Recognizing One Of Their Own
Chris Matthews had a discussion today about how Giuliani continues to fare well with social conservatives, surprising the political observers who were certain they would reject anyone with his stands on social issues and messy personal life. They still seem stymied, resorting to confused observations about how they think he is "leader" and therefore can be trusted or some such twaddle.
As regular readers of this blog know very well, I am not surprised by this at all. Many social conservatives are phonies, and the rest are willing dupes. I'm not sure why people are still surprised by this. How many diaper wearing wingnut senators and teenage boy-chasing conservative congressmen does it take to prove that the whole family values campaign was just another market tested bludgeon with which to hit liberals over the head?
I used to argue endlessly about this, citing things like porno viewing numbers and divorce and abortion statistics in the heartland which proved that the supposed "real Americans" were just as loose in their personal lives as everyone else. Many readers argued with me and said that I was projecting --- the social conservatives may be rigid and small minded,they said, but they are sincere. And when I pointed out that the brouhahas about Janet Jackson's nipple and that blond desperate housewife jumping into a black football players arms had more than a tinge of racial rather than moral outrage, I was told that I was wrong: people really were stunned at such overt sexuality on television, despite the fact that there is a ton of explicit sexuality on television that barely raises an eyebrow.
I gave up. I know that much of popular culture is a sewer and I got tired of making the argument because in the end it always came back to the fact that many fine Americans were justifiably upset and being contrarian was politically unwise. Whatever.
And now we have GOP it-boy Rudy Giuliani, a man whose history makes Bill and Hillary Clinton look like Ma and Pa Kettle, being offered all kinds of excuses for his positions on the issues and his own sewer of a personal life. In today's NY Times a young theology student and budding conservative propagandist offers up the idea that only a rightwing hypocrite can go to China ... er ... end abortion rights:
Roe v. Wade, with no textual warrant in the Constitution, struck down the states’ democratically enacted restrictions on abortion. By fighting Roe, pro-lifers aim not to make abortion illegal by judicial fiat, but to return the decision about how to regulate abortion to the states, where we are confident we can win.
Our greatest obstacle is the popular belief that overturning Roe would automatically make abortion illegal everywhere. In fact, our goal may well be undermined by politicians like President Bush, who seem to use “strict constructionist” as nothing more than code for “anti-abortion.”
Only a constitutionalist who supports abortion rights can create an anti-Roe majority by explaining that the end of Roe means letting the people decide, state by state, about abortion.
I might even think this made sense except for the fact that social conservatism has hinged its entire movement on the personal character of politicians. I certainly remember many a smug, pursed-lipped winger insisting, "if his wife can't trust him, why should the country?" It's true that they are supposedly big on redemption, but that requires that the "sinner" begs for forgiveness, which I saw the much loathed Bill Clinton do dozens of times and have yet to see Rudy Giuliani even attempt.
The truth is that "family values" for the most part is just a phrase certain tribal conservatives use to assert their moral superiority over the rest of us, probably in an attempt to deflect the fact that they are, at heart, cruel bigoted small-minded jerks. And there is no more cruel, bigoted, small-minded jerk than Rudy Giuliani, the poster boy for the newly pragmatic Republican Party. (You remember the Republicans, don't you? The party that lived by its principles and talked straight, unlike the terrorist loving hippies?)
Matthews and the rest of the talking heads won't touch the real reason why the allegedly religious, moralistic, family values loving far right seems to be so taken with the urban hedonist, Rudy Giuliani. But it's really not hard to figure. They recognize a kindred spirit, and it's that spirit that animates his crazy talk about terrorism too. He's all about kicking dark-skinned ass and that is an intensely appealing attribute to the GOP base. In fact, when you strip all the marketing and polling and propaganda away, that's what it's all about.
Update: And James Fallows, who is in Shanghai and reporting on this as the man from Mars, watched the post speech show on Larry King and came up with this about Giuliani:
He looks like a man who is crazy. Making no clinical diagnosis here, just talking about his affect as it comes across on TV. I am sure this is partly just my unfamiliarity with his tic of stressing a point by opening his eyes so wide you can see the whites all the way around. He does that a lot, and at first glance it's odd. But beyond that is the eerie sense of how strongly he resembles the earlier, cockier G.W. Bush of two or three years ago.
That Bush - the one who hadn't yet lost the Congress, who hadn't yet seen Rove, Gonzales, Rumsfeld, et al driven from his inner council, who hadn't glimpsed the tragic possibilities for his dreams in Iraq -- combined certainty of bearing with sketchiness of factual information. That's just how Giuliani comes across if you haven't seen him for a long time. Great certainty about "staying on the offense" against terrorism; zero displayed knowledge of what that means or indeed what he was talking about at all.
He reminds the wingnut hordes of Bush during the glory days, back when he was da man, a swaggering, arrogant, stupid prick. They were on top, too, burning piles of Dixie Chicks CD's and wearing purple heart band-aids and American flags like a bunch of teen-aged bullies. These adolescent morons ran the world for a minute and Rudy seems like the guy who can get it back for them.
Except, of course, he nuts. But as Tom Friedman famously said about Rumsfeld, that's what they like about him.