Iraq, it’s going to make the whole War on Terror go better. We got to get beyond it. We’ve got to get beyond Iraq….
Right in the aftermath of [an attack like 9/11], there’s tremendous unity. We understand that we have to be on offense against terrorists, that we have to make it bipartisan, that it isn’t about being a Democrat or a Republican. It’s about being an American. Now you get further away, and that lesson isn’t as vivid. And all wars have that happen. This is a difficult thing to do, but we’ve got to start getting beyond Iraq.
We’ve got to be thinking about Iran. We have to think about Syria. We have to be thinking about Pakistan and Afghanistan and making sure that the transition in Afghanistan goes correctly. We have to be ready for the fact that, whatever happens in Iraq, success or failure — success will help us in the War on Terror. Failure will hurt us. But the war is still going to go on. They’re still going to want to come here and kill us.
Some conservatives worry about Giuliani’s positions on certain social issues, especially abortion. But his positions have not signaled conventional liberalism. He has governed as a limited-government conservative — a species Republicans would do well to rediscover. More to the point, he doesn’t pine for the courts to impose that which the public rejects. To the contrary, he vows to appoint justices who will stick to the individual rights we already have rather than invent new ones as they go along. Who will adjudicate rather than legislate. Who will be our umpires, not our rulers. No president can do more than that to promote conservative outcomes. Conservatism is where the public is. We win a fair fight, a democratic fight, and he is committed to giving us that.
No fight, however, matters as much as the one for our survival. No one will fight that fight better or smarter or more zealously than Rudy Giuliani. That’s why we need him.
– Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). The views expressed in this article are strictly his own and do not purport to reflect any position of FDD, which is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization.