Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Rudy and Rambo (plus debate audio)

giuliani.jpg rambo.jpg

Yesterday was Columbus Day, which meant, among other things, lots of Italian-Americans marching through New York City, so now seems as good a time as any to blog about former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani’s status as a Catholic.

I have to admit that (despite my support for Ron Paul), there are several things about Rudy that would make his securing of the GOP nomination enjoyable for me, and one of them is the fact that he’s so clearly not beholden to the religious right.  True, you don’t have to go far to find a left-wing New Yorker who considers the man a fascist, but a Bible-thumper he’s not (despite his grandstanding attempt to withdraw City funding from a museum exhibit featuring an image of Mary made with dung).  If I can’t have a real libertarian (i.e., Ron Paul) in the White House, I think I can settle for a gay-friendly, Wall Street-savvy non-Bible-thumper who (despite some of his rhetoric) would probably treat the terrorism issue more as a police/intelligence matter than a justification for reckless global interventionism.

Generally speaking, I get the impression there’s something a bit more relaxed about Catholics than some evangelical-Protestant types anyway — I may have risked being faulted for not knowing the difference between a deacon and a priest this past Sunday, when I attended the Catholic baptism of the daughter of Michel Evanchik (who moderates the monthly debates I host), but I was never for a moment worried that I would be grilled about dangers to my immortal soul.  Catholics have been working on the soul issue for two thousand years, unlike the Protestant sects, and they can afford to take a more gradual, long-term view of such discussions, sort of like the Chinese.

(It’s miraculous that my girlfriend Koli and I made it through that whole multi-baby baptism ceremony as calmly as we did, considering that she wants kids and is acutely aware that I, by contrast, think having kids would be as nightmarish as this song, pointed out to me by co-worker Dr. Gilbert Ross.)


Speaking of Mr. Evanchik, he has posted the audio of our last debate, about the Ivy League, on his site — and it occurs to me that perhaps debater David Robinson, too, could live with a President Giuliani, since Robinson, like me, is basically a thinktank kind of guy at heart — he’s worked for both ACSH, where I work, and AEI — while Rudy was much influenced by the Manhattan Institute, as I hope he still would be in the White House.

On a vaguely-related Italian-American political note, I think it’s fitting that Sylvester Stallone’s production crew for the upcoming film John Rambo — about Rambo trying to rescue Christian missionaries from the communist regime in Burma — witnessed some of the deadly crackdown on monks and other dissenters there.  It’s also a reminder that whether you’re a (fictional) Cold Warrior rescuing Christians or a (real, and now deceased) Japanese photojournalist recording the murder of Buddhists, faith matters a lot less than the brutal, earthly reality of government violence.  That’s why I’d like politicians to stay focused on minimizing the cracking of skulls and leave the saving of souls to priests.

Meanwhile, in cyberspace (judging by all those online polls his enthusiastic supporters manage to dominate): there is still hope for Ron Paul (who is both Christian and keen to keep government non-coercive and humble) becoming, if not President of the United States, at least President of the Matrix (replacing Howard Dean in that job) — but if you want to help give him a shot at pushing his message in the real world, too (as you should), consider attending my friend Avery Knapp’s fundraising dinner for Paul this Friday, October 12 (and libertarians might also consider attending this coming weekend’s two-day anniversary gathering here in New York City in honor of the Mises Institute, longtime associates of Paul).

P.S. One more Ivy League note: any Brown alums reading this who feel they paid too much for housing in Providence may wish they’d taken the route that the young artists in this video did for four years (until finally being discovered and arrested): they secretly built and lived in an apartment inside a shopping mall in Providence.

P.P.S. And while I do not believe in Heaven, Hell, or Limbo, I trust that if there is a better world beyond this one, the actress who played one of our most charming fictional Cold Warriors, Miss Moneypenny, will now be there.


Jacob T. Levy said...

“Wall-street savvy”? You do remember that Giuliani first launched himself to fame with a lot of baseless financial prosecutions, right? He played the populist “bankers and stock traders must be bad people” card for all it was worth.

Todd Seavey said...

Painfully aware, believe me — one of the main reasons that I’ve been unashamedly telling even my “pragmatist” fiscal-conservative associates to support Paul instead.

But I think Giuliani’s views have changed over time. And, disturbing as it may be to have to make these sorts of calculations, I think politicians sometimes “attack what they know” in a way that may indicate greater understanding of the things they try to regulate than is possessed by seemingly less-aggressive politicians.

Similarly, I wasn’t surprised that Spitzer, an anti-Wall-Street villain if ever there was one, started out his New York governorship by at least attempting some budget discipline — he was fiscal-minded, even if that had long been bad news for a lot of Wall Street firms in his crosshairs (and for humanity in general, lest I be misunderstood).

Koli said...

Regarding your Spitzer comment: even though you say you weren’t surprised, you seem to be suggesting that “budget discipline” is somehow antithetical –or at least reasonably perceived to be antithetical– to regulatory actions against Wall Street firms. What’s the basis for that? There is no relationship (certainly not a contradictory one) between a commitment to Investigating corruption on Wall Street and a commitment to alleviating government waste and financial irresponsibility.

Regarding Guiliani: I’m really surprised at how much room you’re willing to give this guy. His views, not only on fiscal matters, but on things like gun control and extensive police discretion (in matters of personal liberty and right of assembly etc.) should scare you. You may think these issues would be less relevant to his powers as president than as mayor, but keep in mind that FEDERAL laws and federal judicial appointments also turn on such issues and the president has enormous power over that.

You say naively that “his views have changed over time” when there’s no evidence for that. Would you give another candidate, say Hillary Clinton, the same deference if she started changing her tune (which she has, on many issues)? My guess is that you would take it as evidence of deception rather than philosophical evolution.

Interestingly, you pointed out in another blog entry that you liked Guiliani’s aggressiveness toward opposing views. That’s exactly the kind of thing that should worry someone who wants government to be less powerful.

Todd Seavey said...

Briefly: we might posit a spectrum from mushy-phony to dangerously pigheaded that has Hillary’s “listening tour” at one end and Spitzer’s investigations-even-when-no-specific-law-exists tactics that tended not hold up in court on the other end, with Giuliani’s combativeness somewhere in the middle, hopefully directed at useless government agencies or money-wasting public-sector unions, as it often was while he was mayor.

But rest assured, they’re all power-hungry fiends in my eyes, so it’s like trying to choose between death by drowning and death by electrocution, and not something I relish. That’ll have to be all from me today, though.

Koli said...

You can “hope” all you want that Rudy has experienced some kind of growth since he was mayor, but my point –and I stand by it — is that you seem to have a double standard when it comes to deciding whose sudden changes of heart you will take on faith.

And there is DEFINITELY a legal basis (in state securities laws) to bring regulatory actions for securities fraud etc. As for cases that “didn’t hold up in court” –just because a dispute is resolved in your opponent’s favor doesn’t mean you had “no legal basis” for bringing it up.