Rudy makes his case

Brian Carney:

"I think the American people in November 2008 are going to select the person they think is strongest to defend America against Islamic terrorism. And it is not going to focus on--as some of the media wants it--just Iraq. I think Americans are smarter than that."

Thus did Rudy Giuliani summarize the rationale for his presidential campaign at a meeting this week with the editorial board of the Journal. Next year's election will be about national security, not about Iraq narrowly defined.

In an hour-long conversation in our offices in lower Manhattan, the former New York City mayor sat facing away from the view of Ground Zero below, but 9/11 was very much in the front of his mind. A few minutes into the interview, he paused midsentence, gestured over his shoulder and looked down at his hands. "Coming down here just fills me with memories," he offered. "I can't come here without thinking about what happened that day."

Mr. Giuliani has been accused of playing the 9/11 card for political gain, and he did not shy from discussing his role after the terrorist attacks on that day and its effect on his worldview. But he defied the caricature of a man who intends to beat the 9/11 drum all the way to the White House.

His views on foreign and domestic policy were cogent and delivered with the take-it-or-leave-it confidence that is as refreshing to his backers as it is infuriating to his opponents, both now and when he was mayor. "Leadership," he told us, "is first figuring out what's right, and then explaining it to people, as opposed to first having people explain to you what's right, and then just saying what they want to hear."

Mr. Giuliani is often referred to as a "moderate" Republican, which is true if it means simply that he doesn't follow the party line on certain issues, such as abortion. But there is very little else about him that qualifies for the label. "I am," he told us, "by all objective measures the most fiscally conservative candidate in the race." On domestic policy, he says he wants to shrink the government's share of the economy and increase the private sector's. Tax rates "should be lower" and our health-care system ought to be "move[d] away from the paternalistic model" that we have now.

This is not big-government conservatism. George W. Bush, he tells us, "was not good on spending," although he adds that Congress wasn't very good on spending, either. "I think that it's one of the primary reasons [the Republicans] lost Congress in 2006."

When it comes to the war on terror, "defending America" means "remaining on offense." More particularly, it means "using the Patriot Act, electronic surveillance and interrogation techniques that are legal but aggressive." Of Guantanamo Bay, he says, "I don't think we should close Guantanamo."

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... "Well, I think that if we've learned any lessons from the history of the 20th century, one of the lessons we should learn is [to] stop trying to psychoanalyze people and take them at their word.

"If we had taken Hitler at his word, Stalin at his word, I think we would have made much sounder decisions and saved a lot more lives. I don't know why we have to think that [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad doesn't mean what he says. Therefore, the more cautious, prudent way to react to it is, he means what he says.

"The second thing is . . . we shouldn't be surprised that he's emerged in Iran. Iran has been like that since the Ayatollah took over. So, they are an irresponsible regime."

With that by way of preamble, he answered the question: "America's approach should begin with the clear statement that we will not allow him to become a nuclear power. And everybody should know that, including your allies, that that's not a solution American will tolerate, because it would be too dangerous for us to put nuclear weapons in the hands of people who say the things he says and have done the things they've done."

...
He goes on to say that if our allies and our adversaries know we will act, they will be more likely to force compliance. If we go with the more ambiguous approach of Democrats like Kerry, we can expect that Iran will be unlikely to comply because it will not expect any consequences from the failure to comply.

He is very strong on the Patriot Act and intercepting enemy communications. There si much more int he piece. If you like Rudy, as I do, you will like reading what he has to say he would do as President.

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