Bush Should Not Appoint Giuliani

Chicagoboyz elder JLG makes a point about Rudy Giuliani that I haven’t heard elsewhere.

Giuliani is widely respected, and one reads suggestions that Bush should appoint him head of Homeland Security, Defense or (until Bush selected someone else) the CIA. The problem with doing this would be similar to one of the problems associated with having Colin Powell as Secretary of State: Giuliani is a major political figure in his own right, with a significant constituency, and would be difficult to fire. He might perform well in his appointed role, but if he decided to pursue his own agenda Bush might be able to prevent him from doing so only at high political cost. That’s not a good deal for Bush, or for the voters, who have a right to expect the president’s appointees to implement his policies faithfully.

13 thoughts on “Bush Should Not Appoint Giuliani”

  1. Wow, I totally disagree. Giuliani at some post that does not implicate his controversial abortion stand would be ideal. The fact that he is a major figure in his own right adds strength and credibility to the administration. Strong leaders appoint strong subordinates, which shows confidence in themselves and shows that they expect the jobs to be tackled by heavyweights who can do what needs to be done. Plus, it is a field test for the presidency. If you cannot handle a cabinet post, you should not get the top rung. Someone like Giuliani is a potential president and if he is not going to be a governor (or, much less good, a senator) than a cabinet post would be good. The British always adopt this approach and the most powerful politicians, including rival faction leaders, are usually brought into the cabinet. Cabinet secretaries can go rogue whether or not they are famous, as a recent Treasury secretary demonstrated. Giuliani at Defense or State would be an excellent choice, in my opinion.

  2. I would agree with you if Bush were willing to fire people. As it is, not even Norman Mineta can lose his job. Giuliani has not been above screwing the national Republican Party in the past, when he thought it was politically advantageous to him to do so, and I would prefer that he be more immediately accountable than Bush is likely to make him.

  3. Lyndon Johnson said, “I’d rather have him in the tent pissing out, than outside pissing in.” If Bush gave him an important job to do, he’d try to do it well so he could use it to run for president. To get elected, he has to get nominated, and going to war against Bush or openly defying him, would not be a way to appeal to the GOP base. He’s a smart guy. I’m not worried about Bush being able to fire him.

    I agree that Panetta is a mystery, but he may yet resign in this shakeup. I hope so. Gladstone said that a Prime Minister must be a good butcher, able to fire cabinet colleagues whose practical or political utility has run out. Bush lacks this strength of character. Bush also thinks the veto pen weighs sixteen tons, when it is actually a light and handy tool. Odds are he won’t change much since people usually don’t. But the next four years are not yet written and Bush has surprised us before. Some more discipline in the fiscal and personnel departments would bode well for his “legacy”.

  4. Gladstone was right. WRT coopting political competitors, you could have said the same thing about Colin Powell that you say about Giuliani, and I don’t think Powell has been an unqualified success. IMO one of the problems with him has been his excessive independence, as it was clear from the beginning that Bush was unlikely to fire him.

  5. This is one more iteration of our long disagreement about Powell.

    The more time goes by the more obvious it becomes that Powell was right and Bush and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were wrong. I wish Powell were staying on and the other two were leaving. If we had stayed out of Iraq, it is now apparent, we’d have been better off. If we had gone in on a “Powell Doctrine” basis, with no plans to stay and with no promises to the Iraqis to do anything for them, we’d have been better off.

    I supported the war, vehemently and loudly, for good and sufficient Jacksonian reasons. Professor Mearsheimer, again was right about the war, as he was in 1990. This time he opposed it, and I should have paid closer attention. I made the mistake of thinking Bush was dressing up the security issues at stake in Spielbergian colors with his talk about liberation and democracy, etc. Of course, we all now know, Bush means what he says.
    Calling it “Iraqi Freedom” was the first sign that we were doing this in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons. Moreover, if we were planning to stay and occupy the place then the objections that we did not have enough troops was correct, and Bush was warned, and has no excuse. Instead, Bush swallowed a load of New-Wilsonian crap about turning Iraq into a democracy,and how they will throw flowers onto our tanks. We have made promises it is impossible for us to keep. Bush has defined failure into the war since the goal of modernizing Iraq, especially with our moderately sized army, is not attainable.

    We have acquired a West Bank of our own. Unlike Israel, we are not contiguous with ours. So, we can leave. And we will. It will be a lot harder now to do what we are going to end up doing anyway, which is finding some pliable strongman to bring order to the place using methods we are too squeamish to employ. We will hand off the keys and pull out, and that will be decried as a failure. That is a BEST case outcome now. Next best case, our proxy is deposed by someone who is hostile but capable of imposing stabiliyt. Worst case, the place collapses into anarchy and becomes the worst terrorist haven you ever dreamed of.

    I could be wrong. A liberal democracy may come to flourish beside the ancient banks of the Euphrates. And it may rain pineapple gumdrops from a clear blue sky tomorrow. But I’m not betting on either.

    Powell is the only full-fledged grownup in the Bush administration and now there is no babysitter at all. History will be kind to him, hard on Bush, and very hard on Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.

    Anyway, now that the election is over and Bush is in, I have been mulling a post where I unload on him. He was a better choice than Kerry, but he is a very defective leader in many ways. This comment is a sneak preview.

  6. I disagree on almost all points, especially on the obviousness of our failure. I don’t think anything is obvious yet. It’s too early, we don’t have perspective. Maybe in thirty years it will be obvious. Now it’s merely, and inevitably, confusing.

