Finally: Rudy Giuliani was caught red-handed.
After months of watching him wriggle out of tight spots on issues like abortion and gun control, opponents of the front-running former mayor say that his reversal on immigration policy has finally brought down the mayor’s impenetrable defenses and opened him up to attacks on everything from the consistency of his record, to his personal life, to the veracity of his remarks about Ground Zero.
They couldn’t be happier.
“It’s going to damage him pretty severely,” said Representative Tom Tancredo, a Republican presidential candidate running largely on an anti-immigration platform. “He was prepared to be hassled about the life issue and the gun issue, you knew that was going to happen, so he really had that down pat. But the immigration thing came out of the blue. Now he is dancing, trying to figure out what steps to take to evade this one too.”
“I think it is impossible for any presidential candidate to believe that there is Teflon,” said Kevin Madden, a spokesman for Mitt Romney. “Both the media and scrutiny by a national electorate will always guarantee that everything sticks at some point.”
Mr. Giuliani’s problems started when Mr. Romney broached the subject of immigration on Aug. 8 by calling New York, under Mr. Giuliani, a “poster child for sanctuary cities in the country.”
On Aug. 14, Mr. Giuliani, anxious to avoid appearing weak on an issue that had contributed greatly to the demise of John McCain’s campaign, boldly told voters in South Carolina that “I promise you, we can end illegal immigration.”
It was a bad calculation.
A day later, a rival campaign provided the liberal blog Talking Points Memo with a 1996 video showing Mr. Giuliani, complete with glossy comb-over, telling an audience at Harvard’s Kennedy School of government that “we’re never ever going to be able to totally control immigration to a country that is as large as ours.”
In the 1996 speech, which was quickly posted to YouTube and spread all over the Web, Mr. Giuliani goes on to say efforts to comprehensively stop immigration “might very well destroy the economy of the United States.”
Mr. Giuliani’s response was weak: He explained what looked to all the world like a blatant flip-flop by saying that advances in technology have created methods of fighting illegal immigration that were unimaginable when he made his 1996 remarks.
Since then, it’s been open season on Mr. Giuliani.
Mr. Tancredo said that for months he had been trying to “raise as much hell as I can and draw attention to this terrible, terrible hypocrisy,” but, he admitted, nobody was listening. All of a sudden, he said, something has changed. “You’ve got somebody with enough money to press it home: Romney.”
And Mr. Romney has spent money to do just that. On Aug. 21, the former Massachusetts governor released a new radio ad in New Hampshire and Iowa that says “immigration laws don’t work if they’re ignored. That’s the problem with cities like Newark, San Francisco and New York City that adopt sanctuary policies.”
“Essentially,” Mr. Madden explained, “what you have is a record that is abysmal.”