Rudy Giuliani slipped up big-time when he said during a CNN interview that he supports government funding of abortions for low income women. Wisely, he quickly backed away from that position. The incident raises several questions, including this one: how Giuliani could have made such an error?
Giuliani gave his response after being reminded of a statement he made almost 20 years ago in which he backed government-funded abortions. Since Giuliani is running, in a sense, as the anti-Romney — the man who doesn’t flip-flop on social issues — his default position, I imagine, is to adhere to past positions. Yet, as the Mayor soon realized, not all of his past positions are equal. I suspect that if Giuliani had given the issue any advance thought, he would have realized that his position on government-funded abortions is one of the “unequal” ones, and would not have needed to resort to his default. Instead, Giuliani would have relied on the Hyde Amendment, as he did when he climbed down.
If my surmise is correct, then the question becomes why Giuliani did not, at some point early on, give this matter some thought. The answer may be that he’s not working hard enough. Giuliani has been out of politics for something like five years, and has never really participated in national politics. Under these circumstances, there is no shortage of matters about which he needs to bone up. Though Giuliani has great (and justified) faith in his ability, he should not expect to be able to get by consistently with “winging” it.
Giuliani probably does not want to become consumed by the campaign this far away from November 2008, and that’s understandable. However, I doubt he has much choice if he wants to sustain a serious candidacy. Campaigning for president is a vastly more difficult enterprise than it was, say 20 years ago. The rise of cable news networks, the internet, and video means both that candidates are forced to answer many more questions and that the consequences of a gaffe are magnified. The internet also increases exponentially the ability to do perform the research with which to ask tough questions and catch inconsistencies. It’s doubtful that a less than fully engaged and committed candidate can survive almost two years in this environment.
I suspect that realization is the only thing that so far has prevented Fred Thompson from entering the race.
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