Over at the New Republic, Jonathan Chait questions Giuliani’s foreign policy experience:
I have always felt that if Giuliani were to lose, it wouldn’t be the social issues that would be his downfall, but it would be if his opponents could poke holes in his national security credentials. Just as Mitt Romney will be toast if he can’t convince social conservatives that his transformation was genuine because he’s basing his candidacy on being a real conservative, Giuliani will go down in flames if people start to think of him as just a mayor who doesn’t have any national security bona fides.
There are a few things I’d say in response to Chait. As mayor of New York City, where the United Nations is based, Giuliani often played host to foreign dignitaries–or, in Arafat’s case, gave him the boot. He went on overseas diplomatic trips (I can recall one to Israel in 1996 off the top of my head). Also, he commanded a police force of over 40,000 and used that police force to slash crime by about 60 percent in a city that was written off as doomed. On Sept. 11, he demonstrated that when an unexpected crisis hits, he can remain calm, make decisions under pressure, and demonstrate strength in leading a rattled city–and nation.
Chait writes that, “If having a macho swagger and talking tough about bad guys were enough to make a good commander in chief, we wouldn’t have the worst foreign policy disaster in U.S. history on our hands right now in Iraq.” I don’t think tough talk is enough, but I think Giuliani brings more to the table than tough talk, specifically, a track record of actually being able to follow through and implement his vision. His record as mayor involved macho swagger, but he also got results. To be sure, being president is in a totally different league than any job somebody would hold before assuming the office, but I think Giuliani’s record matches up well against anybody in the field.
If I were working for McCain, though, instead of focusing on Giuliani’s social views–which will come out anyway–I’d try to raise doubts about Giuliani’s national security experience and emphasize McCain’s military background and decades in the Senate. In response, Giuliani will have to emphasize his executive experience–something McCain doesn’t have. Also, right now, it’s okay for Giuliani to speak about the big picture when it comes to foreign policy. But as the campaign goes on, he’ll have to flesh out his views and demonstrate a more subtle understanding of world affairs than his current refrain of the need to “stay on offense against terrorism.”