Rudy Giuliani, The “Compassionate Authoritarian”

With Eric Dondero, Chairman (and I believe sole member) of Libertarians for Giuliani saying he will not return (in the comments to this post) I must turn to others for views on Giuliani. Steve Benen, Matthew Yglesias, and Glenn Greenwald offer far more informed views than Dondero. Steve Benen warns us to “be afraid” of Giuliani’s “authoritarianism” while Matthew Yglesias calls him “a power-hungry egomaniac.” Glenn Greenwald warns of Giuliani’s “compassionate authoritarian.” These views stemmed from two recent reports on Giuliani.

The first was a report of Giuliani being interviewed by Ed Crane of the Cato Institute. When asked whether the president should have the authority to arrest people without review, Giuliani stated he would use this power infrequently. In the GOP this is the more “libertarian” position–to only violate basic civil liberties “infrequently.”

Giuliani also expressed extreme views on the President’s ability to ignore Congress. This report isn’t from a Democratic source which might be expected to oppose Giuliani, but from The National Review:

Rudy was asked about the Iraq supplemental. He said he finds it “irresponsible and dangerous.” Then he began to muse about, after a veto, “would the president have the constitutional authority to support them [the troops], anyway?” He said he’s a lawyer so he wouldn’t offer an opinion “off the top of his head,” then he proceeded to do just that. He seemed to suggest that Bush could fund the Iraq war without Congress providing funding, but it was confusing. In an interview with a New Hampshire TV reporter after his remarks, he seemed more categorical and said, since the war had been authorized by Congress, the president has “the inherent authority to support the troops.” But he added, “You have to ask a constitutional lawyer.”

In a brief press availability in front of his campaign bus, I asked Rudy whether he was saying Bush could veto the supplemental and, in the absence of a deal with Congress, fund the troops in Iraq under his own authority. “If he vetoes it, he’s going to have to find a way to support the troops,” Rudy said. “They have given him the authorization to fight the war,” and “Bush has the power to redirect the money and time to work something out” with Congress. The last bit suggests that maybe Rudy is thinking in terms of only the next few weeks and not making a broader claim about presidential authority (although he kept on saying “inherent authority” over and over).
But it wasn’t quite clear what he meant, and his statements could be seized on by his critics to argue that he has a dangerously out-sized view of presidential powers. I’ll defer to the lawyers in here, but my understanding is that Rudy is wrong: the president can’t simply re-direct money Congress has appropriated for specific purposes. If Bush wanted to go down a very confrontational route, he could sign the supplemental and defy the timetable as unconstitutional, but he can’t simply pull money out of nownowhere or take it from elsewhere for his own preferred purposes.

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  1. 1
    Eric Dondero says:

    I just wanted to pass this on to my ex-friend and supreme Giuliani skeptic Ron Chisud. It’s from the Boston Herald today, an article on Giuliani’s trip to NH:

    ”There is a genuineness to Giuliani that is missing in every other candidate except for perhaps McCain,” said Bob Chaffee of Portsmouth.

    Chaffee said he already had a good opinion of Giuliani from his conduct on Sept. 11, 2001, and afterward. He said seeing Giuliani live cemented that.

    Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is ”not libertarian enough for me,” Chaffee said. ”Giuliani brings a combination of positions that appeal to moderate Republicans, independents, moderate Democrats, where Romney is a little too focused on appealing to the conservative wing of the Republican Party.”

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    It is expected that candidates will impress some people on a campaign trip. After all, these guys are experts at exciting people at campaign events. Coming out better than Mitt Romney is hardly a sign that someone is worthy of support. That’s quite a low bar.

  3. 3
    Eric Dondero says:

    And alas, you miss the point of the post. Or perhaps you understood what I was trying to get at, but chose to ignore it.

    Again, the point of the post is that the nice New Hampshire gentleman is implying that Giuliani is indeed “libertarian-leaning,” and that Romney is not.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    No Eric, once again you miss the point.

    First of all, this is only the opinon of one person, who is misinformed. The opinon of one person does not change the fact that Giuliani’s beliefs are contrary to libertarian beliefs.

    Secondly, the comparison to Romney is meaningless. The Republican Party has rejected libertarian e beliefs and has adopted authoritarianism as one of its fundamental principles. Giuliani might be more libertarian than Romeny, but even if this is the case it doesn’t count for much.

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