This story (understandably) got a lot of attention for Pat Robertson's assertion that Muslim Americans shouldn't be allowed to be judges. The lead, however, was largely ignored:
Televangelist and one-time presidential candidate Pat Robertson praised former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani on Sunday, saying that despite disagreements on social issues, Giuliani would make "a good president."
This is what I've been worried about: that even if Giuliani doesn't change his positions on abortion and gay rights in order to win the GOP presidential nomination, Christian conservatives will redraw the boundaries of "acceptable" behavior to accommodate him because he's the strongest GOP presidential candidate for '08, and because they think he'll play ball with them.
I know -- I sometimes seem obsessed with Rudy. I do worry about him, because he's loved, really loved, in blue and red states, among Limbaugh fans and Oprah fans.
He was a petty tyrant here in New York. As president, he'd have the opportunity to be a real tyrant. Start with the Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo cases -- then move on to the case of Patrick Dorismond, who died at the hands of cops in a sting operation after refusing to buy drugs, then was slandered by the mayor while he lay dead (Giuliani said he was "no altar boy" -- in fact, he had been). Rudy dug up an arrest from Dorismond's early teen years, for a minor infraction, and announced it to the public even though it was part of a record that was supposed to be sealed.
Now, imagine that in a national setting, especially with the lingering threat of terrorism offering a perfect excuse to trash civil liberties. Giuliani might out-Ashcroft Ashcroft, but as president, not attorney general.
Yeah, he wouldn't be as beholden as Bush is to hardcore religious conservatives. Or would he? In 2000, he sent out a fundraising letter for his Senate campaign in which he complained about "a relentless 30-year war the left-wing elite has waged against America's religious heritage ... Liberal judges have banned the posting of even the Ten Commandments in our public schools." And, of course, he tried to get the Brooklyn Museum evicted because of what he regarded as an anti-Catholic painting by Chris Ofili, The Holy Virgin Mary. (He went after the museum even though museum officials described the "Sensation" exhibit to the appropriate members of his administration in great detail before going ahead with plans to bring it to Brooklyn; they proceeded only when no one from the Giuliani administration objected.)
A few other fun facts: New York City has long permitted street sales of printed and visual materials -- in deference to freedom of expression -- but Giuliani tried to ban the street sale of paintings (especially anti-Giuliani paintings) and justified this attempt at suppression with this argument in a legal brief:
"An exhibition of paintings is not as communicative as speech, literature or live entertainment, and the artist's constitutional interests are thus minimal."
Think about that, and try to imagine what else Giuliani might declare outside the biunds of the First Amendment if he were president. And remember: New York City has a strong and enduring civil liberties tradition and a city council dominated by Democrats, many of them quite liberal. You can't say the same about the country.
And here's my favorite all-purpose Giuliani quote:
Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do and how you do it.
That must have sounded better in the original German.