Giuliani Hardly a Liberal

As I’ve mentioned many times already, this is a very depressing year for looking at the presidential candidates. Choosing among the Republican offerings is especially difficult as the two candidates who might have offered an alternative to the religious right’s control over the GOP look the worse the more you look at them. As I’ve discussed in several previous posts, Rudy Giuliani looks more like an authoritarian warmonger than the social liberal he has been billed as, and Ron Paul is far more a social conservative with ties to the extremist right than the libertarian he has claimed to be.

The latest review of Giuliani’s authoritarian record comes from David Greenberg in The Washington Post. Greenberg shows that Giuliani’s record is not as liberal on issues such as abortion rights and gay rights as his reputation, while his record is very conservative in other areas:

Consider the first of our freedoms: free speech. One emblematic act of Giuliani’s mayorship was his 1999 attempt to censor an art exhibit because it featured a painting of the Virgin Mary that used an unusual form of mixed media — clumps of elephant dung, to be precise. (Others were also upset by the cutouts of female genitalia.) Giuliani, a Catholic who attended parochial schools and once aspired to the priesthood, understandably took offense. But he then converted his religious sensibilities into policy, unilaterally withholding a $7 million city subsidy to the Brooklyn Museum of Art. When that failed to get the painting removed, he tried to evict the museum from its century-old home. Ultimately, after losing in court, he was forbidden to retaliate against the museum. So much for moderation.

Those who deem Rudy a liberal might also recall his plan to fund parochial schools with city money. His goal went far beyond letting Bible groups meet after hours in public classrooms: The mayor personally phoned Cardinal John O’Connor to hatch a plan that would have placed public school students in church-run schools with overtly Christian curricula — including catechism and excluding sex education. It was the real liberals on the school board who stopped the plan.

Beyond religious issues, a second conservative trait defined Giuliani’s tenure: his Cheney-esque appetite for executive power. In 1999, for example, he directed (without the City Council’s permission) the police to permanently confiscate the cars of people charged with drunken driving — even if the suspects were later acquitted.

Giuliani’s record on government secrecy, too, is hardly moderate. Liberals today routinely attack President Bush’s refusal to divulge information about his domestic wiretapping program and his 2001 executive order claiming the power to close presidential papers. But they rarely discuss an equally autocratic move that Giuliani made: cutting a deal with the city as he was leaving office to assign control of his mayoral records to his own private company so that he could decide who could see them.

The fanciful notion of Giuliani’s liberalism also omits the piece de resistance of his mayorship: his flagrantly undemocratic bid to stay in office for an extra three months after Sept. 11, 2001. During earlier crises, even World War II, U.S. elections had always managed to proceed normally. But Giuliani maneuvered for weeks to remain mayor after his term-limited exit date. Only as normalcy returned to New York did his power grab fail.

Finally, don’t forget foreign policy, which has become a social issue in these parlous times. In pledging to carry on the Bush legacy abroad — seeking to assuage Americans’ feelings of vulnerability through brazen nationalism and the ready use of force — Giuliani taps the same emotions he did with his crusades against crime and vice: a sense that a frustrated people want a no-nonsense leader who will buck the weak-kneed worrywarts, be they urban school officials or Democrats who flinch at warrantless wiretapping.

Greenberg compares the belief that Giuliani is a social liberal to George Bush’s claims of being a “compassionate conservative.” He warns that, “if Giuliani becomes president, he will probably emerge as an unabashed social conservative — as seen in his judicial appointments, his efforts to aid religious schools, the free hand he gives the government in fighting crime and terrorism, and an all-around authoritarian style. Let’s not get fooled again.”

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  1. 1
    Naughten says:


    When did Giuliani’s Christian God give him the right to support Human sacrifice, women killing their own children?

    When did his American Constitution give him the right to sacrifice the wealth and blood of the American People, on behalf of domestic and foreign lobbies?

    If neither his Christian God, nor his American Constitution, are sacred to him; why would his promises to the American People be sacred to him?

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    And unfortunately there are people out there who make Giuliani look rational by comparison, as is also seen in the threats by the religious right to run their own candidate if Giuliani wins the nomination.

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