By Brigitte L. Nacos
Assessing the latest debate of the look-alike lineup of Republican presidential hopefuls David Broder concludes in his column in the Washington Post that “Giuliani seized every opportunity to whack Hillary Clinton…” Even more constant in Giuliani’s public appearances than his phony phone-ins by his third wife are Rudy’s relentless attacks on the only female candidate in the large field of presidential contenders. Not surprisingly, Mitt Romney and John McCain on the Republican side and John Edwards and Barack Obama among Democrats attack Senator Clinton’s positions regularly as well—she is, after all, the front runner in the Democrats’ race and should be questioned and scrutinized. But Rudy has taken on the role of bully-in-chief in his efforts to score brownie points with conservative Clinton haters so that they might overlook what they see as his considerable personal and policy flaws.
Perhaps Giuliani will become the Republican presidential nominee by whacking Hillary and convincing his party’s primary voters that he is the only one who is tough and mean enough to beat Senator Clinton in next fall’s election. But in the long run, this tactic may entail more risks than benefits and come to haunt the candidate. Giuliani’s premier selling point is his tough guy image--tough on criminals, tough on terrorists, and tough on national defense and homeland security. By declaring the other night that Iran is more dangerous than Iraq was, he left no doubt about his preference for dealing with Iran: the Cheney way. On this count, too, he lashed out at Hillary Clinton as not tough enough although she is criticized by fellow Democrats in the presidential race for being too hawkish on Iraq and Iran, etc.
Imagine for a moment that Rudy and Hillary face each
other in next fall’s campaign. Unless Rudy changes to more civility in the campaign discourse in general and the debates in particular, the majority of
American voters may not react well to a man who casts himself as a tough urban cowboy and uses a woman as punching bag during
his public workouts. Yes, Rudy and Mitt exchange punches as well, but they amount to whacking lite in comparison.
In one of the debates during the 2000 senatorial campaign between Rick Lazio and Hillary Clinton, Mr. Lazio stepped towards Mrs. Clinton in what looked like a threatening way and demanded too forcefully that she committed to a particular position that I can’t remember. But what I do remember is that scene which resulted in a great deal of sympathy for Clinton at the expense of Lazio who for a moment came across as a bully. Lazio’s misstep then pales in comparison to Rudy’s performance now as Senator Clinton’s whacker-in-chief whenever and wherever he opens his mouth.