    Intrade shows >75% odds that the Iraqi election will take place. That doesn’t seem like a disaster to me. It does, however, suggest why the Iraqi anti-govt forces are fighting. They clearly see their position as threatened by the election. IMO that’s a strong reason to persist with our plans to democratize Iraq.

    Iraq isn’t the West Bank. The West Bank festered because the U.S. et al always blocked Israel from gaining complete victory over its enemies. No one is blocking us in Iraq, except ourselves. We should not take counsel of our fears.

  7. We’ll see how it plays out. But I am not taking counsel of my fears. I am trying to understand and draw conclusions based on facts.

    If the election comes off, that’s good. But one election will not resolve this. I would like to see significant improvement, noticeable improvement, in the ground situation. It is not happening. I hope with Bush installed, the gloves will come off and we will do what we need to do to win.

    I hope it happens.

  8. Wow Lex, after all your support of Bush this comes as a bit of a shocker. I share many of your fears – but hope, now that we’ve broken it, that Joanthan is right.

  9. I have to say I’m with Lex on his analysis. I think the elections will take place but they’re not going to be a panacea. The fighting, sabotage and terrorism will continue unabated, since the majority of Iraqis are simply unwilling to confront them and defeat them. That’s how they came under the Ba’athists to start with and that is, apparently, how they intend to continue.

    I’m also a fan of Powell. Virtually all of his warnings have come to pass. I clearly rememeber having discussions with people I work with when all of this was unfolding at the UN. The general consensus (arrived at after much debate) was that while Saddam’s regime deserved to go down, that without international support for the effort – especially regional support – the likelyhood of a protracted guerrilla war was going to go way up. Powell, virtually alone among the Bush advisors, was also arguing extreme caution during the Iaq war debate. Does he get credit for being right? I also remember thinking as we went into this war, I hope it all goes well, but under these conditions I wouldn’t have had the guts to do it. I really thought the strategic siuation looked bad. I really, really hoped I was wrong. I prayed for this war to go well. Looks like my fears, and Powells, were well founded. I’m not happy about that either. I wanted to be wrong.

    Another thing I like about Powell is that he’s a moderate, ‘open tent’ Republican. He’s a voice from the center. I’m almost as uncomfortable with the far right as I am with the far left. Almost. I have to admit, I despise the far left. But the far right scares me too.

  10. What exactly are Rudy Guiliani’s qualifications for being the person in charge of defending our nation? Remind of his lengthy background in intelligence, the military and National Defense.

    He had the great fortune of being the sitting mayor of New York at the time of 9/11. If they had attacked in 9/18, Bloomberg would occupy his place in history and Guiliani would just a peculiar ex-mayor who was cheated on his wife, the star of the “Vagina Monologues”(off-broadway). He is a celebrity not a serious player who should be in charge of our security. The Republican party has a strange affection for popular non-conservatives like Guiliani, Powell and McCain and quite frankly I don’t get it.

    Powell will be remebered as the last Republican who believed the UN was a viable organization.

  11. It’s going to take years and there will be setbacks. That’s what wise people said before we invaded Iraq. Now we’re in it, it’s taking years and there are setbacks. Did something fundamental change? I don’t think so. Maybe I am wrong and we are headed for failure or some muddled, unsatisfactory outcome. Now that our initial success in Iraq has worn off, a lot of Americans are sick of the casualties and the drumbeat of killing and destruction and have doubts about the whole thing. Of course it’s terrible but was there a better alternative? Is there one now? I don’t see one but time will tell.

  12. Wade, I like Bush. His heart is in the right place. I like the tax cuts. I like the ownership society. I like his position on abortion and gay “marriage”, though that is a minority position on this blog. I like his basic attitude toward foreigners, which is that he judges them by their actions. I believe that an extremely aggressive strategy is appropriate and deposing Saddam was right. Voting for him and against Kerry was a no-brainer and I was relieved when he won. But no politician is perfect and I don’t expect perfection from them. Bush is like anybody, he benefits from scrutiny from his customers and employers, us, and from constructive criticism. We are false friends to him and his team and to our military personnel if we just say, it must be OK over there when there is evidence that it isn’t. This is not a counsel of despair. It is a counsel of rationality and maturity.

    In particular I am afraid that the idealism underlying his approach in Iraq is a weakness. It sets the bar for success too high. It makes our exit at any time when Iraq is less than perfect look like a defeat and a retreat. And I am afraid that the administration is not being as forthright as they can and should be about the difficulties ahead. That is bad and dangerous. I do not think this thing is “almost won”. I do not get a sense that Bush and his team are just laying the facts on the table.

    I had hoped that with the election over we’d get more than platitudes from W and I’m not hearing it.

    I’m not giving up on the man. But I’m tired of the nation-building he said he wasn’t going to do. Maybe after the election we’ll see some repositioning of his public stance on all this.

  13. Off-point comments:
    I’d like Powell a lot better if I didn’t spend hours a day listening to NPR; Daniel Schorr’s hagiography does not have its intended effect (and those feelings are not reasoned – Powell does appear honest and his doubts appear rational and even a stopped clock, etc.)

    One of the problems for people of my generation (well at least ones that woke up some time after the seventies) is the thought of the boat people. I’m with G ewirtz – we never thought it would be fast, we never thought it would be easy. And if we pull out because it is neither of these, we will not just be seling ourselves short but others as well.

    Hitshew knows, I’m sure, much more about Vietnam and the military than I do. I just hope that his is the half empty interp of a glass that is also half full. A “liberal democracy” may not flourish, but an elected government is surely a more likely outcome than purple gumdrops.

    And anyone that looks at a map of Afghanistan on one side and Iraq on the other of Iran sees a great potential for disaster – but also one for a safer future.

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