Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Opinionator

July 18, 2007, 5:02 pm
Can Edwards Be Saved by the Belle?
By Chris Suellentrop
Tags: ,

How did Elizabeth Edwards become the most interesting spouse of the 2008 presidential campaign? As NBC News’s First Read puts it, “We knew it was possible that a spouse might become the story in this presidential race. But [we] thought it would be Bill, not Elizabeth Edwards.”

At Time’s Swampland blog, Joe Klein proposes “three possible theories about why Elizabeth Edwards is erupting with increasing frequency.” They are:

1. That’s just who she is. (I can attest to the veracity of this one, and love that quality in her.)

2. She’s in what-the-hell mode, given her chronic illness. (Who knows?)

3. Edwards is slipping in non-Iowa polls, slipping behind Bill Richardson in New Hampshire, and the campaign believes it’s time to start taking the front-runners down, using its most potent, bullet-proof cannon. (A real possibility.)

Can the shoot-from-the-hip appeal of Mrs. Edwards save Mr. Edwards’s campaign? He’s fallen to fourth place ­ behind No. 3, “No One” in the decidedly unofficial rankings of the Democratic field, written by Chuck Todd and Marc Ambinder for National Journal.

The Atlantic’s Ross Douthat thinks not. “Frankly, I’ve always thought that the media has given too much credit to Edwards — and in the process, artificially inflated his candidacy — by consistently lumping him in a ‘top three’ with Clinton and Obama,” Douthat writes. “He’s a one-term Senator with no significant constituency in his home region who didn’t exactly dazzle in his previous national audition - failing to capitalize on a broken-field chance at the nomination after Howard Dean imploded in the ‘04 primaries, and then failing to distinguish himself as John Kerry’s running mate in the fall.”

O.K., Ross, but tell us what you really think:

He has no foreign-policy experience whatsoever, and he admits to badly flubbing his biggest test on that front, the Iraq War authorization vote — a test, incidentally, that his similarly-inexperienced rival Obama passed with flying colors. And while his policy proposals may be admirably detailed, he’s preaching what often feels like a “war on poverty” populism to an electorate that seems to be looking for more of a Jim Webb-style “save the middle class” populism; his “wealth versus work” ‘04 campaign, ironically enough, seems like it would be better-suited to the present moment than the “lift-up-the-underclass” themes he’s emphasizing this time around.

Finally, he oozes smarm: He’s got all of Mitt Romney’s inauthenticity problems with hardly any of the substantive achievements. Everyone who’s met him or worked for him thinks the world of him, and no doubt he’s just as lovely as they say — but when he talks, I cringe. And to judge by the polls, I’m not alone.

July 18, 2007, 9:29 am
Giuliani, the ‘Nixon Republican’
By Chris Suellentrop

Rudy Giuliani is “Nixon’s political twin,” writes former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson in his latest Washington Post column. Gerson elaborates:

In his elections, Nixon appealed to conservatives and the country as a culture warrior who was not a moral or religious conservative. “Permissiveness,” he told key aides, “is the key theme,” and Nixon pressed that theme against hippie protesters, tenured radicals and liberals who bad-mouthed America. This kind of secular, tough-on-crime, tough-on-communism conservatism gathered a “silent majority” that loved Nixon for the enemies he made.

By this standard, Giuliani is a Nixon Republican. He is perhaps the most publicly secular major candidate of either party — his conflicts with Roman Catholic teaching make him more reticent on religion than either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. But as a prosecutor and mayor of New York, he won conservative respect for making all the right enemies: the ACLU, advocates of blasphemous art, purveyors of racial politics, Islamist mass murderers, mob bosses and the New York Times editorial page.
Gerson worries that Giuliani, like Nixon, is “a talented man without an ideological compass, mainly concerned with the accumulation of power.”

Just to underscore the point that he thinks nominating Rudy Giuliani for president would be a really, really bad idea, Gerson adds that he fears nominating a Republican who is “in direct conflict with the Roman Catholic Church.” He writes:

Giuliani is not only pro-choice. He has supported embryonic stem cell research and public funding for abortion. He supports the death penalty. He supports “waterboarding” of terror suspects and seems convinced that the conduct of the war on terrorism has been too constrained. Individually, these issues are debatable. Taken together, they are the exact opposite of Catholic teaching, which calls for a “consistent ethic of life” rather than its consistent devaluation. No one inspired by the social priorities of Pope John Paul II can be encouraged by the political views of Rudy Giuliani. Church officials who criticized John Kerry on abortion are anxious for the opportunity to demonstrate their bipartisanship by going after a Republican. Those attacks on Giuliani have already begun.


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