The Reddess and I have returned from Federalapalooza in DC. There has been some commentary in the press and on the blogs over Rudy Giuliani's speech on Friday. It was an impressive talk. Most of the sophisticated commentary has focused on what he was trying to say to conservative and libertarian lawyers. That message can be summarized as "Scalia/Thomas/Roberts/Alito." Others have remarked on his references to God, but, as Ann Althouse points out, much of that was in the context of the conference's theme of American Exceptionalism, built around Ronald Reagan's invocation of America as a shining city on a hill.
What struck me about the speech is how well delivered and calming it was. It had it's share of applause lines including a call to save the world from Islamic terrorism which, if you'll forgive me, just about blew the roof off the Mayflower Hotel. But the overall impression was one of reasoned optimism. I know that Hillary can beat this guy but I having a hard time seeing how.
But would he be a good President? I am getting close to taking the Rudy plunge. At the National Review reception later on Friday, free speech advocate Jim Bopp gently suggested to me that this was (and he used the word) crazy. My belief (and maybe it is a hope) is that Giuliani understands the need to accede to the wishes of the base on social issues. He can be "personally" pro choice and take a more liberal position on other social issues, but he can't seek to change the platform or seek to further his views through the exercise of federal power.
There are problems with this hope. The first is, as Bopp points out, it may not be true. Giuliani still has work to do here. During Friday's speech, he invoked Kelo, Grutter, McCreary and the 9th Circuit's decision in Newdow as examples of judicial license. But Roe, the ur-case of judicial overreaching, was absent from that litany. While I don't think that the executive ought to be telling the judiciary how to decide cases, he's going to have to convince the base that he believes that a judge who would think Roe is good law (or believes that this error is beyond correction because of some notion of super precedent) doesn't understand what a judge ought to be doing.
But I actually believe that judicial appointments are the last thing that social conservatives have to fear from Giuliani. This guy has enough chops as a lawyer that it is easy for me to believe that his judicial appointments will not simply reflect his politics.
The larger problem is that social conservatism will lose the active support of the executive. I think that's indisputable, although I also believe that much of this is properly left to the states.
But here's the problem. When Giuliani suggests that national security and 200 federal judicial appointments are potentially overriding issues, he is right. Does the pragmatic case for Giuliani outweigh the philosophical case against him?