Rudy and Bernie

The first of no doubt a long line of stories to probe Giuliani’s relationship with Bernard Kerik.

The NY Times reports:

Rudolph W. Giuliani told a grand jury that his former chief investigator remembered having briefed him on some aspects of Bernard B. Kerik‘s relationship with a company suspected of ties to organized crime before Mr. Kerik’s appointment as New York City police commissioner, according to court records.

The whole thing here.

Editing Rudy on YouTube

There’s a new video up on YouTube showing clips of Rudy Giuliani endorsing Mario Cuomo, which everybody expected would be used against him. But if you’ll notice, the video is carefully clipped in the middle, and that’s to make Rudy’s statement seem worse.

Here’s the spliced together quote from the YouTube video, as reported by Hotline:

“[Pataki] has plans to reduce taxes that are so ambitious and so inconsistent with the performance of the economy of the state. It would be a disaster. It would be the kind of tax shift that substitutes for sound management.”

Here’s the unedited version, with the comments not appearing on the video in bold, from a transcript of Giuliani’s October 25, 1994 appearance on “Inside Politics” that can be found on Nexis:

Mayor GUILIANI: He has plans to reduce taxes that are so ambitious and so inconsistent with the performance of the economy of this state that he would, in essence, in order to accomplish that, raise property taxes in the suburbs, around New York, and in New York City. Because-

SHAW: And in your mind that’s a no-no?

Mayor GUILIANI: It would be a disaster. It would be an absolute disaster. It would be the kind of tax shift that substitutes for sound management. I’ve reduced the budget of New York City dramatically. I’ve actually reduced taxes already in New York City. But I didn’t do one of those pledges and promises and one of those fancy campaign things that locks you into unwise economic policy.

Clearly, Giuliani was worried about rising property taxes in and around New York City. YouTube is a great resource, but given the growing influence it has, we have to be careful to treat everything with a skeptical eye.

Re: Shades of…

Definitely a misstep Paul. Giuliani needs to keep the focus as much as possible away from his personal life. By saying that Judy can sit in on cabinet meetings, it basically opens the door for the media to probe into her past. Her recently unearthed third marriage, everything else, is now fair game.

UPDATE: ABC has posted excerpts of the interview.

Team Rudy Responds

I don’t have a link, but the Rudy campaign has issued a response to the flat tax flip flop charge. Basically, the campaign argues that his views have been consistent, because Giuliani’s position on Kudlow the other day was that a flat tax would have been the way to go if we were starting from scratch, but that it’s hard to do so now because the system has already been built around deductions. In 1996, he was arguing against a flat tax because of the immediate impact that the elimination of the state and local tax deduction would have on New York City.

Here’s what he said on Kudlow Monday:

GIULIANI: “I think it needs a massive simplification. If we were doing income tax for the first time, in other words, we were starting off new back at the beginning of the last century, then probably we should go with a–we probably should’ve gone with a flat tax, or maybe two levels of tax, but really simple. Our economy has kind of grown up now on depreciation and deductions and industries have grown up around that, and so I don’t know exactly how much you can simplify it, but you sure have to make a stab at it.

Here’s what he said on his 3/9/96 “Capital Gang” appearance:

GIULIANI: “No, I think it [flat tax] would be a terrible mistake for urban areas, for big states. We depend on the deductibility of state and local taxation and in a time in which the federal government is turning over more responsibility to state and local governments, which they’re doing, whether it’s the Clinton approach or the Republican approach in the House, really it’s just a question of how fast it’s done, you can’t be pulling away some of our economic basis, which rests with state and local taxation and that would be true of any of the big cities, any of the big states. It would really be a disaster and it’s totally inconsistent with the movement of the Republican Congress toward giving more responsibility to state and local government.”

