Rudy Giuliani — playing the partisan, as top-tier presidential candidates reaching out to the base tend to do — said this week in New Hampshire that “[t]he Democrats do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us” and hence that the country would be better off with a Republican in the White House after ’08, preferably the mayor himself.
The message was clear: Democrats are not to be trusted with protecting the homeland: “I listen a little to the Democrats and if one of them gets elected, we are going on defense. We will wave the white flag on Iraq. We will cut back on the Patriot Act, electronic surveillance, interrogation and we will be back to our pre-Sept. 11 attitude of defense.” (Correct me if I’m wrong, but Bush was in office before 9/11, was he not? No matter. Giuliani here is at his most viciously authoritarian. For him, the so-called war on terror, hyped up to turn each and every day into a possible 9/11, requires aggressive executive power, domestic spying (perhaps without warrants but certainly without much oversight), avoidance of the Geneva Conventions (interrogation equals torture), and endless war in Iraq. In other words, the use of fear to justify just the sort of police state where Giuliani would feel right at home.)
But have the Republicans — Bush and his pre-midterm rubber stampers in Congress — made America safer? And would they make America safer than the Democrats would? Would a Democratic victory in ’08 open America’s doors to terrorism, to more 9/11s? For this is what Giuliani is saying.
Like Kevin Drum, I find Giuliani’s remarks all so predictable. Still, the debate is worth having. If Republicans want to make the case that they have made America safer and are best entrusted with the task of protecting the homeland, I’m more than happy, like many others, to make the opposite case, that they have waged the war on terror recklessly and without due regard for the Constitution, weakened America both at home and abroad, and put the homeland at great danger.
But how have the leading Democratic contenders responded to Giuliani? As Kevin suggests, like “wimps” — “[w]ith the usual whining”. (He’s referring to Obama and Clinton.)
And that’s just not good enough.
Now is the time for partisanship, for explaining why us and not them, which is just what Giuliani was doing. (Although his attack may also be a sign of desperation, as Steve Benen argues, a reflection of profound ignorance and incompetence on his part.) Democrats need to stand up for themselves and fight back. “Until they do, Rudy and the Republicans are going to win every round of this fight.”
I acknowledge that much of the above gives Giuliani far too much credit. I just don’t think that he or his campaign attacks can be ignored. Whatever his own personal popularity, his attack here is very much in line with what Republicans often say about Democrats. For an excellent critique of Giuliani’s “2008 electoral identity,” displayed in this attack, see Andrew Sullivan: “We have to ask ourselves: after the next terror attack, what powers would a president Giuliani assume? And what would be left of the constitution after four years of the same? Give Rudy the office that Cheney has created — and America, already deeply altered, will become a new political entity altogether.” And much for the worse.