A Newsday story about Giuliani quitting the Iraq Study Group last year beacause of his speaking and fundraising commitments is generating criticism of Rudy. But while participation in the panel would have given him an extra line on his resume and enabled him to earn some foreign policy chops, I don’t see this hurting him. In my view, it would have been far worse had he actually stayed on the panel and signed its ludicrous recomendations. Beyond advocating retreat, as I wrote when it was released, much of the report became a vehicle for James Baker’s narcissism, an effort to relieve his fantasies about being a Middle East peacemaker in the early 1990s.
Furthermore, had Giuliani signed on to the recommendations, it would have created all sorts of political problems for him. Just to give one example, Giuliani has come out in support of President Bush’s surge strategy, which the ISG said would be a mistake. Had Giuliani signed the recommendations, he would have either had to oppose President Bush, and be to the left of his rivals on Iraq, undermining his national security appeal (at least in the context of the Republican primary), or support the surge, and be dogged by accusations of being a flip-flopper.
Since he didn’t have the time, in hindsight, it probably would have been better had Giuliani not agreed to participate in the first place. Or, better yet, had he resigned in protest over Baker’s insistence on demanding Israel make concessions to Syria and the Palestinians. But with that said, I’m sure the Giuliani campaign would much rather spend one day fielding questions about why he snubbed the panel, than spend the rest of the campaign having to answer for every one of the group’s recommendations.