Forbes: Social Issues Won't Derail Rudy

The most high-profile national conservative leader to endorse Rudy Giuliani for President so far insists that the former New York mayor’s non-conservative stands on social issues such as abortion won’t derail his candidacy in the Republican nomination process next year.

“I’ve met with several social conservatives and they are leaning strongly to Rudy,” said Steve Forbes, publisher and two-time GOP presidential hopeful, who has just come out for Giuliani for President. Although he said he couldn’t give the names of most of those he has talked to who are poised to join the Giuliani bandwagon, Forbes did cite Joel Rosenberg — evangelical Christian, best-selling novelist, and a veteran of past Forbes campaigns — who was prepared to join Giuliani’s campaign team. In Forbes’ words, “He thinks Rudy’s the real deal, as do at least two others I’m talking to. Giuliani will have a [conservative] team in formation.”

In an exclusive interview with HUMAN EVENTS on the same day he wrote a hard-hitting endorsement of the New Yorker in the Wall Street Journal (“Rudy’s The One,” WSJ, March 30, 2007), Forbes did address the differences he and other conservatives had with Giuliani on social issues and assured me they would not be a major bump in the ’08 nomination trail for him.

“He’s pro-choice, and I’m pro-life,” said Forbes without hesitation, “But Rudy also said he would appoint judges like [Supreme Court Chief Justice] John Roberts and [Associate Justice] Samuel Alito. We may not like it but judges do make social policy and if we win there, we may get it (the issue of abortion) back into the public square.”

Referring to Giuliani’s record of management while mayor (1993-2001), the chief executive officer of Forbes, Inc. noted that the city’s unemployment rate was cut in half, welfare rolls were cut by 60%, and the crime rate went down dramatically.

“There was an improvement in the quality of life,” Forbes told me, “Crime went down, unemployment went down, and the number of abortions went down.People got their dignity back.”

As mayor, Forbes noted, “Giuliani could have made it easy by putting up an abortion clinic on every corner” and would have been applauded by the city media. But he didn’t do that and, in Forbes’ words, “He also showed a sensitivity to religious beliefs. He cleaned up Times Square, going forthrightly against pornographers and a hostile court sytem. He was relentless in pursuing those characters.

“Another thing you may remember the museum in Brooklyn with a hideous, anti-religious exhibit. He said if you want to use your own money, fine. But to use taxpayer’s money for that — no. The New York Times and others excoriated him for being anti-free speech and anti-art. But he fought them, and he had a sensitivity to others’ religious beliefs.”

Forbes concluded that “even though on some of the social issues he has views I don’t agree with, I’m impressed that he respects the views of others and is willing to fight against the mainstream.”

As for Giuliani’s tumultuous personal life and rumors of adultery amid his three marriages, Forbes did not flinch. “Rudy will admit he had problems in his personal life. Even Ronald Reagan had a first marriage that didn’t work, but through no fault of his and for a while shattered him. Thankfully for him, he had a superb second marriage. That [Giuliani] has had his own failures and frailities, it now makes him, in a sense, a better leader, a more compassionate leader — not that he gives in to weaknesses but he knows the frailties. That just makes for better character.”

One of the reasons Forbes thinks Giuliani might have had trouble in his marriages is that “he’s a workaholic. He gets by on four hours of sleep, has a relentless attention to detail, and a devotion to work. That’s how he was so successful going against the Mafia, that’s how he made the fundamental structural changes in welfare and policing. Those things would not have happened had he not been driving the thing.

“Had he been President [after the Iraq invasion], he [would] have been over there several times, relentlessly questioning what’s working, what’s not working. The changes we’ve seen recently, which should have happened two or three years ago, would have been changed quicker. He is a hands-on guy. He doesn’t get lost in details, but wants to know what’s happening on the street level. In the Oval Office, he’s going to work for his pay.”

(Coming Monday — Forbes on Giuliani: Iraq, the Flat Tax, Immigration, and More. Stay Tuned)