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A "Neo-Compassionate" Conservative?

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By Gus Van Horn from Gus Van Horn,cross-posted by MetaBlog

Over at Jewish World Review, I ran into an article by Mona Charen titled, "Is Giuliani a Conservative?" in which she first acknowledges Giuliani's lack of appeal to social conservatives.

... Social conservatives have trouble with Giuliani, but by no stretch of the imagination is he a Rockefeller (i.e. liberal) Republican. In fact, in many ways Giuliani is the most conservative of the top three candidates for the Republican nomination. He came by that conservatism in the toughest crucible. [bold added]

So she then pitches Giuliani as a fiscal conservative.

New York's welfare system was among the most bloated in the nation. Giuliani first culled the ranks for cheats and frauds -- eliminating 20 percent of the caseload. The mayor then introduced a workfare requirement -- able-bodied adults would be expected to do 20 hours of work in municipal offices in exchange for a welfare check. There were howls from the New York Times. The mayor was undeterred. Giuliani transformed welfare offices from check distribution centers into employment offices, where welfare workers coached clients on how to read the classifieds, how to dress for interviews and how to prepare a resume.

His approach toward the homeless was similar. Those who were able to work were encouraged to do so. Those who rejected an offer of shelter and insisted upon blocking public spaces and harassing passersby were issued summonses. For this Hillary Clinton lectured the mayor that Jesus was a homeless person. [bold added]

Twenty percent of the caseload!?! That's me you hear whistling through my teeth. You could eliminate the entire welfare "caseload" -- if you'd only eliminate welfare. So what if he was mayor? He could have at least broached the subject. Oh. He "has to" pander to constituent groups? It's long past time for the "self-reliant" to live up to the description and demand a little "pandering" of their own.

It is almost amazing how what passes for fiscal conservatism has changed over the past quarter century! Yes. I said, "Almost." Recall that not too long ago, I took a look at how the GOP stand on racial quotas had changed over a similar time span from principled opposition to outright support and made sense of the change by drawing upon C. Bradley Thompson's essay, "The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism". (I'm not one to appeal to authority, but City Journal thought it worth a look. Search "Gus Van Horn" and follow the link.)

In essence, the altruistic "compassionate" branch of the movement has decided that the moral purpose of government is to "encourage" able citizens to look out for their less-fortunate fellows. The pragmatist neo-conservatives have decided that for the conservative movement to remain politically relevant, it must coopt the welfare state in order to perpetuate itself in power. Or, as I said then, "[T]he Republicans, guided by these two factions, think that the welfare state is not only moral, but practical."

When seen in this light, it makes perfect sense that Giuliani, the federal prosecutor who brought down financial revolutionary Michael Milkin for breaking vague and unjust securities laws, would eventually emerge as the standard-bearer for the supposedly pro-business Republican Party. And it also makes perfect sense that what passes as impressive to a major conservative pundit nowadays is the fact that Giuliani's idea of a welfare state sounds "tougher" than the Democrats' idea!

Tougher than a Democrat! That's not saying much, Mona.

So is Giuliani a "Compassionate" Conservative or a Neo-Conservative? There is no important difference, so I'll call him a "Neo-Compassionate Conservative".

And I'll heave a sigh of relief that I read Thompson's essay. Why should someone like me -- who voted for the GOP in 1994 so they could dismantle the welfare state "brick by brick" as I believe Newt Gingrich once put it -- have to settle for someone who is content merely to reduce the welfare case load a little -- by using my money to pay for someone else's job hunting instead?

If you like Giuliani, you're probably a limited government guy like myself. You owe it to yourself to see what the conservatives are up to before you throw your support to Giuliani. He may be the best the GOP has to offer in 2008, but you deserve better.

-- CAV


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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm not convinced that it was an option for Giuliani to cut welfare. He did, however, do a far better job at making it manageable than any other politician has or proposes to.

I believe Giuliani is a fantastic candidate and deserves our support. Look at the fact-sheet: Pro-choice, cut 23 city taxes, put 60% of welfare recipients in one of the worst welfare systems in America off of welfare, inherited a city with a $2.3 billion deficit and left it with a multi-billion-dollar surplus, cut crime by over half in a matter of four years, managed history's arguably single greatest crisis with stellar performance, does not support federal gun-control, protects gay rights, believes in a humane border policy, wants to stabilize Iraq (and if there is one candidate whom I believe can and will do it, it is Giuliani and his prodigy-like ability to kill corruption and preserve order), remove government from personal life, repeal corporate regulations, believes in Constitutional constructivism, and I believe if anybody can be trusted to make competent executive decisions guided by principles, it is Giuliani.

No offense, but when I hear people getting hung up on one or another small issue to the exclusion of all others, such as that he didn't cut welfare enough, or that he doesn't pursue federal protection of gun ownership, I think it misses the big picture and the phenomenal direction in which he could lead this nation. This is a singular moment in American history and I cannot find a way to sympathize with shunning it for an ideal that is guaranteed to fail in modern elections.

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If you believe that the rise of the religious right's power in the Republican party is a problem, then supporting Giuliani in the primaries makes sense. He is a secular, pro-choice Republican, and supporting him helps advance the cause of secular, pro-choice values inside the Republican party by demonstrating that candidates who hold those values can succeed there. That's a worthwhile goal. Even if you think Giuliani isn't good enough to support in the general election, that doesn't mean you can't achieve something worthwhile by supporting him in the primaries.

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I don't see why he wouldn't be the closest to an ideal candidate for an Objectivist, who just so happens to be a practical shoo-in.

There's a lot about Giuliani for an Objectivist to dislike. His railroading of Michael Milken. He makes occasional environmentalist noises. He's not a supporter of gun rights. He's clearly a pragmatist, as are virtually all politicians these days. Etc. He's a long way from an ideal candidate. But at this point he looks to me like the best on offer, and I think he's good enough to be worth supporting at least in the primaries. Whether he's good enough to be worth supporting in the general election remains to be seen, but even if he isn't I'd rather not support him than not support McCain, if that makes any sense.

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