TIA Editor Robert Tracinski Endorses Rudy Giuliani

The 2008 elections are coming into full swing, and prominent Objectivists are beginning to weigh in with their perspectives.

The Intellectual Activist Editor Robert Tracinski has formally endorsed Rudy Giuliani. I could not find the text of this endorsement on his web site to link to, so I’m pasting below the message I was forwarded.

TIA Daily — January 3, 2008

Vote for Rudy
Support the Defense of Freedom over Religious Politics
by Robert Tracinski

With the opening of the primary season — tonight’s Iowa caucus isn’t a real primary, but it is the first test of candidates’ support among grass-roots activists, and thus it will have an impact on the primaries to come — now is the time to give TIA’s official endorsement for the Republican primary.

I say that this is my official endorsement, because it has been clear where I’ve been leaning, unofficially, for most of the past year: I support Rudy Giuliani as by far the best candidate for the Republican nomination. He is the only candidate who will promote the influence of what I call the “secular right”: support for free markets, a strong national defense, and strict separation of church and state.

Giuliani is famous for his stand on the War on Terrorism and for his firm and dignified performance as mayor of New York City following the September 11 attacks. But perhaps the best example of his virtues on this issue is more recent: his response to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. While Mike Huckabee embarrassed himself by offering empty pabulum about appreciating the peaceful transition of power in America — indicating that Huckaabee was unprepared to say anything important about what is going on in the rest of the world — Giuliani replied: “Her death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere — whether in New York, London, Tel-Aviv, or Rawalpiindi — is an enemy of freedom. We must redouble our efforts to win the Terrorists’ War on Us.”

Last August, I wrote an extensive analysis (which I have just put up on our website) of Giuliani’s foreign policy, and it is not as assertive as we might hope. But we can still count on Giuliani to keep his eye on the threat of radical Islam and to regard it as his top priority as president.

Giuliani does not have an established record as a staunch pro-free-marketer. In fact, he first made a national name for himself as a US attorney prosecuting mobsters — and prosecuting Wall Street financiers as if they were mobsters. (I mean this literally: Giuliani pioneered the use of vague laws against “racketeering,” originally designed to fight organized crime, as a tool for persecuting businessmen.) And yet Giuliani has campaigned as a free-marketer, not only in vague rhetoric but in some intellectual depth. A few months ago, the Washington Post carried an important article about a series of seminars organized for the candidate by Giuliani’s long-time friend and advisor Bill Simon. Dubbed “Simon University” by Rudy’s campaign staff, they amount to a course in the principles of free-market economics.

Most crucially, Giuliani has been excellent on a topic that is likely to be central to the 2008 campaign: socialized medicine. All of the Democratic candidates are proposing, and will campaign on, some form of nationalized health care — while Giuliani has come out in favor of a free-market >proposal based on tax credits that will make it easier for individuals to purchase private health insurance.

At the same time, Giuliani offers a break from the intrusion of religion into politics. It is not merely that Giuliani supports a woman’s right to an abortion, and that he has refused to alter his convictions on this issue to fit the needs of his campaign. More broadly, Guiliani has asserted that his religious views are private and a matter to be left between him and the priests.

In short, if you support a secular-right outlook, then Giuliani is clearly the top candidate.

But supporting Giuliani has become far more urgent in the past few months. Searching for an alternative to Giuliani, many on the religious right have settled on Mike Huckabee, who is Giuliani’s exact antipode. Huckabee has succeeded partly because he has a winning personality: down-to-earth and genuine, with a quick and easy sense of humor. But in terms of ideological substance, his only appeal is as a Baptist minister and “Christian Leader,” as he has touted himself in his ads. On economics, he is a soft welfare-state “compassionate conservative,” and on foreign policy he has nothing to offer.

Thus, sensing that Huckabee isn’t the right choice, Republicans have begun searching around for other options. The result is that the national polls results have flattened out, transforming the primary into a wide open race, with roughly equal support for four or five candidates: Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Fred Thompson. (See the latest poll averages at RealClearPolitics.)

