Rudy Takes the Lead

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The latest Gallup/USAToday poll shows Rudy Giuliani with a big lead in the race

for the Republican nomination. Giuliani gets 40 percent to 24 percent for JohnMcCain, 9 for Newt Gingrich, 5 for Mitt Romney, and 3 for Sam Brownback. Othersget 2 percent or less. Caution: There were only 425 Republican respondents, sothe margin of error is greater than in most polls you see. But it looks like aclear upsurge for Giuliani. The last three Gallup polls showed between 28 and31 percent for him and between 26 and 28 percent for McCain: Ties. Now Giulianiis ahead by nearly 2 to 1. And I don't think you can attribute these results toMcCain's strong support of George W. Bush's surge. Gallup askedRepublicans whether Bush's troop surge and McCain's strong support of the warmade them more or less likely to support McCain. Only 8 percent said thosethings made them much less likely to support McCain, while 21 percent said itmade them much more likely to support him. There's been lots of speculation that when Republican voters learn about Giuliani's liberal stands on some

cultural issues they will turn away from him. I've argued that while thosestands are a liability, they won't necessarily prevent him from winning thenomination. But there's another possible liability, according to this piece that appeared on National Review Online this morning,that "Rudy is a jerk." It's undeniable that Giuliani has aconfrontational personality. I have long said that if you were in a room withBill Clinton, he would discover the one issue out of a hundred on which youagreed with him; he would draw you out and tell you that your analysis isbrilliant and that you have really helped him understand the issue better thanhe ever had before. If you were in a room with Rudy Giuliani, he would discoverthe one issue out of a hundred on which you disagreed with him; he would tell youthat you are stupid and ignorant to take that position, and he would not stopmaking arguments until you admitted that you were wrong and mistaken and thathe was right. It's a cultural thing: Clinton is from Arkansas and Giuliani isfrom New York. Southerners like to be polite and say nice things about other

people. New Yorkers like to argue and debate and are not shy about being rude.Hey, if you're not willing to argue your point, you don't really believe it. Will this be a liability for Giuliani? I'm not sure it will. People know he's

from New York. They know, or will know, that he's a Yankees fan. Most Americansaren't from New York, and most Americans are certainly not Yankees fans. Whichdoesn't mean that they won't support a New Yorker whom they admire and who hasshown the capacity for strong leadership in a crisis. Currently the leaders inthe two parties' races are both from New York. But interestingly they don'thave the profile of most other New Yorkers who were contenders for thepresidency in the 20th century. Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt,Averell Harriman, and Nelson Rockefeller were all aristocrats. Charles EvansHughes (Republican nominee in 1916), John W. Davis (Democratic nominee in1924), and Thomas Dewey (Republican nominee in 1944 and 1948) were alltop-flight New York City lawyers who all grew up elsewhere (upstate New York,West Virginia, and Michigan respectively). (My brother-in-law Tom Wagamon'smother was a high school classmate of Dewey's in Owosso, Mich. She was aRepublican but didn't much care for him.) Wendell Willkie (Republican nomineein 1940) was a top utility executive who came from Indiana. Dwight Eisenhower(who was a New Yorker as president of Columbia University in 1952) and RichardNixon (who was a New York lawyer in 1968) fit the same profile. Perhaps you can say that Hillary Rodham Clinton fits that profile too, an outsider who won fame

elsewhere and then moved to New York. Which also applies to Robert Kennedy,although in fact he actually grew up in New York: Joseph P. Kennedy movedhis family to New York in 1927, two years after Robert was born, and Robertgrew up in Riverdale in the Bronx and Bronxville in Westchester County. Thereal carpetbagger in the family was John F. Kennedy, whose Boston addresswas his grandfather's apartment in the Bellevue Hotel in back of the StateHouse. Giuliani's profile is similar to that of Al Smith (Democratic nominee in 1928): Catholic, ethnic (Smith was of

Irish and Italian descent), grew up in New York in modest circumstances.America wasn't ready for such a candidate in 1928. But it might be in 2008,which is the first campaign year since 1928 in which it is clear that neitherthe incumbent president nor the incumbent vice president is running. Doug Feith Talks Back

In today's Washington Post, former Under Secretary of Defense Doug Feith

criticizes Pentagon Inspector General Thomas Gimble's report that criticized as"inappropriate" a Pentagon briefing that questioned the consensus ofthe intelligence community. Feith points out that the bipartisan report of theSenate Intelligence Committee said the briefing, and the questioning of theintelligence community consensus, were helpful. Here's his summary: In his report, Gimble wrote that the Pentagon briefing was not the

"most accurate analysis of intelligence." This has been taken tosuggest it was false or deceptive. But the IG said he meant only that thebriefing was at "variance with the consensus of the IntelligenceCommunity." Of course it was at variance! It was a critique. That's why itwas prepared in the first place. Gimble's characterization is absurdly circular.

Cheered on by the chairmen of the Senate intelligence and armed servicescommittees, he is giving bad advice based on incomplete fact-finding and poorlogic. He is discouraging tough questioning of intelligence. Our governmentneeds more such questioning, not less. Of course, Feith is right. The idea that

presidential appointees are obliged to treat intelligence community consensusas holy writ, not to be questioned or criticized, is loony. The fact that thesame people who are criticizing George W. Bush and his appointees foraccepting the intelligence community consensus that Saddam Hussein had weaponsof mass destruction are also criticizing an appointee for questioning theintelligence community consensus on another point beggars belief. By the way, the Washington Post last Friday ran a story with bylines by Walter Pincus and

R. Jeffrey Smith that attributed to the inspector general's report aseries of statements made by Sen. Carl Levin in 2004. Smith has reportedly sent an E-mail disclaiming all responsibility for thatsection of the article (I have no way of knowing whether the E-mail actuallycame from Smith). The Post ran a long correction on Saturday and also noted the correction in afront-page follow-up of the Friday story. Good for the Post for acknowledgingthis mistake so prominently; I wonder whether they got a call from Feith'slawyer Friday. What's most astonishing is that this mistake was evidently madeby the experienced and able Walter Pincus. Many will see this as an example ofa reporter pushing his own ideological agenda. But I think it's also possiblethat this was a case of innocent negligence. Still, amazing.