Most people would prefer hearing a pleasant lie, to the unpleasant truth.
An unusual and noteworthy event, of increasing rarity in modern politics, took place this weekend. While appearing at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, Rudy Giuliani told his audience the truth - to his detriment. It happened this way.
Social conservatives make up a very large contingent of Republican voters. While it may be possible to win the Republican nomination without being the preferred candidate of the religious right, it is quite a challenge to achieve victory in the general election without the Christian foot-soldiers pulling as hard as possible for the Republican candidate. In this upcoming election, with the tremendous hills Republicans have to climb, they will need all the help they can get. Unenthusiastic Christians make defeat highly likely, and actual opposition makes it almost inevitable.
The right wing of the party has been notably unenthusiastic about the slate of candidates. While they all have their good points, each one has major disagreements with the party core that cannot be papered over.
Mitt Romney offers standard conservative positions now, but he was abortion-liberal as recently as his last campaign.
Giuliani is a proven strong leader, and is absolutely determined to pursue the war on Islamofascism with all possible vigor; but his personal life strikes just about every possible bad note.
John McCain is a war hero and also staunch on defense; but he enraged conservatives both with his assault on free speech through campaign finance reform, and his assault on national sovereignty through promotion of amnesty for illegal aliens.
Fred Thompson, well, believes in pretty much all the right things, and he plays a strong leader on TV, but somehow as far as being one is concerned, it just doesn't seem to be all there somehow.
So the Values Voters Summit was of great importance. The values voters and their leaders would be watching closely to see what the candidates had to say and how they performed. When a candidate speaks before an interest-group audience, prepare yourself for a pander. Politicians don't go to Iowa to say that corn-based ethanol is a dumb idea; no more would they appear before the Values Voters without a big, thick slab of red meat, well seasoned, and fresh side up - the worms and mold carefully concealed on the backside.
And indeed, Giuliani had a strong story for values voters. After all, the man who cleaned up the famously porn-ridden Times Square has, at the least, earned a sympathetic hearing from religious types. As one would expect, he told this story with pith and vigor. But he didn't stop there.
The good folks in the audience had read of the three Mrs. Giulianis, and the radioactive divorces leading from one to the next. They have perused his left-leaning appointments to local New York City courts. They have read with horror of his tolerance for homosexuals, and indeed, his temporary residence with a homosexual couple while Mayor. And no matter what he might have worn for his speech, the audience will never get this picture out of their heads.
The Republican core wants a strong leader - and he is that, in spades. They desperately want a man who knows how to destroy bureaucracies; to smash entrenched liberal interest groups; and to make noticeable, significant, visible improvements in life on the ground. Perhaps no one has done so as effectively as America's Mayor, turning an "ungovernable" city into one of the safest megalopolises in the Western world.
Religion welcomes a good repentance story. So now was the time for Giuliani to come before this audience, and explain how it is that he has realized that abortion is murder, that homosexuality is a mortal sin, and so on down the line.
But not so. Instead, he said the following:
I'm not going to pretend to you that I can be all things to all people... I'm just not like that. I can't do that. Isn't it better that I tell you what I really believe, instead of pretending to change all of my positions to fit the prevailing winds? I believe trust is more important than 100 percent agreement."
Full stop. When was the last time a politician said in effect, "You may not agree with me, but you know I'll never lie to you"? And had some chance of having it believed? On reflection, that's a good characterization of Giuliani - he says what he means, doesn't care whether you like it or not, but proceeds to do exactly what he has promised by any means necessary.
He did this in New York, when everyone said it couldn't be done. His leadership in the aftermath of 9-11 needs no exposition.
And recently, he has made some promises that require serious reflection. Rudy's model for Supreme Court justices would be Alito, Roberts, and Scalia - one cannot ask for more than that. His stated objective regarding abortion is to reduce the number of abortions which take place, and he has the track record to prove it in New York. While that may not be the same thing as outlawing it, surely it is no trivial accomplishment.
Now, in the other corner, we have Mitt Romney. He says all the right things - opposition to abortion and gay marriage, opposition to taxes and big government, on down the line. His script is fully vetted, and he delivers it impeccably. Did he govern as a liberal in Massachusetts? Surely not; by Massachusetts standards, he was as conservative as you could hope. But a Massachusetts conservative is a centrist anywhere else. What does he really believe? Nobody knows.
Value Voters routinely comment that they are "tired of voting for candidates that they do not agree with", yet issue-agreement is only one half of the voting coin. The other half -- sometimes more important -- is trust. Who has the highest trust factor among conservative candidates?
In 1992, Bill Clinton told every audience exactly what they wanted to hear as he traveled from town to town. He was as libertarian on social programs in the south as he was socialist in the north. Do Value Voters care about trust or will easy campaign promises do the trick?
We all know what Rudy believes. Like no other politician in America, he can be trusted to do as he says he will do - like it or not (and surely, there is something about him to hate for everyone). The others say what their audiences want to hear, but goodness knows conservatives should recall the long track record of promises being made and broken.
You can take Rudy's promises to the bank. Is that good enough? It worked for Churchill and Reagan, and that may be just what we need right now.