Rudy Giuliani mocks Hillary claim to be Iron Lady
Sarah Baxter in Atlanta
THE frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, Rudolph Giuliani, has attacked Hillary Clinton’s attempts to represent herself as a new “Iron Lady” by accusing her of surrendering to the hard left over the Iraq war.
Giuliani flies into London this week to give the inaugural Margaret Thatcher lecture, organised by the Atlantic Bridge think tank. He will be awarded the Margaret Thatcher medal of freedom by the original Iron Lady, 81, who is revered by American conservatives.
The former New York mayor has accused Clinton of pandering to left-wing Democrats by casting doubt on the testimony of General David Petraeus, the commander of American forces in Iraq, on the progress of the US troop surge.
“I don’t think Margaret Thatcher would impugn the integrity of a commanding general in a time of war, as Hillary Clinton did, or require an army to give a schedule of their retreat to the enemy, as the Democrats are suggesting,” said Giuliani.
He went on the offensive against Clinton after she said Petraeus’s report required “the willing suspension of disbelief”. He won praise from Republicans by claiming she was echoing MoveOn.org, a left-wing group, which attacked General “Betray Us” in a full-page advertisement in The New York Times for “cooking the books” on behalf of the White House.
Giuliani took out his own full-page advertisement on Friday, accusing Clinton of “spewing political venom” against a decorated soldier committed to defending America.
When Clinton launched her presidential bid, Terry McAuliffe, her campaign chairman, said she would be as tough as Thatcher on national security. But the New York senator has been under pressure from Barack Obama and other Democratic rivals over her Senate vote in favour of authorising the Iraq war. She refused to condemn MoveOn.org, despite widespread criticism of its advert.
Leon Panetta, Bill Clinton’s former White House chief of staff and a member of the Iraq Study Group, set up last year to advise on strategy, said Democrats should “certainly dissociate themselves” from MoveOn.org’s attack on Petraeus.
But Panetta also claimed “Hillary is more like Thatcher” than Giuliani. “Women who have been leaders in recent history have been pretty tough ladies and that certainly fits Hillary Clinton. They have to be tough on national security in order to survive the kind of attacks that the Rudy Giulianis will bring against them.”
“America’s mayor”, as Giuliani was called after the September 11 terror strikes of 2001, has galvanised Republicans with his attacks on Clinton when he is under pressure from Fred Thompson, the latest entrant to the 2008 presidential race. Giuliani contends that he is the only candidate able to defeat Clinton by challenging her across America. Thompson, the former senator for Tennessee and a Hollywood actor, is picking up strong support from social conservatives in the South.
Addressing voters in Atlanta, Georgia, last week, Giuliani said: “I’m the only Republican who can carry out a 50-state campaign. If we nominate one of the other candidates, the Democrats can run a 20-25 state campaign against us.”
Giuliani vowed to make New York, New Jersey, California, Oregon and Connecticut competitive for Republicans for the first time in years. He also brushed off criticism that he is too socially liberal on issues such as abortion and gun control to be acceptable to the Republican party base.
“It is an extreme asset to be the candidate with the most experience in this race. I’m running against three Democrats who have never run a city, never run a state and never run a business,” Giuliani said.
The polls support his contention that he is the best placed candidate to defeat Clinton. Nevertheless, she has not only opened a formidable lead against Obama, her nearest Democratic rival, but is also moving ahead of her Republican opponents. The latest polls show the former first lady cruising ahead of Giuliani by 48% to 44% and crushing Thompson by 51% to 42%.
But Giuliani’s fightback has given Republicans heart. In the current issue of The Weekly Standard, a neoconservative magazine, Matthew Connetti writes that Giuliani’s bold “politics of confrontation” against Clinton “emphasises to conservatives that he is on their side”.
George Will, a leading conservative commentator, claimed last week Thompson would be like “new Coke” when it launched in 1985. “Then the question was: is this product necessary? A similar question stumped Thompson the day he plunged [into the White House race].”
Will has described Giuliani’s conservatism as having “the flavour of Margaret Thatcher’s, of whom it was said she could not pass a government institution without swatting it with her handbag”.
Thompson beat Giuliani to a meeting with Thatcher last summer. The baroness’s blessing is eagerly sought by Republican candidates, who regard her as an earthly representative of the late President Ronald Reagan. Unlike the other candidates, however, Giuliani was awarded an honorary knighthood by the Queen in 2002 for his steadfastness during the 9/11 attacks.
Anthony Carbonetti, Giuliani’s senior policy adviser, said Giuliani would emphasise the “common goals” shared by Britain and America in his lecture. “We’ve both been attacked and our freedoms are linked. This is a fight we need to win.”