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Giuliani Makes a Federalist Case

The former mayor speaking at the convention of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization. (Getty).

There are certain elements essential to a successful speech before The Federalist Society, and Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani hit just about all of them today before a standing-room-only crowd at the Mayflower Hotel.

He professed his affinity for judges who see the Constitution for "what it is, not what they want it to be.'' He denounced the Senate confirmation process that denied a Supreme Court seat to former Judge Robert Bork and became an "attempted character assassination'' of Justice Clarence Thomas. He promised to nominate justices such as Thomas--and Antonin Scalia, John G. Roberts Jr and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

It was a big turnout for Giuliani, larger even than the crowd that greeted Thomas the day before. Giuliani, who formerly worked in the Reagan administration Justice Department, moved early in the campaign to try to quiet fears he was too moderate by naming Federalist Society stalwart and former Solicitor General Theodore Olson to head his Justice Advisory Committee.

The members, he said, "advise me on everything.'' Seven of them had major roles at the organization's meeting here, including society co-founder Steven Calabresi. Michael Mukasey was another, until President Bush named him attorney general.

The former mayor said it was a pleasure to speak before a crowd "that shares my viewpoint. I didn't get that opportunity too much in New York.''

Federalist Society president Eugene Meyer said the top four Republican presidential candidates in the polls were invited--Mitt Romney, John McCain and Fred Thompson were the others. He said attributed their absence to scheduling issues, and said that McCain and Romney have addressed the group before.

Giuliani said Hillary Rodham Clinton should have been invited, since she is "one of the newest federalists." He was referring to what he said was her position that driver's licenses for illegal immigrants was something to be decided by each state.

"This is the only time in her career she's ever decided anything should be decided on a state by state basis," he said, to laughter from the crowd. "And you know something? She picked absolutely the wrong one.''

Giuliani told the conservative legal group that every presidential election is billed as the most important, but that there were "200 reasons'' why it is true this time--the average number of federal judges a president nominates in a four-year term.

He even used the media as evidence that he could be trusted to appoint conservatives to the bench, saying that MSNBC's Chris Matthews put the question to 12 of "the most cynical reporters in Washington,'' and all said they thought he would.

Giuliani drew his longest ovation when discussing the Federalist Society's theme for the convention, "American Exceptionalism'' and whether the country has a special mission in the world.

The former mayor said the country plays a "divinely inspired role'' motivated by "ideas and idealism.''
"It was this nation that saved the world from the two great tyrannies of the 20th Century--Nazism and communism," Giuliani said. "It's this country that is going to save civilzation from Islamic terrorism.''

He was not so sure-footed when discussing court decisions he disliked. Giuliani said he has searched the Constitution and found nothing that should remove "under God" from the Pledge of Allegience, or ban "mention of the Ten Amendments in a public square.'' He quickly amended: Ten Commandments.

--Robert Barnes

By Washington Post editors  |  November 16, 2007; 5:26 PM ET
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