Why has the Republican primary become a five-man race? Because a two-man race would force the right to make a stark decision on the role of religion in the party — and many Republicans want to avoid such a decision. The Reepublican Party has been famously sustained by an ideological coalition of free-marketers, national-defense “hawks,” and the religious right. A Giuliani-Huckabee contest would force Republicans to make a clear choice about the importance of the religious wing of that coalition.

If the religious wing is supreme — if Republican voters’ top priority is a candidate’s religious belief and loyalty to a religious agenda, while the war and economic freedom are dispensable issues — then Huckabee is the clear first choice. If fighting terrorism and defending the free market are the top issues, while religious fervor is dispensable — then Giuliiani is the clear first choice.

But the potential of downgrading the role of religion in the conservative coalition is terrifying to many conservatives — National Review Online ddevotes two pieces to analyzing what is, for the publication that championed ideological “fusionism,” a nightmare scenario. Thus, many on the right have tried to avoid such a decision by backing one of the other three candidates.

It is a futile attempt. Mitt Romney’s candidacy is an attempt to solve the basic fissures within the conservative coalition by hiding them. It requires believing that a candidate who pushed a government-controlled health-care scheme in Massachusetts will fight for small government, and that a candidate who has already twice altered his views on abortion can be regarded as sincere on any issue. It requires that one forget about the ideas and policies at stake and focus only on the candidate’s glossy charisma.

Fred Thompson’s campaign is an attempt to avoid the big issues by focusing on the candidate’s rough-hewn charisma — a charisma that turns out to bbe so low-key, low-energy, and surprisingly un-telegenic (given Thompson’s career as an actor) that it has failed to mobilize voters and left Thompson well behind the other major candidates.

John McCain’s candidacy is an attempt to avoid the big issues by focusing, not on the candidate’s charisma, but on his character, as reflected in his record of stoic endurance as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. Yet this also requires that Republican voters forget a great deal, including his attempts to control political speech under the guise of “campaign finance reform” and his active promotion of the global warming hysteria. For many Republican voters, McCain’s war record alone is enough — and that’s the poinnt: they are putting his biography above the actual policies for which he stands.

But it is impossible to avoid the big issue of this primary, because the role of the religious right in the Republican coalition creates a contradiction that the right is going to have to face sooner or later. The other aspects of the conservative coalition can be integrated under a single over-arching principle: freedom. Free markets protect our economic liberty at home, while a strong national defense protects our liberty from foreign threats. But the religious right then requires Republicans to say, in effect: we’re in favor of liberty in the world and in economic affairs — but not in your peersonal life, where we will empower the government to enforce God’s will.

If you think I’m exaggerating, consider Huckabee’s statement on abortion in the first Republican debate. Responding to Giuliani’s explanation that he thought abortion was morally wrong, but that the government couldn’t outlaw it because “we want to keep government out of people’s personal lives,” Huckabee replied: “if something is morally wrong, let’s oppose it.” As I remarked at the time, “Does this mean that government should outlaw everything that these moralists find to be reprehensible? And where are the limits of this moral police work?”

Most important, what if the demands of coerced religious morality extend beyond sex and “family values” — and into economics and foreign policy? < The unresolved contradiction of the conservative coalition is coming back to haunt the right in the form of a growing religious left. The rising religious left holds that religious morality requires a "compassionate" welfare state, environmentalist regulations to safeguard "God's creation," and more "humility" and pacifist "compassion" in foreign policy. The left has begun to seize on these arguments in an attempt to attract Evangelical voters -- but Huckabee represents the leading edge of this trend within the Republican Party.

It is the religious wing of the conservative coalition that is driving the coalition apart, because the "compassionate" religionists are beginning to turn against the free market and the war -- a trend driven by their commiitment to a religious creed of altruistic self-abnegation and cheek-turning.

Voting for Rudy will help check this trend. A victory for Giuliani in the primaries won't make the religious right disappear. Immediate electoral politics are too concrete for that; voters vote for candidates, not for abstractions. But the selection of Rudy Giuliani as the Republican candidate for president will help straighten out Republican priorities, sending the message that the enforcement of religious morality is not the party's top priority -- while a commitment to freedom is.

For anyone who agrees with this goal, it is now imperative to vote for Rudy and to fight for his candidacy in the Republican primaries.