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 John McCain, 9 for Newt Gingrich, 5 for Mitt Romney, and 3 for Sam Brownback. Others get 2 percent or less. Caution: There were only 425 Republican respondents, so the margin of error is greater than in most polls you see. But it looks like a clear upsurge for Giuliani. The last three Gallup polls showed between 28 and 31 percent for him and between 26 and 28 percent for McCain: Ties. Now Giuliani is ahead by nearly 2 to 1. And I don't think you can attribute these results to McCain's strong support of George W. Bush's surge. Gallup asked Republicans whether Bush's troop surge and McCain's strong support of the war made them more or less likely to support McCain. Only 8 percent said those things made them much less likely to support McCain, while 21 percent said it made 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 those stands are a liability, they won't necessarily prevent him from winning the nomination. 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 a confrontational personality. I have long said that if you were in a room with Bill Clinton, he would discover the one issue out of a hundred on which you agreed with him; he would draw you out and tell you that your analysis is brilliant and that you have really helped him understand the issue better than he ever had before. If you were in a room with Rudy Giuliani, he would discover the one issue out of a hundred on which you disagreed with him; he would tell you that you are stupid and ignorant to take that position, and he would not stop making arguments until you admitted that you were wrong and mistaken and that he was right. It's a cultural thing: Clinton is from Arkansas and Giuliani is from 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 Americans aren't from New York, and most Americans are certainly not Yankees fans. Which doesn't mean that they won't support a New Yorker whom they admire and who has shown the capacity for strong leadership in a crisis. Currently the leaders in the two parties' races are both from New York. But interestingly they don't have the profile of most other New Yorkers who were contenders for the presidency in the 20th century. Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Averell Harriman, and Nelson Rockefeller were all aristocrats. Charles Evans Hughes (Republican nominee in 1916), John W. Davis (Democratic nominee in 1924), and Thomas Dewey (Republican nominee in 1944 and 1948) were all top-flight New York City lawyers who all grew up elsewhere (upstate New York, West Virginia, and Michigan respectively). (My brother-in-law Tom Wagamon's mother was a high school classmate of Dewey's in Owosso, Mich. She was a Republican but didn't much care for him.) Wendell Willkie (Republican nominee in 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 Richard Nixon (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 moved his family to New York in 1927, two years after Robert was born, and Robert grew up in Riverdale in the Bronx and Bronxville in Westchester County. The real carpetbagger in the family was John F. Kennedy, whose Boston address was his grandfather's apartment in the Bellevue Hotel in back of the State House.
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 neither the 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 of the intelligence community. Feith points out that the bipartisan report of the Senate Intelligence Committee said the briefing, and the questioning of the intelligence 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 to suggest it was false or deceptive. But the IG said he meant only that the briefing was at "variance with the consensus of the Intelligence Community." Of course it was at variance! It was a critique. That's why it was prepared in the first place.
Gimble's characterization is absurdly circular. Cheered on by the chairmen of the Senate intelligence and armed services committees, he is giving bad advice based on incomplete fact-finding and poor logic. He is discouraging tough questioning of intelligence. Our government needs more such questioning, not less.
Of course, Feith is right. The idea that presidential appointees are obliged to treat intelligence community consensus as holy writ, not to be questioned or criticized, is loony. The fact that the same people who are criticizing George W. Bush and his appointees for accepting the intelligence community consensus that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction are also criticizing an appointee for questioning the intelligence 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 a series of statements made by Sen. Carl Levin in 2004. Smith has reportedly sent an E-mail disclaiming all responsibility for that section of the article (I have no way of knowing whether the E-mail actually came from Smith). The Post ran a long correction on Saturday and also noted the correction in a front-page follow-up of the Friday story. Good for the Post for acknowledging this mistake so prominently; I wonder whether they got a call from Feith's lawyer Friday. What's most astonishing is that this mistake was evidently made by the experienced and able Walter Pincus. Many will see this as an example of a reporter pushing his own ideological agenda. But I think it's also possible that this was a case of innocent negligence. Still, amazing.