The obvious comparison to Rudy Giuliani's speech
at Houston Baptist College is JFK's 1960 speech
to Greater Houston Ministerial Association, at which the then-senator articulated his support for the separation of church and state. There is, however, a key difference.
Rudolph W. Giuliani directly challenged Republican orthodoxy on Friday, asserting that his support for abortion rights, gun control and gay rights should not disqualify him from winning the party's presidential nomination.
He said that Republicans needed to be tolerant of dissenting views on those issues if they wanted to retain the White House.
In a forceful summation of the substantive and political case for his candidacy, delivered to a conservative audience at Houston Baptist College, Mr. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, acknowledged that his views on social issues were out of line with those of many Republican primary voters. But he argued that there were even greater matters at stake in the election, starting with which party would better protect the nation from terrorism.
The comparison to the JFK speech is intentional and has been picked up by the media. But the connection doesn't hold up -- JFK effectively told the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, "We're together on the issues, but you need to get over my Catholicism." Giuliani effectively told the Houston Baptist College, "We're not together on the issues, but I'm strong on national security. 9/11, 9/11, 9/11."
To be sure, admitting that he's a full-blown, regular ol' pro-choice Republican is definitely the right call for Giuliani. After donating repeatedly to Planned Parenthood, opposing the GOP's proposed ban on so-called "partial-birth" abortions, backing public funding of abortions, and accepting an award from NARAL, Giuliani's drive to "moderate" his position was transparently ridiculous. He could have followed Romney and gone for the wholesale flip-flop, but Giuliani knew no one would buy it. He's left with only one option -- grudgingly admitting reality, which he did yesterday.
But Giuliani's argument quickly falls apart anyway -- not just because the GOP base isn't willing to back a pro-choice candidate, but also because Giuliani doesn't actually know anything about national security and foreign policy.
Just in the past few weeks, Giuliani has shown that he doesn't know the difference
between Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programs, and has no idea whether Iran and al Qaeda are Sunni or Shia. Asked recently for his thoughts on the efficacy of the president's escalation strategy in Iraq, Giuliani said, "I don't know the answer to that."
As National Review's Rich Lowry recently noted
, when Giuliani responds to voters' questions, "his answers on foreign policy and military affairs aren't deeply informed."
So Giuliani is left with an awkward pitch: vote for the guy who disagrees with the party's base on all the key issues and
overlook the fact that he doesn't know much of anything about his signature issue.
How he plans to pull this off, I have no idea. By comparison, JFK had it easy.