The Boston Globe has a story this morning with an astonishing, indeed disgusting, headline: “Giuliani watchers wonder if he will overplay 9/11 card.”
9/11 is, of course, not a “card” at all, but a devastating attack on the country that despite its horrible toll could have been even worse –far, far worse if the terrorists had been better skilled in their selection of targets and luckier in their logistics that morning. The Boston Globe’s headline perfectly conveys the left’s understanding of 9/11 –a political event that it fears works for the Republicans and especially Giuliani. The center-right understands 9/11 as the defining moment of our era, and Giuliani’s response to it a model of leadership in the still extraordinarily dangerous times in which we live.
The Globe’s headline should evoke condemnation of the paper’s relentless agenda-journalism which now extends to the characterization of a national emergency as a part of a poker game. We’ll see.
For a much more objective understanding of Giuliani’s appeal —one that understands 9/11 as a crisis that is ongoing, not as theater nearing the end of its run— read the Wall Street Journal’s June Kronholtz’s profile of the Giuliani base in today’s paper: “Giuliani Support Hints At Shift.” (Subscription required –and well worth it as the WSJ has become the most reliable paper on the political beat and its online edition the envy of the newspaper world.) Key excerpts:
There are other reasons for Mr. Giuliani’s lead, of course. The war in Iraq and spending scandals in Washington focus on Mr. Giuliani’s perceived strengths — fiscally conservative and hawkish on national security. “Different issues come to the forefront at different times. Those are his issues, and those are the times,” says Jeff Lamberti, an Iowa Republican Party official who has endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain….
In Iowa, a Des Moines Register poll of likely Iowa caucus goers — who tend by a wide margin to be conservative — shows Mr. Romney ahead of Mr. Giuliani, 30% to 17%. But those same voters ranked terrorism and national security as their leading concerns, above sixth-place abortion.
In the GOP, 9/11 isn’t a prop or a card, but the plumb line which must first be judged right before any other position is taken into account. Rudy’s lead in the national polls is because almost all GOP voters know he understands 9/11’s significance. Mitt Romney is ahead in Iowa and New Hampshire polls because voters there understand that he too understands 9/11 and that in addition to that crucial starting point, he is also to the right of Giuliani on other key issues. Romney is hoping that success in the early contests will communicate this message to the large primary states. Rudy is banking on his deserved national reputation as surviving the early losses or split decisions.
But Giuliani and Romney –and Thompson as well (McCain too, though it hardly matters)– will eventually face a Democratic nominee who doesn’t believe that 9/11 signifies what the center-right believes that it does, a nominee who, with the Globe, thinks the GOP nominee will shamelessly exploit the attack on America rather than sincerely order his priorities because of 9/11 and the world it unveiled and govern accordingly. And on that crucial difference the election of 2008 will almost certainly turn.