Thursday, March 22, 2007

Giuliani's Challenge

Start with the cliché: America’s Mayor. In the days after 9/11, Rudy Giuliani was an impressive figure, always in charge, reassuring in his calm but realistic manner, a symbol of security in the midst of trauma. He was more than the mayor of a stricken city. While George Bush left off his reading of “My Pet Goat” to be spirited away into hiding, Giuliani was the nation’s pseudo-President.

It is understandable that many Americans now want to see him in the White House. So far he has become the Republican front runner by default, as John McCain self-destructs by swerving toward Jerry Falwell, cheerleading Bush’s surge and a series of campaign gaffes that raise questions about a man in his seventies.

But Giuliani’s testing is about to start. As he heads toward nomination, some Karl Rove wannabes working for Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich or Fred Thompson are sure to try swift-boating him, not only on his personal life (three marriages and a father with a criminal history) but the issues that roil the Republican right: abortion, gun control and gay rights.

Will Giuliani stand up to these attacks as well as he responded to those of the terrorists? Can he bring the Republicans back to the pre-Bush days of responsible authority (see Andrew Sullivan) and away from our era of “Cheap Grace and Invincible Ignorance”?

If he can, voters in 2008 may have a choice of two viable approaches to government for the first time since fear-and-smear took over the Republican party.

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