In discussing with me his feelings that Rudy Giuliani’s non-conservative stands on social issues would not be a political stumbling block among conservatives next year, Steve Forbes discussed issues on which he strongly agreed with the former New York Mayor and ’08 presidential hopeful — Iraq, and immigration. Forbes also made a spirited defense of Giuliani’s appointments of municipal judges while mayor, which have come fire from conservatives in recent weeks.
“He supported the surge,” Forbes said of Giuliani’s stand on Iraq, “While he hasn’t immersed himself in the issue, I think that he recognizes that if you’re going to fight terrorism, it’s better to do it outside the country [the U.S.} than inside. If he becomes president, he’ll be relentless foe of terrorism, he’ll look for weak points and is not going to be put off by criticism or faint-hearted friends. He also has the attitude that if you’re going to do something, you do it.”
The publisher and former Republican presidential hopeful made the analogy to a “President Giuliani” dealing with the war on terrorism to Mayor Giuliani thwarting a crime wave in New York: “One of the changes they made on policing was an attitude of instead of responding to 9/11 calls, they would take a more pro-active measure. He was the first to make precinct commanders responsible for what was happening in their areas. If something was going wrong, he would ask: ‘What are you doing about it?’ And each week they would meet in a war room with a map of areas. Where they saw a surge in crime, they would throw in extra police; where a certain area looked like it was having a problem, they’d throw in extra resources to deal with it.
“Whether it’s Iraq or Afghanistan or Iran — if that’s still with us in 2009 — he is going to try to find innovative ways to combat the thing. If it doesn’t work, he’ll try something else. He doesn’t give up!’
When I cited reports from some conservatives that Giuliani’s appointments to the city judiciary were not conservative and in fact Democrats by a margin of 8-to-1, Forbes replied: “Overall they were good — not the kind I would have appointed, but I could not have been elected in New York. He was less concerned about social issues than having judges who were not going to undo what he was going to do in terms of policing. His emphasis was in judges not overturning convictions.
“So, by New York standards, the judges were pretty good. By our standards, they would not have been, in terms of some of their social issues, what we would have liked. But he had an agenda of fighting crime and he didn’t want judges writing laws from the bench. If he has that kind of attitude on a broader level with federal judges that he had on a narrow level with municipal judges, he’s going to do OK.”
As for the heavy Democratic balance of Giuliani appointees to the bench, Forbes pointed out “the City Council is overwhelmingly Democratic and very liberal. He knew how to horsetrade and make things happen.”
Regarding illegal immigration, Forbes said his views are “basically:” the same as Giuliani’s. Again, citing his candidate’s record as mayor, Forbes noted: “He does believe in law and order. It goes against his grain when things are done illegally. As for the illegal immigrants that are here, we let it happen. The question is what do we do now. I think increasing the Border Patrol by many thousands is having an impact; by doing more, it would have more of an impact. We have a guest worker program in high tech, H1B — you come here for three years or six years, then, if you want to stay, you apply like everyone else. It’s not automatic. But you’ve got to do something. You can’t do nothing. Five years after 9/11, we still have a semi-dysfunctional immigration service.
Does he fault Bush for that, I asked. “Yes,” said Forbes, “People who try to play by the rules pay a penalty. It’s preposterous.”
Forbes recalled that he first met Giuliani when he was U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, that he got to know him over lunches and dinner when he was mayor. Giuliani, he said, “is very personable, but what I was looking for is how well he does his brief and what his instincts are.”