The Giuliani moderation fallacy

Our media stars think that a foreign policy militarist and a domestic authoritarian transforms into a "moderate" if he believes in gay rights and abortion rights.

By Glenn Greenwald
November 14, 2007 1:08AM (UTC)
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(updated below)

The most transparent and destructive fallacy being recited by our Beltway media class is that Rudy Giuliani is a moderate or centrist Republican. Examples of this fallacy are everywhere.

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman yesterday twice asserted during his "chat" that Giuliani was a moderate -- first rejecting the notion that the GOP is purging moderates by citing the fact that "the frontrunner in the presidential campaign is Rudy Giuliani, an abortion rights, gay rights, gun control advocate," and thereafter claiming that GOP political operatives want Giuliani as the nominee because "they think Giuliani will mobilize moderate Republicans and independents who lean Republican." Today, his Post colleague, "mainstream" enforcer Shailagh Murray, insisted that while Ron Paul is well outside the mainstream, Rudy Giuliani is squarely within it.


The very idea that Giuliani is a "moderate" or a "centrist" is completely absurd. Regarding the issues over which the next President will have the greatest influence -- foreign policy and presidential powers -- Giuliani is as far to what is now considered the "Right" as it gets. His views on foreign policy are far more radical and bellicose even than Dick Cheney's, and his view of presidential powers makes George Bush look like Thomas Jefferson.

This whole "moderate" myth is grounded exclusively in Giuliani's non-doctrinaire views of social issues. But that's pure fallacy. Political ideology doesn't function like mathematics, where two numbers situated on opposite extreme poles can be averaged together to produce a nice, comfortable number in the middle.

That isn't how political ideology works. A warmonger with authoritarian impulses and liberal positions on social issues isn't a "moderate" or a "centrist." He's just a warmonger with authoritarian impulses and liberal positions on social issues.


Even Giuliani's allegedly "liberal" positions on social issues are completely overblown. Outside of judicial appointments, Presidents actually have very little impact on issues such as gay rights, abortion and gun control. Other than judicial appointments, what impact has George Bush had on those areas? Virtually none.

Yet when it comes to the one instrument Presidents can actually use to shape social issues -- judicial appointments -- Giuliani's decisions will be anything but liberal. He has said repeatedly that he would "appoint judges like Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito, Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas" -- the most conservative justices on the Court. And his closest legal confidants are the by-product of relationships he formed at the Reagan DOJ -- people like Ted Olson and Michael Mukasey -- and his appointments are almost certainly going to comport loyally to Federalist Society dogma.

But even if he were Noam Chomsky on social issues, the term "moderate" would be the least accurate term for Giuliani. He has one of the most extremist and war-loving foreign policy teams ever assembled for a major candidate. He has advocated or expressed openness to such radical policies as imprisoning American citizens with no trials, having Israel join NATO, and launching a first-strike tactical nuclear attack on Iran. And he speaks more glibly than virtually any individual in the country about torture.


More than anything else, it is the media's mindless depiction of Giuliani as some sort of moderate Republican or centrist that has convinced his party that he is the most electable, and it is blinding independents to his true radicalism. This media-concocted "moderate" myth is also what allows Giuliani to pursue actively the support of some of the most out-of-the-mainstream political figures in the country -- and to be plagued by extremely dark associations in his past -- without much political cost or controversy. As Andrew Sullivan wrote today:

I tend to place greater emphasis on loons and hate-mongers that candidates actively seek out. Pat Robertson is a loon and an anti-Semite and a vicious homophobe who blamed Americans for 9/11. Giuliani didn't receive some unsolicited money from him; he actually stood on a platform and embraced him. . . .

Giuliani also promoted and endorsed a seriously mobbed up man to be head of the DHS; he fully embraces and employs a priest credibly abused of sex abuse of a minor (and refuses to distance himself from him); and actively endorses torture as a foreign policy weapon.

Whatever else Giuliani might be, "centrist" and "moderate" is not it. He is one of the most radical major candidates in memory. But the more he is characterized as a "moderate" by our media stars, the more viable a candidate he becomes and the more his radicalism is obscured.

UPDATE: A new poll from Rasmussen Reports finds that GOP voters perceive Giuliani as the "most moderate" of any of the Republican candidates, and the second least-conservative candidate:The candidate advised by the Norman Podhoretz Brigade, endorsed by Pat Robertson, and defined by the most extremist foreign policy and authoritarian impulses seen in any major candidate in quite some time, is depicted as "moderate" by our press corps and therefore widely perceived as such.

Glenn Greenwald

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