More on Flip Floppery

Ponnuru responds to my earlier post comparing the nature of Giuliani's and Romney's flip flops. He agrees that Romney has flip-flopped on more issues, but says I underestimate "how brazen Giuliani's flip-flop on partial-birth abortion was." Just to clear that up, I'll concede that his reversal on partial birth abortion was brazen, since when he opposed the ban in 2000 the whole life of a life of a mother exception wasn't even an issue. However, like I said, he still remains openly pro-choice and has been up front with other disagreements with conservatives.

To this, Ponnuru writes:

But Klein's aversion to flip-floppery has reached the perverse point where he essentially extols Giuliani's non-conservative positions as reasons for conservatives to support him, because at least he's sticking with them.

If your primary concern is electing somebody who has conservative views on social issues, I can see the argument for going with somebody who is at least saying the right things now over somebody who you know disagrees with you. Certainly when voting for a Senator or member of Congress it makes sense to vote on the basis of who agrees with you on more issues (at the end of the day, the vote is all that matters). In my view, however, when you're selecting a President, you're voting for a leader. How will this person respond to unexpected events? How will they deal with criticism? How will they confront a crisis? Will they buckle under pressure?

For me, at least, every other issue pales in comparison to fighting and winning the war on terrorism, and in my view Giuliani's leadership skills make him the best available candidate. One of my biggest fears is that the more distance we get from 9/11, the American public will have less stomach to fight terrorism, and we will go back to viewing it more as a manageable threat, leaving us vulnerable to future attacks. I really think it's important that we have a leader who not only says the right things about the war on terrorism now, but somebody who I can be confident will continue to feel the same way no matter what the latest poll says, no matter what the media is writing, no matter what the opposition party is howling about. Whether it was taking on the mob as prosecutor or fighting in a hostile environment to transform New York City as mayor, Giuliani has demonstrated an ability to stick to his guns under the most difficult circumstances, and to get things done. Of all the candidates, I feel the least worried that, say, a few years down the line, he'll be arm-twisted into appeasing Iran, or convinced to scale back the war on terrorism because people have lost interest in it. Were he to come out now and suddenly reverse his positions on every issue to make himself more appealing to conservatives, I think he'd be losing his greatest asset as a leader. The fact that he's holding on to inconvenient beliefs now gives me faith that he isn't driven exclusively by poll numbers, and that's a crucial quality for a wartime president to have.

Romney talks a good game now, but given that he has gone to such great lengths to tailor his views so they're perfectly suited for the Republican primaries, it makes me worried what he would do once in office when he is no longer beholden to conservative primary voters. Romney has no record on national security issues other than what he's now saying, so all we have to go on is his word. Given his history of political expediency, I worry if he were elected, what he'd be like in, say, 2011. Perhaps he'd suddenly be more interested in universal healthcare than hunting down jihadists. Perhaps not. But it’s a concern of mine. With Giuliani, I don't have that fear, and part of the reason is that, even though he's not above flip-flops, he's been up front and honest about many of his differences with conservatives.

So, I think my disagreement with Ponnuru is rooted in the fact that he's viewing the conversion vs. consistency question within the narrow lens social conservatism, whereas for me it raises the broader issue of what type of leader a candidate is likely to be.

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Rudy’s Flat Tax Flip Flop

Ramesh Ponnuru writes:

On Kudlow’s show two days ago: “If we were doing income tax for the first time. In other words, if we were starting off new back at the beginning of the last century, then probably we should go with a-we probably should’ve gone with a flat tax, maybe two levels of tax, but really simple.”

Back in 1996: “The flat tax is not for me.” The New York Times reported: “While he has criticized the flat-tax idea before, yesterday was the first time Mr. Giuliani publicly came out against Mr. Forbes’s plan. Calling it ‘a mistake,’ the Mayor joined other critics who contend that the plan’s elimination of deductions for state and local income taxes would unfairly punish states with high local taxes, like New York, and increase pressure for those states to lower their tax rates.”

A few days later, on Capital Gang, he said that a flat tax “would be a terrible mistake for urban areas, for big states. . . . [Y]ou can’t be pulling away some of our economic basis, which rests with state and local taxation and that would be true of any of the big cities, any of the big states. It would really be a disaster. . .”

