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Rudy Giuliani has his "Dukakis moment"

By Christopher G. Adamo
web posted May 21, 2007

Back in 1988, as the Reagan era drew to a close, it was almost amusing to watch the Bush/Dukakis presidential race unfold. With the senior George Bush widely presumed to intend an administration that would be a continuation of the Reagan legacy, most of conservative America rallied around him, leaving Democrat challenger Michael Dukakis struggling to establish his own viable political turf. In the process, the tap-dancing, waffling, and posturing of the Massachusetts liberal was unforgettable.

Early on, George Bush publicly assumed the Reagan mantle. In doing so he did not hesitate to highlight the contrasts between himself and his opponent with such memorable strategic moves as the Willie Horton ads, reminding everyone of Dukakis' disastrous "weekend furlough" policies that allowed violent felons out onto the streets to inflict more mayhem on the rest of society.

In response, Dukakis was driven to make assertions of being "tough on crime." So preposterous was the notion that it drew a general round of laughter and derision from audience members during one of the presidential debates.

Further defining Dukakis, George Bush bluntly characterized him as extremely liberal, referencing his status of "a card carrying member of the ACLU" as evidence.

Mike Dukakis in 1988Against such an onslaught, Dukakis flailed in desperation, often resulting in political gymnastics. His "strong on the military" television ad, in which he was driven around a field at the turret of an M-1 tank, appeared absolutely buffoonish, and remains among the most notable political miscalculations of all time. Yet even this was ultimately eclipsed by a rash turnabout in the final days of the campaign season.

Having been unable to persuade mainstream America that the liberal Massachusetts Governor did not lean so far to the left, he suddenly adopted a strategy of embracing his weakness as a "strength," in a futile effort to take if off the political table.

As Election Day approached, and not looking very good in the polls, Dukakis conceded his liberalism, but rhetorically asked just why that was so bad. America knew the answer. And that day forward, his campaign imploded.

George Bush 41, in a seeming alignment with the philosophies of his predecessor, Ronald Reagan, had defined himself so clearly as a candidate that Dukakis was unable to wiggle past the boundaries Bush had established. As a result, Dukakis moved first to the right, and then to the left, in desperate attempts to find a position that would put him ahead.

Ultimately, it became patently obvious to the public that his constantly changing stances were merely a ploy, especially when they completely contradicted his phony persona of previous weeks.

Unfortunately for consummate Republican pragmatists, the GOP is no more immune to the adverse effects of such tactics than are the Democrats. If anything, Republicans are even more vulnerable since, at the most inopportune moment, the liberal media will publicly dissect any discrepancies in their stated platform.

At the point that a candidate finds himself on opposite sides of the same issue over such a short period of time, he is essentially campaigning against himself. It did not work for Michael Dukakis in 1988. Nor is it any more likely to be successful in an era in which alternative media and the Internet will guarantee that any inconsistencies on the issues will eventually be put under the bright lights.

Rudy GiulianiIn the already unfolding 2008 Presidential race, the Republican candidate who thus far has made the greatest public spectacle of just such behavior is former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. And although his most prominent political tap dance pertains to abortion, his inarguably liberal governing philosophies on several other issues are no less vulnerable to the inevitable scrutiny that will ensue.

By his transparent effort to find "middle ground" on the fundamental issue of human life, where clearly none exists, Giuliani's proved that his recent pronouncement of a decidedly pro-abortion stance resulted neither from any heartfelt belief nor from any desire to promote a certain agenda. Rather, it represents a desperate calculation, designed to hastily settle a brewing firestorm that otherwise leaves him exposed to further controversy.

During the May 4 Republican debate, liberal "mediator" Chris Matthews hammered him relentlessly on the abortion issue. As a result, the Giuliani camp seems to have concluded that an unambiguous statement on the issue, no matter how adverse to the conservative base, would settle matters more quickly and equitably than a continuation of his former course. Unfortunately for Giuliani however, this latest announcement, when weighed against his previous postures on the abortion issue, is anything but

Giuliani has since reasserted his belief in a woman's inherent "right to choose." Yet in past months, he has claimed to support the confirmation of Supreme Court Justices who may well eradicate that "right." So now he will be forced to "clarify" his statement on the sort of Justices he would appoint to the high court. This can of worms has only begun to open.

Furthermore, by now taking such a strident stance on an issue about which he diligently sought, until this past weekend to find "common ground" with the base, he shows once again that all of his stances on this issue are merely postures. Thus his political gymnastics beg the question of which other foundational issues are similarly up for debate and reconsideration in the aftershocks of tough questioning from reporters.

Among Giuliani's other "Achilles Heel" issues are his support for same-sex "marriage," amnesty for illegals, and gun control. He can certainly expect no less of a media attack over these clearly non-conservative philosophies in the upcoming months. Yet even the heat he now faces will be minor in comparison to the potentially fatal blow the media will be able to deliver to his camaign if he wins the Republican nomination next year.

In the process, conservatism in the GOP will unquestionably suffer a setback from which it may never recover.n ESR

Christopher G. Adamo is a freelance writer and staff writer for the New Media Alliance. He lives in southeastern Wyoming. He has been active in local and state politics for many years. His contact information and archives can be found at www.chrisadamo.com.


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