The attention to former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani’s stances on social issues has been intense in the past several weeks. This makes sense because Giuliani is an obviously perfect candidate for the Republicans—except for his often rocky personal life and his past support for legal abortion and for changing laws to have the government enforce homosexual marriages.

I have argued that Giuliani is indeed not a conservative, but that he is a liberal of the right, what we call a classical liberal, and that this is a good thing. (I myself am a right liberal; see articles here, here, here, here, and here.)

Now, Opinion Journal assistant editor Brendan Miniter writes in his home publication that whatever you may wish to call the former NYC mayor, Giuliani is a "culture warrior" of the right and is deeply committed to conserving the basic values of the American nation (which is a position important to classical liberalism).

Regarding the horse race aspect of the presidential primaries, Miniter writes,

Mr. Giuliani’s track record, both political and personal, may hurt him in the primaries. He’s been divorced twice, opposes banning abortion, supports gun control, and for a time as mayor lived with two gay men and (as Time magazine noted recently) their frou-frou dog, Bonnie. None of this will endear him to the party’s values voters. But it also may not be what tips the scales in the primaries.

Take South Carolina. The state’s influence in presidential politics has only grown since it derailed Mr. McCain’s Straight Talk Express in 2000. Two weeks ago, Mr. Giuliani made a trip to the state and struck a chord by speaking to a burning issue in South Carolina–a fight over school choice. This probably won’t make the national evening news, but today some 5,000 people–many of whom are black and live in poorly performing rural school districts–are expected to descend on the state capitol in Columbia to rally for school choice. After lobbying their elected leaders, they plan to leave behind chocolates for Valentine’s Day embossed with the words "another voice for school choice."

Mr. Giuliani delivered his South Carolina speech to several dozen conservatives. One woman who attended told me she wonders whether electing a president who successfully took on the mob in New York is what it will take to finally break through the entrenched education political culture. Christian conservatives make up the core of the school-choice movement in the state. If they come to the conclusion that Mr. Giuliani is on their side and has the leadership qualities to achieve lasting and meaningful change, he may prove a surprisingly strong contender. . . .

Christian conservative leaders will continue to be unhappy with Mr. Giuliani. Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, recently laid into the former mayor for a shifting stance on abortion, saying that a politician who personally believes the practice is wrong but who refuses to ban it is more repugnant than someone who isn’t morally troubled by the termination of a pregnancy.

He’s right. But there is little the president can do directly about abortion. In weighing contenders for the party’s nomination, will right-to-life Republicans be more worried about Mr. Giuliani’s personal beliefs, or will they find comfort in the fact that he says he’ll appoint judges in the mold of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, who may actually overturn Roe v. Wade? If Mr. Giuliani makes a convincing case that he’ll also lend his efforts to school choice and other endeavors that will help win the other culture war under way in American politics–the one against an intransient political culture that is unresponsive to the demands of the public–Mr. Perkins could turn out to be mistaken.

I agree. What counts is what judges a president will appoint, and Giuliani has said explicitly that he will appoint "strict constructionist" judges, which is the correct approach.

In addition, Giuliani’s strong support for school choice, toughness on crime, real belief in economic opportunity, and steadfastness in defense of the national interest are all things that will be strongly attractive to Reagan Democrats and could themselves tip the balance toward a renewal of the old Reagan coalition that was so successful in winning elections.

Giuliani’s ability to appeal to Democrats should be seen as a strength, not a liability.


A prediction:

I believe that at some point in the next couple of months, some prominent religious conservative figure will endorse Giuliani’s bona fides on the social issues, arguing that his stance on judicial appointments is a sufficient qualification for the support of religious conservatives.

It only makes sense because Giuliani is such a strong candidate politically and as President would be an effective fighter for a rightward stance on the social issues precisely because middle-road voters can feel comfortable that he is not a radical social conservative who will turn over the country to the religious right.

Regardless of whether that fear is rational, it is highly common, and Giuliani is the only likely candidate in either party who can deliver the economic and national defense goods without being a divider on the social issues.

That’s a winning combination both in electoral terms and as a mode of governance.