Politics & Policy

Simon Says

Pitching Rudy Giuliani to conservatives.

Rudy Giuliani “is nowhere near as liberal” as people think he is, William E. Simon Jr., former candidate for California governor, said in an interview with National Review Online on Wednesday afternoon.

#ad#Earlier this week, Simon — who previously worked with Giuliani in U.S. attorney’s office in New York in the late 1980s — signed on as a Giuliani domestic-policy adviser. Unsurprisingly, the conservative Bill Simon has in his portfolio of duties outreach to his friends and colleagues on the Right.

Simon explained why conservatives should be — and are — considering Giuliani: “As people get to know Rudy and people get to know his record, they realize things they sometimes didn’t know. And for conservatives like us, I think often what they realize is that his fiscal record is extraordinary. He cut taxes 23 times. Reduced the welfare rolls by 50 percent. He basically presided over an administration whose budget grew at a very, very slow pace. . . . Crime went down 65 percent on his watch. He is a fiscal conservative, there’s no question about that.”

Simon continued, “And as people realize that they are drawn to him. I think on the social issues, he is nowhere near as liberal as the reputation. I think when he talks about judges, … I think that is comforting — it certainly was comforting to me, when he talked about the criteria he would use in selecting judges.”

He said, :And, finally, I think [there’s] the leadership quotient, that intangible that people want so badly, leadership that they can feel good about. Good strong leadership that can deal with the unanticipated. I think that those three things account for his popularity and people’s comfort.”

On the issue of abortion, Simon focused on Giuliani’s recent comments on judges. When pressed — what is a pro-lifer like Simon doing flacking for an abortion-rights advocate? — and asked if he had any assurance that Giuliani wouldn’t support taxpayer-funded abortion as president, Simon told National Review Online, “I have an assurance that he is in favor of the Hyde amendment” (which forbids such taxpayer subsidies). Simon also noted that abortion numbers went down and adoption numbers up in New York City under Giuliani’s mayoralty, and asserted — social conservative to social conservative — “when you look at the results [from Giuliani’s days in New York], you’re going to be happy.”

Leadership — which Giuliani literally wrote the book on — is clearly a prominent theme in Simon’s support for Giuliani, and of the campaign as a whole. Simon stressed a consistency to Giuliani. (A swipe, perhaps, at one of his opponents for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney, who has been criticized for some inconsistencies?) Simon pointed out that Giuliani speaks of freedom “of various kinds,” fiscal conservatism, and the War on Terror. Freedom, the implication is, might explain Giuliani’s “choice” talk on abortion — but it also will probably lead him to be talking about things like entitlement reform (an example Simon himself brings up).

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Though emphasizing that it is early yet to get into too many specifics (if you’re candidate or proxy), Simon expressed a confidence that Giuliani’s domestic-policy positions would wind up “employing principles that would warm your heart.” He also stressed that Rudy is a sensible leader, who — when faced with, say, an elephant-dung-covered Virgin Mary image at a taxpayer-funded museum in Brooklyn — “stands up and does the fair and sensible thing.” It’s a leadership style “people like us draw comfort from.” This characteristic might well make up for Giuliani’s lack of obviously solid traditionally conservative instincts.

Could the thrice-married legal-abortion advocate who marched in gay-pride parades have a problem with conservative Catholics — who would probably prefer that the Republican party’s first Catholic presidential nominee not have these distinctions? Stressing that he was speaking for himself and not the presidential candidate, Simon quipped: “As a Catholic, I am glad that there is forgiveness in our Church.”

Any Catholic (we are all sinners, after all) can share the appreciation. But will conservative voters have mercy on Rudy? It’s early yet, but the memory of “America’s Mayor” post-9/11 (an assassination attempt on the vice president of the United States, and a report that Iran’s been looking at attacking New York), along with what conservative Bill Simon says, certainly don’t hurt Giuliani as Americans engage in their own political examination of conscience.

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