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Giuliani’s Most Absurd Gaffe

Steve Benen: What possible motivation could Giuliani have to make himself sound like a raving idiot?
 
 
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This post, written by Steve Benen, originally appeared on The Carpetbagger Report

When a presidential candidate misspeaks and commits a dreaded "gaffe," it's embarrassing. When a candidate commits a gaffe that feeds into existing concerns, it tends to have a far greater impact.

So, in 1992, when Bill Clinton said he "didn't inhale," it reinforced the narrative that he liked to try and have things both ways -- in this case, he tried to try marijuana, but couldn't. When John Kerry accurately described his votes on an appropriations bill, saying he voted for it before he voted against it, it reinforced the largely-bogus notion that he was inconsistent on his policy positions.

With that in mind, I wonder if Rudy Giuliani's comments to the Weekly Standard might help underscore what a ridiculous candidate he is.

A liberal who had penned columns in his college paper extolling John Kennedy's virtues, Giuliani opposed the Vietnam war and voted for George McGovern in the 1972 presidential election. "I had traditionally been a Democrat," Giuliani told me in a recent interview in Las Vegas. "It was almost like a reflex mode. I actually remember saying to myself, 'If I was a person really deciding who should be president right now, I'd probably vote for Nixon, because I think the country would be safer with Nixon.' My concern was the Soviets, foreign policy, strong military."

Whatever his concern, it was not enough to make Giuliani pull the lever for a Republican.

Now, by any reasonable measure, Giuliani sounds ridiculous. Giuliani could have said, "Yes, I was a liberal Democrat in 1972, but soon after saw the error of my ways. Like Ronald Reagan, I made the transition from Democrat to Republican and I'm glad I did." That would have been a perfectly satisfactory answer, and very few voters would lift an eyebrow over how a candidate voted in an election 35 years ago.

But Giuliani chose a very different direction. He told the Weekly Standard that he voted for McGovern but he really thought Nixon was the better candidate. He knew Nixon would keep the nation "safer," but he voted for McGovern anyway. Giuliani was in "reflex mode," whatever the hell that means.

This is both amusing and pathetic at the same time.

Greg Sargent added an important contextual note:

Does this mean that Rudy didn't vote for the candidate who he himself thought would keep the country safer? Seems a bit odd. Foreign policy and national security issues were kind of front and center during that campaign.

Quite right. In 1972, the war in Vietnam was still a disaster, and McGovern ran on a "platform that advocated withdrawal from the Vietnam War in exchange for the return of American prisoners of war and amnesty for draft evaders who had left the country."

Giuliani heard this and supported McGovern -- but wants the conservative Weekly Standard to know 35 years later than he knew, even then, that he was supporting the candidate that was weak on national security.

Steve Benen is a freelance writer/researcher and creator of The Carpetbagger Report. In addition, he is the lead editor of Salon.com's Blog Report, and has been a contributor to Talking Points Memo, Washington Monthly, Crooks & Liars, The American Prospect, and the Guardian.

 
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