An Interview with Giuliani Policy Director Bill Simon

HUMAN EVENTS continues it series of interview with the top policy advisors to the Republican Presidential candidates. We recently talked with Bill Simon, Rudy Giuliani’s, Policy Director. Simon worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney under Giuliani from 1986 to 1988. He is co-founder of the private investment firm of William E. Simon & Sons which was founded in 1988. In 2002 he ran an unsuccessful race against Gray Davis for Governor of California.

What was the origin the “12 commitments”?

Simon explained that it “came about as we started a series of briefings on domestic and foreign policy — on economics and homeland security. These developed into more specific briefings. He [Giuliani] chose the most important ones for his campaign.” According to Simon this fits with Giuliani’s overall philosophy that “it is always best to set goals and have objectives.” Although he declines to attribute a political motivation for constructing a series of objectives, he agrees that there “certainly is a benefit” for the campaign that can roll out policy positions on a regular basis. He emphasizes that “strong leaders set directives” and the Commitments are evidence that Giuliani can do so “with a great deal of clarity.”

Is there a theme which runs through all the Commitments?

Simon points to “responsibility” and “accountability.” He stresses that “accountability was a theme also in the Giuliani administration” and points to “Compstat,” the program he “pioneered and extended to other areas” to fight crime, reduce welfare and shrink the size of city government. Giuliani’s view, according to Simon, is “what you can’t measure” you can’t get done.

In the Post-Bush years are voters more attuned to executive competence and administrative skills?

Simon, avoiding any criticism of President Bush, says: “I don’t know think good management and principles of accountability ever of out of style.” He emphasizes traits that Giuliani and his supporters talk about in the campaign — “hands on” management and his ability to absorb large amounts of information and “switch gears faster than anyone I know.” He also recalls his days as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and his experience on the campaign and remarks “I’m 56 years old and have been working for about 35 years. I’ve never seen anyone work as hard.” According to Simon, this “sets a good example for subordinates” but also results in Giuliani’s ability to be familiar with multiple topics.

What is Giuliani doing to satisfy the concerns of social conservatives?

Bill Simon acknowledges that as a pro-life conservative, “I was concerned but I was comforted by his philosophy of judicial appointments.” Simon says that “a principal part” of what a president can do on abortion is “to appoint judges.” He also notes that there is “an awful lot of common ground” with pro-life voters in so far as Giuliani has embraced the ban on partial birth abortion and has set out as one of his commitments the goal of reducing abortions and increasing adoptions. He also notes that voters will recognize that Giuliani has been clear on his own views “while others have chosen to change” their views. Finally, he contends that most voters with “look at the whole picture” and choose a candidate who can “handle shocks” like the current difficulties in the credit markets and real crises.

Is the long campaign an ordeal for candidates?

Simon says Giuliani has never complained or talked about the seemingly endless months of campaigning. He does remark that Giuliani is genuinely having “fun” and that he “genuinely enjoys people and talking about public policy.” As for the debates which have been criticized by some, Simon says: “I do know that he enjoys the opportunity to be in a forum to talk about the issues” and that “it is a very constructive thing” to hear the candidates set out their views.

Is there a danger that Republicans will violate Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment by engaging in negative campaigning against each other?

Simon says: “I’d let actions speak rather than words. The Mayor has definitely run an optimistic and policy oriented campaign.”

How would Giuliani match up against Hillary Clinton?

Simon says he will leave “electability” analysis to “political strategists” However, he notes that if Giuliani is the nominee “there will be an effective contrast.” He explains that if an effective campaign is in part about portraying the clear differences between candidates, Giuliani is well suited to explain how his vision differs greatly from the Democrats’.

If Bill Simon is a reliable guide, it is apparent that the Giuliani campaign will be built around the idea that Giuliani’s personal qualities and executive experience are as important as his policy objectives. By setting out a long list of concrete policy proposals Giuliani will have plenty to talk about. The voters will then decide whether the time is right both for the message and this messenger.