Congressman Pete Sessions(R-Tex.) has been the most vocal and prominent pro-life advocate of Rudy Giuliani’s presidential candidacy. I interviewed him on the eve of Giuliani’s appearance before the Family Research Council’s Voters Value Forum this weekend, perhaps the most important moment for Giuliani to address concerns of pro-life voters and stem a move to a possible third party candidate. He talked at length about his relationship with Giuliani and Giuliani’s views, which he contends are not fully known to conservatives.
I asked him how he came to support Giuliani given Rep. Sessions longtime pro-life views. He replied that “I am a friend of the Mayor. I’ve spent a great deal of personal time talking to him.” He continued that based on their discussions he thinks the “pro-choice” label for Giuliani does not capture how Giuliani would “make decisions.” He contends that “as you dissect” how he would have voted if Giuliani were a member of Congress, Sessions concludes that Giuliani would have “voted exactly as I did” on issues which come before Congress. He points to the partial birth abortion ban, taxpayer funding for abortions, parental notification, penalties for those who take minors across state lines for an abortion and foreign funding for groups which offer abortion services( the Mexico City accord). Sessions says that Giuliani “unequivocally states” that he would vote as Sessions and pro-life legislators do on these matters. I pressed Sessions on whether even in the face of legislation on these issues he believed Giuliani would veto legislation from a Democratic Congress to, for example, repeal the Hyde Amendment. Session answered without hesitation: “Yes, I do.”
Sessions of course also points to Giuliani’s pledge to appoint strict constructionist judges like Scalia, Thomas and Roberts as providing him additional reassurance — the “last hook” — to convince him to support Giuliani.
Sessions also recounts how he shared with Giuliani his experience in raising his Down Syndrome son Alex, “a wonderful guy.” Sessions said that Giuliani’s reaction was immediate and emotional. He recounts Giuliani saying: “That is why I believe in adoption if that may not be something [raising a Down Syndrome child] people want to do.” Sessions recalled that he concluded that Giuliani “gets it” on making adoption a preferred choice.
I asked Sessions whether Giuliani would be more forthcoming and personally talk about his position on these issues. He said “I think he will. He has thought through what he wants to say.”
I next asked him about social conservative leaders who had spoken out so strongly about Giuliani as the possible GOP nominee. Sessions said that some people had opposed Ronald Reagan and threatened “to bolt the party.” Sessions continued: “ I would say there are those who opposed Ronald Reagan and are still around today and just are not happy.” He said that conservatives should consider that the Democratic Party “which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bill Clinton” will select Hillary Clinton as its nominee. He urged Republicans not make a mistake of selecting a candidate which would set up a “mismatch” and that conservatives should save their fire for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.
As for marriage, Sessions says he personally favors a Constitutional amendment which declares marriage to be between one man and one woman but acknowledges that Giuliani does not share that view. According to Sessions, Giuliani is “not convinced” a Constitutional Amendment is necessary now and believes the issue can be resolved by “application of [existing] laws.”
I asked Sessions if he was concerned by the public fights among social conservatives and the threats to mount a third party candidacy. He noted that there had been very vigorous discussion, some of it directed toward Fred Thompson as well, but that “all of this is in the context of jousting” but that this was fine “as long as we can remain on the same stage.” He urged conservatives to keep their eye on the real target, which he identifies as “Mrs. Clinton and the Democrat party which is ultra liberal with Nancy Pelosi in the House and Harry Reid in the Senate.”
If Giuliani himself articulates his positions as Sessions describes them he still is not likely to win over all social conservatives. In particular, Giuliani’s failure to support a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage may rule him out as a choice for some Republicans as it has for Fred Thompson. Nevertheless, it may go a long way toward assuring some voters that Giuliani will not be inimical to their interests preventing an intraparty war within the GOP that otherwise would put a smile on Hillary Clinton’s lips.
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