November 26, 2007
The Real Rudy
In his New York Times column (November 23, 2007), “conservative” commentator David Brooks complains that his favorite political figure has gone over to the dark forces of the “anti-immigrant movement.” Brooks recalls those happier days when Rudy, in an address at the Kennedy School of Government in October 1996, recognized that xenophobia had overwhelmed his own party, when it had just passed a welfare reform bill in Congress restricting benefits to legal immigrants. Rudy shuddered at the “fear-mongering and discrimination” that were afflicting the party of Lincoln, “someone who had the courage to take on the anti-immigrant forces.” Then last year, Brooks had “seen [sic!] Rudy passionately deliver remarks at the Manhattan Institute Hamilton Award Dinner in which he condemned “the punitive approach” to immigration, “which is reflected in the House legislation that was passed, which is to make it a crime to be an illegal or undocumented immigrant.” Listening to his recent harangues about sealing America’s borders against illegals, Brooks is worried that his onetime hero may be losing Hispanic voters in his desire to accommodate nativists. He fears that “Rudy may “look back on this moment and wonder why he didn”t run as himself.”
Putting aside some of his muddled historical details, e.g., Lincoln Republicans were not open-borders types, but anti-Irish and at least implicitly anti-Catholic, Brooks is certainly expressing valid neoconservative concerns. By sounding “Tancredo-esque” at this point, after decades of being identified with socially leftist positions on immigration and just about everything else, Rudy may be sliding irreversibly to the right, beyond the neocon communion. What happens if he does win while sounding like a critic of immigration and the gay lobby (two causes that mean a great deal to Brooks as a “New York Times conservative”) and then bases his presidency on his newly constructed identity?
Allow me to comfort the agonized columnist and others who may think like him. I couldn”t imagine why Rudy would not revert to form once elected. It is highly unlikely that his habits of thought, acquired over many decades, would suddenly be reversed in a 61 year old politician, who is trimming his sails because of the wind he is trying to get through. I doubt that anyone but a low-grade moron, or someone acting like one in order to hold on to Republican patronage, could possibly believe that Rudy is no longer Rudy. Does anyone think that Rudy underwent a recent epiphany since addressing the Manhattan Institute last year, as a pro-illegal immigrant zealot? His conversion shows about the same degree of sincerity as the practice of Western Communist party leaders in the 1950s who would talk about “democratic pluralism” when they were competing with social democrats. Rudy has no choice in the Republican primaries but to lie through his teeth, unless he wishes to sink like a lead weight. If he does win (God save us from that fate!), he will probably do what he did before, favor leftist social positions, appoint federal judges who lean strongly left, and call for war against “Islamofascism.” Brooks would be delighted with these results. And by then Rudy would have dragged along the mercenary or opportunistic conservative media, toward an updated form of “value” or “compassionate conservatism.” If I were David, I would stuff the ballot box (or whatever contraption they vote with in the Big Apple) to make sure that the “real Rudy,” who is the only one, manages to prevail.