Monday, January 28, 2008

Needed: A Problem-Solver

David Frum writes for National Review:

How can we hold the line on government while addressing America’s genuine health-care needs? How can we sustain the competitiveness of the American economy against a Democratic Congress quivering to impose new taxes and new regulations? How can we win a war on terror that the congressional majority seems already to have written off as lost?

Rudy Giuliani is the answer to these challenges.

No living elected official has solved more public problems with more outstanding success than Rudy Giuliani. If there is one person Americans associate with competence in government, it is Rudy. As the primary race has warmed up, some have tried to diminish the mayor’s accomplishments. But in fact, the closer you look, the more amazing they become.

Yes, the crime rate for the whole country declined in the 1990s. But New York, with a little less than 3 percent of the nation’s population, accounted for 15 percent of the nation’s decline in homicides. Much of the improvement in former high-crime zones like Chicago, Washington, and Miami occurred precisely because New York’s success inspired other mayors to follow where Giuliani had led.

It is not just crime. Giuliani restored civility to New York’s public spaces, reformed welfare, broke the grip of organized crime on trash collection and food wholesaling, restored academic standards in the city university system, chased the sex industry off the streets, held the line on taxes, and set in motion one of the greatest property booms in city history.

In 1963, President Kennedy challenged those who suggested that Communism could out-compete freedom: “Let them come to Berlin.” Today, Republicans can challenge those who assert that liberals can out-manage conservatives: “Let them come to New York.”

Giuliani achieved his success by combining a fierce commitment to core values with an impressive flexibility in his methods. He listened to advice, tried experiments, built on what worked, discarded what did not work. He showed that a leader can be strong without being rigid.


Most Republicans agree with most of these positive assessments of Giuliani. Yet many continue to hold back, for reasons like those forcefully articulated by Hadley Arkes in an influential recent article: “The nomination and election of Rudy Giuliani would mark the end of the Republican party as the pro-life party in our politics.”

This is exactly wrong. Yes, there are Republicans who want to chase pro-lifers and other social conservatives out of the party. But Giuliani has emphatically taken a very different view. He has extended welcome to pro-life conservatives in almost every way a candidate for president can. He has promised to appoint federal judges who take the Scalia-Thomas-Roberts-Alito view of the Constitution. He has pledged that as president he would do his utmost to persuade Americans to turn away from abortion and toward adoption. He has declared his personal revulsion at abortion. He has stated over and over that pro-life conservatives will have his respect and attention.

Giuliani may not speak about life issues with the fervor and eloquence of a George W. Bush. But for all practical purposes, what he would actually do would look very similar to what George W. Bush actually has done. Maybe even better: Remember, Giuliani will be taking advice on judges from Theodore Olson — whereas Bush’s first choice for the Alito seat was Harriet Miers.


This is a wartime election. It is an election that will decide between a free, competitive health system and a government monopoly. It will decide whether taxes rise, whether the swing seat on the Supreme Court goes to a liberal or a conservative, whether illegal aliens get enforcement or amnesty. This is not an election that conservatives can afford to lose. But it is an election we will lose if we refuse to face realities.

We must avoid the mistake we made in 1996, when we picked a candidate because he made us feel comfortable — with little regard to how the majority of Americans would feel about him. When Americans look at our array of candidates on the stage, they see only one president up there. That’s the president we should offer them.

Read it all here.

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