Why play games? Giuliani IS the bench.

I have been a fan of Peggy Noonan’s for a very long time. We are both Irish Catholic, Long Island raised girls, although I don’t have her cheekbones, or her mid-atlantic accent or her writing skills. I like seeing a local girl who has done so very well for herself.

After the death of Ronald Reagan, however, I was becoming alarmed at her writing, which seemed to have gone a little loopy – wallowing in sentiment. I
recall reading about
her experiences at the Capital evacuation and thinking “girlfriend, get a grip!”

I said to my son, “Hold my hand and don’t let go, we can’t get separated.” About halfway down the steps I suddenly wanted to share some thoughts on history. I slowed a little. I was very angry to be driven from our Capitol by terror scum. My son was too, and said of them words boys don’t normally say in front of their mothers. I wanted to speak to him about the vagaries of history, how it is a wonderful and exciting thing but there are moments when it gives you agita.

No, I’m sorry. When you’re evacuating, it’s alright to feel angry, but this wanting to suddenly share thoughts on history while you’re also trying to save your son – this is not normal.

I worried. The woman who wrote the single greatest piece on John Paul II, ever could not be describing her experiences in a tone that suggested she wanted to linger on the steps of the Capital, wrap a nice, diaphanous shawl about herself and then twirl to some silent music of history, at so dramatic a moment, could she? Was Peggy, my essayist heroine, losing it? Was she, in her grief for Reagan, going Ophelia on us? Ophelia with a typewriter, traipsing through the forest? “Tra la la, there’s agita, that’s for remembrance…”

Fortunately, Ms. Noonan has bounced back, as I knew she would. Last week she wrote a really fond and generous exposition on Dan Rather, and this week her piece on the undeniable ambitions of Hillary Clinton is equally strong and smart, although really – for those of us on the conservative side – I don’t know if she has told us anything we did not already know.

What was most interesting was Noonan’s assertion that the GOP has – for 2008 – a “deep bench”.

They’ve got a deep bench and a big fight coming. Alphabetically the list so far can be considered to include George Allen, Bill Frist, Rudy Giuliani, Chuck Hagel, John McCain, Bill Owens, George Pataki, Mitt Romney, and beyond that any number of potential surprise guests from Tommy Thompson to Colin Powell to Mrs. Hutchison.

With all due respect to Ms. Noonan, um. No. That bench is neither deep nor sturdy. Allen? All the charisma of melted ice. Frist? A genuinely good man, indeed, but also lacking in charisma, and he has not yet demonstrated strong leadership abilities in the Senate. Hagel? Get outta here, he’s a self-promoting wet handshake of a man. McCain? Too busy playing both sides of the aisle, too in love with magazine covers, too much cancer history. Owens and Pataki are interchangable snores. Mitt Romney is a Mormon and that will give him a hard time with both the Evangelicals in the GOP and the moderate Democrats any successful Republican will still need to court. Tommy Thompson just gave terrorists some hints as to how they might hurt the nation, “hey, fellas, have you thought about the FOOD SUPPLY?” So even if he were not already a little scary-looking, he’s officially to scary-sounding. Colin Powell’s wife has made it very clear that she doesn’t want him running for president, and Kay Hutchinson is…mmneh.

It leaves only one name. No matter how you pad the list and crowd the bench to make it look like there is a real choice for the GOP, the truth is we have one genuine quarterback on which to call: Rudy Giuliani.

The left understands this, which is why they are currently (and with seeming co-ordination) doing all they can to discredit Bernard Kerik. Taint Kerik and you taint Giuliani, who has thus-far proved untaintable and incorrupt. Giuliani will be Hillary’s only real compitition in ’08. I’m thinking Giuliani/Rice vs Clinton/Obama.

I know some say Giuliani is a little too far to the left, socially – and he is, right now – to get the GOP nod, but all he has to do is move away from Partial Birth Abortion and he’ll be a lock. But don’t just take my word for it, read Hugh Hewitt’s take on it here

I make a point of speaking to a couple of chapters of the Federation every year, more to listen than to inform. (These ladies have legislative chairman’s reports that go on for an hour–and they take notes.) Last Monday, just before heading off on vacation, I went to Temecula, California to speak to more than 200 women from the Riverside County Republican Women, Federated. After a recap and an assessment of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plans for a special election in 2005 to confront gerrymandering,I announced the first straw poll of 2008. By a show of hands, I gave the ladies–and a handful of men who were their guests–four choices: Senator John McCain, former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senator Bill Frist, and “other.” The results astonished me.

RIVERSIDE COUNTY is as “red” as any county in America, and getting redder. Before I spoke, the group had been entertained by the local home-schooling association’s girls’ choir, and many of the questions I received concerned illegal immigration and Hillary Clinton’s ambitions. In other words–this is to use the title of John Podhoretz’s invaluable book on places such as Riverside County, Bush Country.

Giuliani swept more than three-quarters of the votes, with the other three choices receiving smatterings of support. Keep in mind that this isn’t an exercise in name identification–these women knew each of the candidates–as well as every possible name in the “other” category. This was an informed choice. I stopped what I was doing, repelled the audience, and then conducted a focus group.

Indeed. Things are not as they were 15 years ago, when Giuliani would automatically be dismissed because the folks in Iowa might think him too Eye-talian. In an era where the public wants a president who will lead, rather than take polls and follow, and who has a clear sense of right and wrong, America will go for a man who refused to allow Arafat to play in his town, and who, after 9/11, told a Saudi Prince to take his ten million bucks and shove them, if it meant knocking Israel.

He’s got a very good “potential first lady” by his side, as well. Smart, stylish and classy.

A Giuliani vs Clinton contest will pit pure, naked ambition weighed down by cynicism that loves very little against pure, naked ambition bouyed up with optimism, and love of Am
erica that is almost palpable. As Ms. Noonan says, it will be interesting. Very.

CUANAS disagrees and makes a very compelling case here for Dr. Rice to top the ’08 ticket, with Rudy taking the veep spot. I don’t see it, though. Rudy is a topdog, and no man to be content being anyone’s #2. My opinion, anyway.

About Elizabeth Scalia