Does Giuliani still believe that it would be “a disaster” for states and localities to feel pressure to cut their taxes? The tone of his remarks suggests that he has come around on these issues, which is great. But there are plenty of /reporters who scourge flip-floppers/, and I can’t wait to see what they have to say about this.

Ramesh Ponnuru links to a Deroy Murdock article criticizing Mitt Romney, but as someone who is also a strong supporter of Giuliani and a fierce critic of Romney for his “conversions,” I feel it’s only fair that I respond.

Now, I could sit here and point to nuances in Giuliani’s statements that demonstrate that they aren’t necessarily contradictory, but I’m not going to embarrass myself. Clearly, most normal human beings who read those statements would rightly come to the conclusion that Giuliani changed his position on the flat tax.

However, never have I asserted in my criticisms of Romney that any politician who ever changes his mind on any issue should be run out of contention as a rank political opportunist, unworthy of support. My criticisms of Romney have been based on the nature of his metamorphosis. It is not a single flip flop alone, but the number of flip flops, the dramatic lengths he goes to alter his position, the timing of his conversions, and the arrogance with which he has wielded his new found positions as a stick to beat up on his opponents.

I wouldn’t hold Giuliani up on a pedestal to be beyond any form of political posturing, but at the same time, at least he hasn’t completely remade himself on every issue, and is still willing to stand up and say he disagrees with the conservative point of view sometimes. He may have switched on partial birth abortion, but still says he’s pro-choice, which is quite a stunning acknowledgement for anybody with serious designs on the Republican nomination. He’s still opposed to a federal marriage amendment, he still supports civil unions, he still believes immigrants should have a path to citizenship, etc. He’s not simply making a list of the right conservative issues and checking off that list one by one, which is what Romney seems to be doing. Furthermore, Giuliani did cut taxes as mayor, which was no easy task in New York City, so the fact that he would now be open to the idea of a flat tax, or at least flatter tax, while a reversal, is not as totally out of left field as if he had a record of supporting and imposing higher taxes.

The bottom line is that in my view, not all flip flops are created equal.

MyManMitt Apologizes

Good for him. And I would not dispute his statement that I have not been a fan of Romney. I think that’s pretty clear to anybody who reads my writing, but I’ve been transparent about it, and anybody is welcome to challenge anything they read on the merits of the argument. But it’s going to be a long campaign, and I think everybody should take a deep breath so we can actually have serious debates about ideas. I’m not going to spend the next year and a half running around calling people names or making baseless insinuations.

MyManMitt Besmirches My Name

This just came to my attention now, and I don’t want to dwell too much on the matter, but blogger Justin Hart (aka MyManMitt) is spreading rumors about me that are simply untrue, and I think I should clear the air.

The pro-Romney blogger describes a recent series of exchanges between this site and Evangelicals for Mitt over Fred Thompson’s views on abortion, and makes two assertions that are false.

The first one:

Here’s the short version: Nancy French (a native of Tennessee) opined that she thought Thompson was pro-choice in his original incarnation for the Senate. Philip Klein and other people in the blogosphere then accused them of being liars.

It is flatly untrue that I accused them of being liars. Read the post in question. All I did was report that a co-director of the National Right To Life Committee disagreed with the categorization of Thompson as pro-choice in 1994. I gave the post a neutral headline: “National Right to Life Committee on Thompson,” and in the opening sentence I made it crystal clear that I was quoting the views of one specific individual:

This morning, I cited reports being promoted by the pro-Romney blog Evangelicals for Mitt suggesting that Fred Thompson ran his two campaigns for Senate in Tennessee as a pro-choicer. Not so, National Right to Life executive co-director Darla St. Martin just told me.

If some other websites looked at this and wrote more sensational headlines accusing Evangelicals for Mitt of being liars, that’s not something I can control.

