Riding Rudy's Right-Wing Wave

GOP Hero Giuliani Stumps for Himself and America's Party

The victory tour for America's hero started way back on February 8 in Georgia, where America's Grand Old Party would eventually achieve its breakthrough electoral triumph.

Ralph Reed, the prophet of the Christian Coalition turned chair of the Georgia GOP, introduced Rudy Giuliani to a $300,000 audience of awed donors, at a luncheon of turkey medallions and pecan pie described as the most successful non-presidential fundraiser in state party history. The party was filling its missionary coffers to launch its own holy war against Roy Barnes and Max Cleland, the incumbent Democratic governor and senator, and Reed knew that no one could better inspire that crusade than America's Mayor.

Giuliani told the 200 or so paying customers that the war on terrorism demanded that Georgians elect Saxby Chambliss, the Republican congressman with a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union, to restore a Republican majority in the senate. Giuliani posed for a TV commercial, flanked by a large group of Chambliss backers.

By the time Giuliani returned in November to campaign again with Chambliss, the senator-to-be had achieved a new level of national notoriety for airing an ad that flashed pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden as a voice said: "America faces terrorists and extremist dictators. Max Cleland says he has the courage to lead. But the record proves Max Cleland is just misleading."

The ad assailed Cleland for voting against the Bush homeland security bill, just as Chambliss had excoriated Cleland in May for breaking his "oath to protect and defend Americans" because of a 1997 vote on a chemical-weapons treaty amendment. Even though Cleland had joined 20 veterans and 11 Republicans in a majority that included Bill Frist, chair of the Senate GOP campaign committee, Chambliss charged that Cleland's treaty vote "directly contradicts that oath."

One of only 52 American servicemen who lost three limbs in Vietnam, Cleland, an army captain, won a Silver Star at age 25 while Chambliss was home nursing a sore knee from football and collecting four draft deferments, two of them medical. Cleland, who wore two artificial legs when he first entered politics but gave them up for a wheelchair because of the pain, told reporters that Chambliss had "attacked the very fiber of my being."

Chambliss's comrade-in-arms, Giuliani, was granted deferments while in law school in the late '60s but was denied another one when he graduated and began clerking for a federal judge, appealing the decision and escaping only after the judge wrote an unusual letter to the draft board on his behalf. When Giuliani ran for mayor in 1993, a confidential study he commissioned to assess his campaign vulnerabilities warned that he could be accused of "receiving special treatment from a friendly judge to avoid military service during the Vietnam War when thousands of less fortunate people were dying."

The other Georgian beneficiary of Giuliani-generated party largesse and an honored attendee at the Giuliani luncheon was Sonny Perdue, the fertilizer manufacturer who will soon become that state's first Republican governor in 130 years. Perdue's homeland security issue was the protection of the Confederate battle emblem on the state flag, which Governor Barnes had convinced the Georgia legislature to reduce in size, a change Perdue opposed in the state senate. The state flag never had a Confederate icon until 1956, when the emblem was adopted in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court decision outlawing school segregation. Perdue promised a flag referendum, invoking Martin Luther King's "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we're free at last!" at his victory party, with one supporter waving the Confederate-dominated flag as he spoke. A state, not a federal, issue, the flag didn't shape the Senate campaign, but when Giuliani rushed to Georgia so early, Chambliss was in the middle of a Republican primary against Robert Irvin, a veteran legislator who'd voted for the new flag. Nonetheless, Giuliani endorsed Chambliss, the favorite of Reed and the White House. While the visiting ex-mayor did not explicitly endorse Perdue, who was also then involved in a GOP primary, Giuliani's fundraising and campaign appearances helped elect him.

The Georgia duo are two of an astonishing list of Giuliani electoral triumphs this year—designed to reposition him to country conservatives as a good old boy as well as a trustworthy ally of the president's, should a vacancy open up on the national ticket. No philosophical difference, including abortion rights, got in the way of an endorsement, forcing NARAL president Kate Michelman to tell the Voice that Giuliani "is clearly putting politics over principle" at a time when "women are faced with the greatest threat to their freedom of choice." By "endorsing anti-choice candidates," Giuliani is "sending a message that it's not important," said Michelman, calling his campaign performance "very disturbing."

In addition to helping replace pro-choice Cleland with Chambliss, who has a perfect voting record on the National Right to Life scorecard, Giuliani did the same in Minnesota, where the stoutly pro-life Norm Coleman will take over Paul Wellstone's seat. In Missouri, he campaigned for another 100 percent House lifer, Jim Talent, who beat pro-choice incumbent Jean Carnahan. The attempt to replace a fourth pro-choice incumbent, Tom Johnson in South Dakota, with John Thune, who has a 94 percent R to L rating, narrowly failed despite Giuliani's endorsement of Thune.

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