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Giuliani and the Twelve Commitments

Today in New Hampshire, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani spoke of his vision for America, a vision centered around "Twelve Commitments" to the American people.

"My Twelve Commitments are a promise to this generation and generations to come that we will keep the American Dream alive," Giuliani said in a statement. "I believe it's the kind of leadership and common sense accountability the American people need in Washington."

The Twelve Commitments are, well, sort of vague. (Not to mention that they sound like a Motown group.) So, we decided to provide the Fix community with a user's guide to the Commitments. Away we go!

*"I will keep America on offense in the Terrorists' War on Us."
TRANSLATION: "I was the mayor of New York City on Sept. 11, 2001." This is, by far, Giuliani's strongest selling point to Republican primary voters. He became America's Mayor for his handling of the aftermath of that tragedy and the more he can remind Republican primary voters of that time, the better for his candidacy. And, don't forget the phrasing of this commitment. It is not the war on terror; it is the "terrorists' war on us."

*"I will end illegal immigration, secure our borders and identify every non-citizen in our nation."
TRANSLATION: "I am not a liberal." No issue animates the Republican base like illegal immigration. For Giuliani, convincing Republican primary voters that he is conservative enough for them to overlook their disagreements with him on most social issues is essential to his chances at the nomination. But will his record as mayor of New York City on immigration (legal and illegal) come back to haunt him?

*"I will restore fiscal discipline and cut wasteful Washington spending."
* "I will cut taxes and reform the tax code."
* "I will impose accountability on Washington."
TRANSLATION: "Politics as usual in Washington is broken and only an outsider can fix it." On the campaign trail, Giuliani regularly cites his work to restore fiscal discipline in New York City, pledging that he will bring that same attitude to Washington. The massive increase in federal spending during the Bush presidency is seen as the most powerful symbol of how the party moved away from its core principles over the past decade. Giuliani's pledge to eliminate "wasteful Washington spending" and reform the tax code are aimed at painting him as common sense doer, not a creature of the profligate Washington establishment.

* "I will lead America toward energy independence."
* "I will give Americans more control over, and access to, healthcare with affordable and portable free-market solutions."
TRANSLATION: "I will take on the big issues." Neither energy nor healthcare are issues Giuliani has devoted much time to so far in the campaign but he is a savvy politician and knows that poll after poll shows that the American public wants to hear solutions on these "big" issues of the day. Getting into specifics on either issue is dangerous for Giuliani (or any other candidate) so don't expect too many details from him in the near future.

"I will increase adoptions, decrease abortions, and protect the quality of life for our children."
TRANSLATION: "I may support a woman's right to choose, but I hate abortion." There is no issue more dangerous for Giuliani's chances at the nomination than this one. He invited weeks of stories closely examining his position on abortion by saying it would be "ok" if and when the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade. He has since refined his position, arguing that while he personally opposes abortion he recognizes that reasonable people can disagree on the issue. Interestingly, Giuliani's position on abortion as stated above closely mirrors the language used by Democrats of late -- that abortion should be safe, legal and rare.

*"I will reform the legal system and appoint strict constructionist judges."
TRANSLATION: "You and I, we're not so different," For much of his early campaign, Giuliani effectively dodged charges that he was more liberal than the average Republican primary voter with this "strict constructionist" approach. The idea behind the language is that while Giuliani carries moderate/liberal positions on issues like abortion, gay rights and guns, he will not seek to appoint judges who reflect those views. The selection of federal judges is a HUGE issue for base voters who worry that the appointment of "liberal" justices will erode the fabric of American culture.

*"I will ensure that every community in America is prepared for a terrorst attacks and natural disasters."
TRANSLATION: "Did I mention I was the mayor of New York City during Sept. 11, 2001?" It can't be emphasized strongly enough how much of Giuliani's candidacy is wrapped up in the terrorist attacks that occured nearly six years ago. Competence and clarity under the most adverse of circumstances is at the heart of the Giuliani message.

*"I will provide access to quality education to every child in America by giving real school choice to parents."
TRANSLATION: "What worked in New York City will work for the nation." In his stump speech Giuliani regularly refers to his work to bring school choice to New York City -- a ">stance that drew praise from the fiscally conservative Club For Growth.

*"I will expand America's involvement in the global economy and strengthen our reputation around the world."
TRANSLATION: "America's image is in need of rehabbing." One of Giuliani's largest potential weak spots is that he has little prior foreign policy experience and yet is running for an office that requires vast stores of knowledge about America's place in the world. This commitment seeks to show his level of devotion to foreign policy while also subtly acknowledging that America's reputation in the world has been tarnished during the past eight years. Making sure voters know that a Giuliani Administration won't be a fascimile of a Bush Administration.

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 12, 2007; 12:15 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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