The Campaign Spot

Can Rudy Make An Effective Pitch To Social Conservatives?

Well, it looks like Romney’s “Beaches” ad is the talk of the week.

With this ad, it appears Romney is throwing down the social conservative gauntlet. One would think that pro-choice, pro-gay rights, disliked-by-gun-owners cross-dressing Rudy Giuliani would be outgunned in this matchup, but maybe not as we might first conclude. A friend of Rudy sends on a list of his accomplishments as mayor that ought to appeal to social conservatives, and they stand out because they’re more than just “I voted for this bill”; in most cases, they’re actual, tangible improvements in people’s lives.
For example, in Romney’s ad, he says, “I’d like to keep drugs off the streets.”

Friends of Rudy point to the dramatic decline in drug use in New York during his administration. I’m pointed to a 1999 assessment that ran in the Baltimore Sun: “On the surface, crack has all but disappeared from much of New York, taking with it the ragged and violent vignettes that were a routine part of street life. … The police consider the transformation of parts of Harlem, Washington Heights and Brooklyn something of a miracle, emblematic of New York’s determination to beat back the drug tide that many people thought would overwhelm it. ‘I’m not ready to say we won,’ Police Commissioner Howard Safir said recently. ‘But we’re no longer the crack capital of the world.’ He attributed the change to a policy of zero tolerance for the open sale or use of drugs.”

 

Romney says in the Oceans ad, “I’d like to keep pornography from coming up on their computers… I’d like to see less violence and sex on TV and in video games and in movies.”

 

Rudy’s friends point out that their man was the guy who cleaned up Times Square, citing a Daily News article from March 2001: “Mayor Giuliani revived his crusade to crush smut shops and X-rated clubs yesterday – vowing to seal a loophole in a 1990s law that failed to slow the topless dancing and porno video trades in many neighborhoods. … The mayor said his proposal would let city inspectors take into account other factors – such as the prominence of sex-related items – when deciding whether to shut an establishment. The proposal also would require owners to place partitions between the adult and non-adult portions of their businesses – helping to end “sham efforts” to sidestep the law, Giuliani said.”

 

Rudy fans also point out their man is the man who fought the Brooklyn Art Museum over its “Sensation” exhibit, over a painting of the Virgin Mary that used elephant dung. (You know, the one the New York Times kept using to illustrate its stories on the cartoons of Mohammed.) They quote the candidate in a 1999 appearance on CNBC, “Is there Catholic bashing going on? Go–go ask Cardinal O’Connor if there’s Catholic bashing going on. You take one of the most important symbols to Catholics and throw dung at it and have pictures of private parts of women splayed all over it and, of course, it’s Catholic bashing.”

 

And in a little item that probably is likely to be noticed by a potential independent rival, friends of Rudy note that his successor promised to continue the “Rudy Doctrine” on quality of life crimes. They point to a late-December 2001 New York Times story that notes, “And Mr. Bloomberg, who will take office on Tuesday, took pains to say that he would not abandon what had been a hallmark of Mr. Giuliani’s tenure: curbing the kind of low-level lawbreaking, be it public urination or drinking, that Mr. Giuliani argued contributed to a general decline in the fabric of life in New York before he took office in 1994.”

 

Will Rudy’s accomplishments in these areas counter-balance his stands that irk social conservatives? Well, it raises a question that I’ve been wondering about since Rudy expressed his interest in running for president: How many social conservatives across the country have visited New York since he became mayor? And how many never would have done so during the bad old days of the Dinkins and Koch years?

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