12:43 AM: Rudy Guliani is a Bad Person.

Mr. Unpopularity
by Marisa Katz
(from The New Republic Magazine)

There are many qualities that make a great leader," former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said last night. "But having strong beliefs, being able to stick with them through popular and unpopular times, is the most important characteristic of a great leader." So leadership means sometimes being unpopular. It's an odd message for one of the country's most-loved politicians, a one-time Time Person of the Year, to deliver on behalf of a president (a Time Person of the Year himself) who has won many a vote because of his "likeability factor" and who, for a good portion of his first term, enjoyed the highest sustained approval ratings ever measured. But the tactical brilliance of Giuliani's speech before the Republican National Convention last night was that he found a way to prop up Bush, skewer Kerry, and defend his own record all with a single, simple conceit: that popularity is overrated.

First, his defense of Bush. It's unlikely that Karl Rove and other GOP strategists would have been automatically pleased with Giuliani's decision to note how the current president is "demonized" or to talk about "what the media does to ridicule him." After all, portraying Bush as unpopular, even in some circles, might make voters think about how the majority of the country believes he's led us down the wrong track. Or about his refusal to acknowledge any mistakes in an increasingly unpopular war. Or, even further back, about how he failed to win the popular vote in 2000. But Giuliani sought to play up how Bush is put down not to cast a shadow but to group him with the greats. "One of my heroes, Winston Churchill, saw the dangers of Hitler while his opponents characterized him as a war-mongering gadfly," Giuliani said. "Another one of my heroes, Ronald Reagan, saw and described the Soviet Union as 'the evil empire' while world opinion accepted it as inevitable and belittled Ronald Reagan's intelligence. President Bush sees world terrorism for the evil that it is." If Bush is a magnet for criticism, Giuliani suggested, it is merely because, like these other great leaders, he is able to see a future world better than the one he inherited.

Then on to Kerry. Giuliani offered him as the antithesis of Bush's resolve in the face of unpopular opinion. Whereas Bush is "a leader who is willing to stick with difficult decisions even as public opinion shifts," Kerry is someone "whose record in elected office suggests a man who changes his position often even on important issues." To make his point, Giuliani trotted out accusations about Kerry's flip-flopping--on the first Gulf War, on the barrier in Israel, on the war in Iraq--that could have come straight out of a Bush-Cheney ad. Kerry, Giuliani was saying, shifts his position with the political winds, in an attempt to remain popular. And not just here. He wants friends everywhere. And to get them, he'll even allow them to dictate our national agenda.

But with all that talk about unpopularity, Giuliani--whom many say has his sights set on a presidential run in 2008--was also talking about himself. After all, with his liberal stances on abortion, guns, and gay rights, he's not the most popular person among GOP stalwarts. In 1996, he wasn't even invited to the Republican convention. He's also an outsider in his own city, a Republican minority among a sea of blue state Democrats--a lonely position he made reference to last night when he told the convention delegates: "I've never seen so many Republicans in New York City. ... I finally feel at home." Moreover, despite his September 11 transformation, Giuliani was hardly a popular mayor for much of his tenure. "Rudolph William Louis Giuliani is not the most likable man in America," Michael Grunwald wrote in The New Republic in January 2001, laying out the dominant wisdom of the time. "He is a divider, not a uniter. He demonizes anyone who disagrees with him as 'idiotic' or 'crazy' or 'silly' or 'dangerous' or 'jerky' (and quite often as 'very, very idiotic,' or 'very, very jerky'). He is a beady-eyed bully, a ruthless egomaniac, a world-class control freak." At times last night, Giuliani seemed to equate Bush's war on terrorism with his own battle against New York City crime. He credited the president with taking the tough, zero-tolerance stance everyone else had avoided: "Terrorists learned they could intimidate the world community and too often the response, particularly in Europe, would be accommodation, appeasement, and compromise." By extension, he seemed to argue, if we only waited out the unpleasantness of Iraq, our streets would soon be safe again.

Yet the flaw in Giuliani's logic is that periods of unpopularity don't necessarily prove a politician right. He talked about the importance of encouraging "accountable governments" abroad. But at home, Giuliani seems to wave off the value of popular sentiment. What he must understand, especially if he's going to make a run for higher office, is that sometimes, when the majority of the country says you're on the wrong track, it doesn't mean that you're a visionary leader. It means that you're actually on the wrong track.

I'm glad Guliani actually had the courage to acknowledge half of America's hatred of Bush, but his justification for it was just too far-fetched to take seriously. Didn't Churchill attempt to get Britian to form a military alliance with the Soviet Union? Also, the last time I checked, Churchill wasn't even an elected official when he began to advocate rearmament and taking Hitler out of power. Churchill represented the people, not rich corporate executives and other special interests. The House of Lords hated Churchill, and tried to remove him from power several times during World War II. Since when was the Iraqi War a cause the American people felt strongly about? If George W. Bush is Winston Churchill, then Tony Blair is FDR. Please.

And about the Reagan comparison...most of America still belittles Ronald Reagan's intelligence. The man may have been an icon for the Republican Party, but most people...even Republicans...would hesitate to call him one of our greatest Presidents.

Bush has proven himself incapable of creating a better U.S. than he inherited. He's made so many critical errors by now that he'd be lucky just to break even, even if he does get re-elected.

Before you vote, take a long hard look at Bush: What has he done for America? Sure, he's made Iraq a safer place to live, and has gotten rid of their lunatic dictator, but all of that has come at the expense of the tax paying citizens of America. Bush has put us in some serious debt, and irreparably tarnished our nation's once revered image around the world. We need a president who will be a President for AMERICA first, instead of trying to be an international cowboy, ridding the world of "terrorism." Terrorism will exist as long as America exists. People hate the idea of democracy, and the freedom we hold dear, and they will continue to hate us as long as we adhere to those values, no matter who's in power.

Don't be a dumbass...Kerry/Edwards 2004