It starts a little late (sorry about that), but this post begins the weeklong examination of candidates, and possible candidates, for President. For the first three days, I am including only those who, in my view, pass the critical test: a willingness to come to Taiwan's defense against a probable Communist attack. The final two days include folks who are not, at present, considered candidates. As such, I'll leave out a lot of people who would meet this criterion (I'll discuss that more on Thursday).
For now, suffice to say there are certain people who I don't feel meet my criteria: Mitt Romney, George Pataki, Newt Gingrich, and John McCain. I don't know enough about the first two to make an opinion, and I'm not up for taking chances like that. McCain and Gingrich are also, in my mind, unacceptable risks, as both are far too mercurial politically to be of any worth. Of course, some people are trying to turn Condoleezza Rice into a candidate, but I threw cold water on that last year.
So today, I look at the first of three probable candidates who pass my test. It's based largely on symbolism and feeling, which is why he is first (the other two have more solid records): former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
When it comes to Communist China (and Taiwan), Giuliani has had few opportunities to venture an opinion, let alone present a policy. That said, the opportunities that have come his way have been instructive.
As the mayor of the largest city in America, and home to one of the country's largest Chinese-American communities, Giuliani had plenty of chances to "score points" with photo-ops with the Communist leaders at the time (Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji). Instead, he no-showed them both (Wall Street Journal) - the former in the middle of 1997, and as such smack in the middle of Giuliani's re-election campaign. To most readers of this blog, snubbing Jiang would be politically smart, but not everyone is so intelligent - including many in the "establishments" of both major parties.
Giuliani also intrigued by his silence in 2000, as a candidate for U.S. Senate. Although he withdrew from the race before the Senate voted on Permanent Normal Trade Relations, he had plenty of time to offer his support to the idea. He was silent instead.
Now, by themselves, neither would impress enough to be worth a post here. Heck, even put together they would fall short. What put Giuliani on my list was how he treated Taiwan's elected President Chen Shui-bian when he visited New York in the spring of 2001.
Giuliani not only met with Chen, but referred to Taiwan as "a remarkable country," a loaded phrase he almost certainly was told would trigger a reaction out of Zhongnanhai. In fact, Giuliani was confronted by a Communist reporter that very day - and refused to back down (Taipei Times).
Is that enough? I'm willing to say yes, but many others, I'm sure, would disagree, and that is Giuliani's first and most important weakness. He needs to flesh this out. Of course, I expect him do to so - otherwise I can finally test which wine goes better with crow.
Giuliani also has domestic weaknesses. He's a Republican, and as such, he has an uphill battle as someone who is not pro-life (or, if you prefer, anti-abortion). He was once, for a very brief time in 1989 during his first run for mayor. He switched in the summer of that year. Another candidate for President (Mitt Romney) has gone from pro-abortion/pro-choice to the pro-life/anti-abortion position, but for Giuliani, it would be much tougher. If he decides to hold to his view, it could become really difficult.
It would be easier for him to say he considers Roe v. Wade to be bad law, and will look for judges and justices with similar views. For many pro-life voters, that would be enough; whether there are enough of them to give Giuliani the nomination is unknown at present.
The ex-Mayor is also trying to the center lane on illegal immigration; he may be the only politician who can do this and avoid the wrath of the restrictionists in the GOP electorate, but that's no guarantee he actually will.
Giuliani also has domestic strengths, namely his anti-crime record as Mayor of New York and, of course, his reaction to September 11, 2001. That has, for now, already made him the most popular candidate among GOP voters this side of John McCain, but it is still very early.
As I said earlier, among the three people likely to run for President, Giuliani has the "worst" record on Communist China, but from my point of view, he is sufficiently anti-Communist, and I feel he would come to Taiwan's defense. I am more secure in that view about the other four names on my list. One more will be discussed tomorrow.