The second inaccuracy by MyManMitt:

Yesterday, I suspect that Philip Klein (who I gather to be AntiRomneyesque) fed some items into the Prowler Column on

This is absolutely not true. Everything I write for the Spectator, or for any other publication, I write under my own name. I find it galling that in a post accusing the Spectator of “a pathetic attack with little evidence,” Justin would accuse me of something with absolutely zero evidence.

The genesis of the current spat involves my reporting on the surprisingly elusive question of what Thompson’s abortion position was in the mid-1990s. Throughout the whole process, I’ve been driven by a journalistic itch to find the truth.

In my initial post on the matter last Thursday (titled “Flip Flopping Fred?”), I included a block quote of all the news excerpts from the mid-1990s describing Thompson as pro-choice that were pointed out by Evangelicals for Mitt. I concluded the post by writing, “for all the ribbing Romney has taken on his abortion evolution, it’s only fair to give other potential candidates the same scrutiny, especially because the Thompson boomlet is based on him being the whole package.”

What piqued my curiosity was the fact that none of the news articles cited had a direct quote from Thompson saying he was pro-choice, or that he believed in a woman’s right to choose–they just described him as pro-choice, or in one case “basically pro-choice.” This wasn’t satisfying to me.

I scoured Nexis, and couldn’t find a quote of Thompson clearly espousing that he was pro-choice. So, like any good reporter, I decided to make some calls and see what I could find out. I put a call into the National Right to Life Committee to see if they had any insight into his record. The executive co-director Darla St. Martin promptly got back to me and adamantly rejected reports that Thompson was pro-choice in 1994, saying that she interviewed him in person and determined that he opposed abortion and that he had a consistent pro-life voting record. I posted what she told me.

But the story kept evolving, and I later followed up by posting Ramesh Ponnuru’s 2000 item describing Thompson’s pro-choice background. And Tuesday, I uncovered an excerpt from a 1995 Judiciary Committee hearing that I thought shed some light on the controversy.

This is an evolving story that has been hard to pin down. But I’ve been reporting on everything I find in a totally transparent manner. I’ve been perfectly respectful of other views. I’ve never accused anybody of being a liar, and I certainly never wrote anything anonymously. So, like Michael Corleone before me, I say to Justin: I hope you will have the decency to clear my name with the same publicity with which you have now besmirched it.

Bush Misses the Boat on Pork

The fact that the Iraq funding/withdrawal bill is filled with billions in pork-barrel spending would seem to be a gift to President Bush, because it provides him with added political cover to veto it, as even opponents of the war can become outraged by the prospect of larding up a defense bill with peanut and spinach subsidies. It would seem to be a big fat fastball right over the plate, just waiting for him to knock out of the ballpark. However, when Bush spoke about his decision to veto the bill, he mentioned the pork-barrel spending, but qualified his statements by saying that he’s not opposed to such expenditures–just that they shouldn’t be in this particular bill.

Read it and weep (or watch the video here):

The House bill would add billions of dollars in domestic spending that is completely unrelated to the war. For example, the bill includes $74 million for peanut storage, $25 million for spinach growers. These may be emergencies. They may be problems. But they can be addressed in the normal course of business. They don’t need to be added on to a bill that’s supporting our troops….

And just like their colleagues in the House, Senate Democrats have loaded their bill with special interest spending. The bill includes $40 million for tree assistance. You know, all of these matters may be important matters. They don’t need to be loaded onto a bill that is emergency spending bill for our troops.

Is he that dedicated to big government conservatism that he cannot seize on an oppourtunity when he has it? I am behind President Bush 100% on his impending veto of the disgraceful legislation. But this type of political ineptitude is just baffling.

Hewitt on Federalism

In an interview with K-Lo, Hugh Hewitt describes why he prefers Romney to Giuliani:

But Rudy doesn’t care about the Marriage Amendment, and Mitt Romney does. Rudy doesn’t think there’s a problem with funding embryonic stem cell research, and Romney does. Romney’s a federalist, and I’m not sold that Rudy is.

Let me get this straight. Romney, who wants the federal government to ban same sex marriage, is a federalist, but Rudy, who believes the decision should be left to individual states, is not.