By DEROY MURDOCK
SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE
A boulder now blocks Rudolph Giuliani's path to the White House: a nagging suspicion among conservatives that he is too liberal for the Republican presidential nomination. If the former New York mayor wants the 2008 GOP nod, he needs to convince conservatives that he is an anvil-tough, free-market reformer who dramatically limited Gotham's government.
According to one leading conservative, Team Giuliani suggested that "America's mayor" make this pitch himself, but the right rebuffed him.
"Rudy's people said he would be willing to come and speak, but we said we didn't think he'd fit into the program" of mid-February's Conservative Political Action Conference, American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene tells me.
"Rudy's office called and said his normal fee is $100,000, but that he would appear for free," Keene adds. "I would assume he wanted to come here to boost his conservative credentials, but we didn't think that would be useful." (Communications Director Sunny Mindel says Giuliani Partners did not approach the ACU, although a high-level Giuliani associate says he and an ACU official discussed a possible appearance.)
Keene says he and the ACU's board denied Giuliani CPAC's high-profile platform. Pity, because there is a solid, right-of-center rationale for a President Giuliani:
UBetween Jan. 1, 1994, and Jan. 1, 2002, Giuliani famously supervised a 57 percent overall drop in crime and a 65 percent plunge in homicides.
UGiuliani curbed or killed 23 taxes totaling $8 billion. He slashed Gotham's top income-tax rate 21 percent and local taxes' share of personal income 15.9 percent. Giuliani called hiking taxes after 9/11 "a dumb, stupid, idiotic and moronic thing to do."
UGiuliani's spending increases averaged just 2.9 percent annually. His fiscal 1995 and 2002 budgets actually decreased total outlays.
UWhile hiring 12 percent more cops and 12.8 percent more teachers, Giuliani sliced manpower 17.2 percent, from 117,494 workers to 97,338.
URather than "perpetuate discrimination," Giuliani junked Gotham's 20 percent set-asides for female and minority contractors.
UTwo years before federal welfare reform, Giuliani began shrinking public-assistance rolls from 1,112,490 recipients in 1993 to 462,595 in 2001, a 58.4 percent decrease to 1966 levels. He also renamed welfare offices "Job Centers."
UFoster-care residents dropped from 42,000 to 28,700 between 1996 and 2001, while adoptions zoomed 65 percent to 21,189.
UGiuliani privatized 69.8 percent of city-owned apartments; sold WNYC-TV and Gotham's share of the U.N. Plaza Hotel; and invited the private Central Park Conservancy to manage Manhattan's 843-acre rectangular garden.
UGiuliani advocated school vouchers, launched a Charter School Fund and scrapped tenure for principals.
UWhile many libertarians frowned, Giuliani padlocked porn shops in Times Square, paving the way for smut-free cineplexes and Disney musicals.
Add Giuliani's world-famous brand of tenacious, yet touching, leadership (abundant on Sept. 11), and many conservatives remain unmoved. They liken him to a luxury car with plush seats, dynamite speakers, excellent mileage and three slight problems: No steering wheel, no tires and no engine.
Giuliani is a pro-abortion-rights Republican who is friendlier to gay rights than to gun rights. This is hemlock to most conservatives. He will struggle to attract Republican primary voters without soothing them on these matters.
Giuliani could start by approaching the middle ground on abortion. Rejecting partial-birth abortion (as even former top Senate Democrat Tom Daschle did last year) and promoting parental notification for minors and adult waiting periods might encourage socio-cons to reconsider Giuliani.
Giuliani also could earn conservatives' eternal gratitude by driving Miss Hillary off the national stage.
Extracting New York Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton from the Senate "would change everything," says Keene. "That would be a totally different picture ... Rudy could become a conservative hero, by taking Hillary out. We do believe in redemption, but you have to pay some penance."
"If Rudy could beat Hillary and bring back the vote we lost in New York," says Bob Bevill, president of New Hampshire Eagle Forum, "we would be open to giving him a second look. However, he would have to convert to being a Red Sox fan."
As America's mayor marches on Washington, his next step should be to snatch the former first lady's Senate seat in November 2006. Giuliani's best bet for winning the White House in 2008 is to eliminate the American right's foe-in-chief two years sooner.
X New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a panelist on PBS' "Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered."