The Corner

re Giuliani and what makes a conservative pol?

I’m intrigued by the argument over whether Giuliani is a conservative. To pitch in my two cents, I have to agree with Mark. There is a long philosophical debate to be had over what makes a conservative, but conservatives in Washington have a rule of thumb for awarding the label to actual politicians: It’s the trinity of conservative issues: “Guns, Babies, and Taxes.”

My own minimum definition of a conservative officeholder or candidate is someone who is “good” on at least two of the three, and one of them has to be “Babies.” This definition excludes Giuliani and probably McCain from conservatism, and it obviously creates big problems for Romney. (It is an entirely different question whether I’d vote for any of these in a general election.) I know that some would disagree with the definition, but I think it’s not unreasonable — it certainly goes a long way toward explaining why conservatives have felt so uneasy about “Rudy McRomney.”

I may be invested in this position because I am pro-life, but it’s also something I’ve believed for a long time because of the realpolitik. It first struck me because of something Grover Norquist (of all people) said in an interview I did with him years ago at Human Events.

His exact words were something like this: “If you’re willing to go to black-tie dinners and be harangued by rich donors for being pro-life, then it’s a cinch to support tax cuts.” The point was that the more pro-life they are, the more reliable they are on everything else. There are a lot of moderate Republicans who prove this rule every time they are the first to peel off on other issues: Chris Shays, Arlen Specter, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Mike Castle – and to go back in history a bit, Linc Chafee, Sherry Boehlert, Amo Houghton, Marge Roukema, Connie Morella, and dozens and dozens more. (A counterexample would be former Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., whose support for legal abortion did not stop him from being a staunch economic conservative.)

There’s no question that Giuliani is a strong law-and-order guy, but the smart Democrats caught on years ago to how strong the crime issue was and adopted it. On a good day, Dianne Feinstein qualifies as a law-and-order conservative.

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