The Corner

Re: Conservative in Which Sense?

Frank Rizzo, who was mayor when I lived in Philadelphia, was a law-and-order mayor. There was no stronger law-and-order mayor. But he wasn’t a conservative. Ed Meese, my boss at Justice, was not a “law-and-order” conservative. He was a conservative who believed in the rule of law, and at times he was troubled by aggressive prosecutorial tactics used by certain U.S. attorneys. So, the phrase “law-and-order” conservative really doesn’t have any meaning by itself.

I believe you are trying to focus us in a way that seeks to limit our observations about Rudy and the meaning of conservatism. I don’t blame you. As I said, however, taking conservative positions on certain issues, such as law enforcement, doesn’t make you a conservative, in my view. Is Joe Lieberman a conservative because he’s strong on national security? I don’t know anyone who defines conservatism by cherry-picking issues. I understand why some candidates try it — in fact, to some extent, they’re all doing it. But we need not. And my point, underscored by your concluding paragraph, is that Rudy’s supporters insist that we do so — as they must. And that’s okay, but I dissent. Let me put it this way: what is Rudy’s political philosophy? He repeatedly refers to Ronald Reagan, he has appointed Ted Olson to head his judicial advisory committee, but apart from trying to glean his political philosophy through association, what is it?

Back to Fred Thompson. The “senior moment” jibe was the cheap shot, J-Pod. He stumbled briefly, as other candidates have and do, despite their ages. Indeed, as the president does – often. As I said, I heard it used against Ronald Reagan. It’s a demeaning put down suggests infirmity that does not reflect the man. I am not, of course, insisting that you support him or ignore his shortcomings, such as his support for McCain-Feingold (which Rudy also trumpeted). Having written about him 14 years ago and being excited about his entry into the race back in February doesn’t justify the cheap shot, in my view. But if you have concern about “senior moments,” then you might want to interview him again.

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