Giuliani impresses GOP's most conservative members

N.Y. mayor visits Arizona for political gathering

January 03, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

PHOENIX -- The mayor of New York, a tough-talking Italian-American with a reputation as a liberal, swept into this Southwestern outpost yesterday to take on some of the Republican Party's staunchest conservatives.

It was no contest. Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani quickly won them over, first with his best raspy Godfather imitation, then by bragging about reducing welfare and crime, then by asserting to this audience of anti-Clintonites that impeachment isn't worth it. He won a standing ovation, as well as invitations to be a guest on numerous television shows and favorable comments from skeptics who said they liked his take-charge executive style.

The mayor has big ambitions -- perhaps the Senate, perhaps higher -- and he is showing his wares to the nation and hoping to raise money for whatever bid he makes.

He spoke here at the annual New Year's gathering of conservatives called The Weekend, formerly known as the Dark Ages.

Giuliani described his push to reduce New York's welfare rolls and cut the murder rate. He disparaged the "romanticism" of homelessness and warned that while food stamps were vital for some people, they created the chance for "more fraud than welfare."

A mayor, he said, "has to be capable of getting out of the emotive spin" of ideology and be practical. Republicans have to learn to frame issues in a positive way, rather than by what they oppose, he said.

As he spoke, Grover Norquist, a columnist for the conservative American Spectator, whispered to a friend: "I could live in Rudy Giuliani's America."

For the most part, questions from the audience were friendly. One man asked why Republican governors and mayors seemed so strong while the Republicans in Washington were "a parade of wimps."

"There's a tremendous isolation that goes on in Washington," the mayor replied. "You've got to stop watching Sunday morning television talk shows. They create a reality that doesn't exist in the rest of America." Governors and mayors, he said, do not have the luxury of wallowing in abstract ideological debates -- they have real problems to solve.

One man in the audience challenged Giuliani for favoring censure for Clinton, and the mayor went to some lengths to explain his opposition to impeachment.

He said impeachment should be used very rarely, and only when keeping the president would jeopardize the fate of the nation.

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