With Rudy Giuliani inching closer to an official run for the presidency, it is worth taking a look at an area (besides the well-covered social issues) where the McCain camp clearly feels that he is vulnerable: foreign policy.
Last week, Newsday took a critical look at Rudy’s foreign experience, and John McCain, on “This Week” basically said that while Giuliani was an American hero, he was the one with the credentials. Fred Malek, a key fund-raiser for Mr. Mccain made the same argument to me this week when he paid Giuliani the following back-handed compliment: “Rudy Giuliani has been a very successful mayor of our largest city. John McCain has not only served heroically in the military, but he has been a pivotal force of national security for a dozen years.”
But Giuliani’s supporters pushed back. Not only has Giuliani toured the world as a businessman, brokering international deals, but he has been vocal on his positions regarding Iraq and the Middle East as a whole.
Patrick Oxford, Giuliani’s colleague at the Texas-based law firm Bracewell & Giuliani, told me that in the last few weeks alone, Giuliani has, as a representative of the law firm, met with energy leaders in Argentina, British Columbia and India. Barry Wynn, a fervent Giuliani supporter from South Carolina who acted as finance chair for President Bush’s re-election campaign, added that Giuliani has repeatedly conducted business in both Eastern and Western Europe over the last year, and has met with business leaders in Asia at least three times. After the big donor meeting on Nov 15th at the “21” Club, Giuliani took off for India.
OK, fine, Giuliani has a gathered his fair share of frequent flier miles to foreign lands. But what about actual foreign policy?
Fred Siegel, author of Prince of the City, dismissed any suggestion that Giuliani was weak on foreign policy. Siegel pointed out that Giuliani had been stronger than most politicians in arguing that the United States needed to be tougher on Saudi Arabia in getting them to combat terrorism.
Giuliani has yet to dispel the doubts among national political players who are less familiar with him, but that might be more a question of timing than anything else. He has only just begun his roll-out, as with his recent announcement of an energy policy (diversification, with a greater dependence on nuclear energy) at a Manhattan Institute event.
So the “worldly, well traveled businessman” defense against foreign policy experience criticism is probably more of a place-holder until we get a more fully articulated vision as Giuliani’s march towards official candidacy continues.