Fear factor will feature prominently in Giuliani campaign

April 30, 2007|By CYNTHIA TUCKER

ATLANTA -- So what sort of presidential campaign do you run if you're too liberal for conservatives, you're too Republican for Democrats, and you drag along a personal life too messy for moderates?

Rudolph W. Giuliani has just answered that question: He'll be counting on the fear factor.

Mr. Giuliani has become the first Republican presidential candidate to enthusiastically embrace the Karl Rove strategy of scaring voters into becoming supporters. Campaigning in New Hampshire last week, Mr. Giuliani declared that if a Democrat were to be elected president in 2008, he (or she) would "wave the white flag" in Iraq, and America would suffer "more losses."

Later, Mr. Giuliani told conservative talk-show host Sean Hannity that Democrats "do not seem to get the fact that there are people, terrorists in this world, really dangerous people that want to come here and kill us. That in fact they did come here and kill us twice, and they got away with it because we were on defense - because we weren't alert enough to the dangers and risks."

That same strategy was key to President Bush's victory in 2004. The president and his surrogates painted Democrats as weak-kneed defeatists, appropriated the imagery of 9/11, and used all the tools of the presidency to frighten voters into believing al-Qaida lurked just around the corner - waiting for the return of a Democrat to the Oval Office.

You'll remember that campaign, replete with frequent escalations of the threat matrix - yellow to orange, orange to red, red to vermilion. In August 2004, the Bush administration even declared an imminent threat against financial institutions in the New York and Washington areas. (Curiously, terror alerts quieted down to a whisper after Election Day.)

Mr. Giuliani is best known as the mayor who rushed to the scene of the destruction on that awful Tuesday morning, standing bravely with firefighters and police officers, reassuring not only a devastated city but also a shaken nation whose president had disappeared from view. The iconography of 9/11 was bound to figure prominently in his campaign.

But the 9/11 connection also holds pitfalls for "America's Mayor."

As many New York analysts have pointed out, it was during Mr. Giuliani's tenure that the city opened a technologically sophisticated Office of Emergency Management in the World Trade Center complex, where it was useless after the terrorist strike because the entire area had to be evacuated. It's a little tricky, then, for Mr. Giuliani to turn around and blame a Democratic president for failing to predict that terrorists might strike the World Trade Center a second time. (Islamist terrorists had bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, killing six and injuring hundreds.)

He also presided over police and fire agencies that operated on different radio frequencies and were unable to communicate with each other at crucial times on that fateful day. Some critics have argued that that lapse led to deaths that would have been avoided with better equipment.

But what else does Mr. Giuliani have to work with besides fear? On the hot-button issues that arouse social conservatives, his record is decidedly liberal. He recently reaffirmed his support for federally financed abortions for poor women who cannot afford them.

His post-mayoral business dealings may hold hazards for him, because they will come under increased scrutiny during the presidential campaign. His relationship with the now-discredited Bernard Kerik, former New York police commissioner, certainly will come back to haunt him.

And there was Mr. Giuliani's ugly divorce in 2002, which created waves even among world-weary New Yorkers. His wife at the time, Donna Hanover, found out he was getting a divorce when he announced it during a press conference in 2000. And he tried to move his girlfriend, Judith Nathan - now his wife - into Gracie Mansion, the mayor's official residence, even though Ms. Hanover and their children were not ready to move out.

Still, fear could work in Mr. Giuliani's favor. Though a negative emotion, it's a powerful one - more powerful than hope and certainly more persuasive than reason. If another attack occurs on continental soil before Election Day, who knows how the politics will play out.

On the other hand, the voters may well have wised up to those tactics. How might President Bush put it: Scare me once, shame on you. Scare me twice ... well, let's just say it will be harder to scare us again.

Cynthia Tucker is editorial page editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Her column appears Mondays in The Sun. Her e-mail is cynthia@ajc.com.

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