When my friend, former US Rep. Bob Schaffer, asked me to lead the Pledge of Allegiance in the name of Franco-American friendship last July on my final visit to his Fort Collins breakfast club before I went back to France, it was one of the most awe-inspiring and proudest moments of my life. In terms of symbolism and unshakeable fealty to the transcendentally humane American experience, voting in an American presidential election as a legal immigrant and naturalized US citizen would undoubtedly rank with that memorable summer morning. As the primary season looms larger and larger in American voters’ minds, and as my own philosophical hopes for mankind rest ever more confidently on America’s uniqueness, allow me to indulge in transatlantic electoral fantasy and to sketch out what my expectations would be if I were an American voter myself.
Well, first, nonvoting wouldn't even be an option. I would expect to experience the same high degree of enthusiasm and determination that characterized my decision to vote against the ultimately socialistic and liberticidal aspirations contained in the European Constitution which French voters ended up disapproving in a 2005 referendum held. Sitting on my hands on Election Day, at a time when so much is at stake in terms of individual freedom and national security in the United States right now, would be irresponsible and cowardly, if not downright seditious.
Speaking of Europe, I would also expect my candidate to solemnly pledge to strengthen America’s foundations and enhance the country’s role as a beacon to the rest of the world by unambiguously repudiating Europe’s Faustian social-welfare solicitude... its socialistic, high-taxing, growth-killing, unemployment-friendly economic policies... its relativistic attempts to separate responsible individual freedom from the prescriptions for self-discipline and self-restraint derived from our Judeo-Christian heritage... and its squeamishness in foreign affairs.
In other words, I would look for a candidate who would resist the temptation to infantilize the American people, instead invoking the Reaganesque spirit (in advance of Reagan's own presidency) of that 1976 Republican Party platform where conservatives fearlessly declared their belief that “liberty can be measured by how much freedom you have to make your own decisions – even your own mistakes.”
As my description of the ideal candidate makes clear, Democratic hopefuls would be unsuitable as they seek to be too liberally European. The question boils down to this then: Does any one of the current top-tier candidates in the Republican field meet my criteria?
Well, although I welcome Mitt Romney’s conversion to many conservative ideas and applaud his energy and articulateness, I question his authenticity and philosophical resilience in a general election campaign.
I also salute Fred Thompson’s entry into the race as a prod to the other candidates to keep to the conservative straight and narrow -- but I resent his nonchalance.
As for Rudy Giuliani, I believe he is very much mistaken if he regards the abortion issue as having been democratically settled once and for all when the U.S. Supreme Court made its Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973.
And yet, I would vote for Rudy Giuliani. I would have every confidence in his resoluteness and his dispassionate ruthlessness in the war on terror. I find evidence of that in an article he wrote for the September-October issue of Foreign Affairs in which he concludes that “we have learned that evil must be confronted – not appeased – because only principled strength can lead to a realistic peace.”
I would find comfort and inspiration in Giuliani's free-market credentials. I would trust his commitment to appoint “strict constructionist” judges to the U.S. Supreme Court, to oppose partial-birth abortion and to stand up for traditional marriage.
Dr. James Dobson and other religious leaders have upped the ante lately by threatening to support a third-party candidate of their own if Mayor Giuliani were to win the Republican nomination. They are right to flex their muscles as endorsements are starting to be made -- but in fairness, Mr. Giuliani’s pledges suggest he would be doing nothing less than President Bush himself, who has consistently been described as amenable to religious concerns.
After all, even Mr. Bush did not push the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment very hard and Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land. Is it fair to hold Mr. Giuliani up to standards which others, who have been hyped as more conservative than he is, have apparently failed to live up to?
Finally, unless conservatives are willing to hand over the White House to the Democrats in the hope that four or eight years of relentless liberalism will energize conservatives even more and engineer the emergence of a vibrantly conservative candidate with a consistently conservative record next time around, they have to admit that only Rudy Giuliani stands a realistic chance of defeating Hillary Clinton in November 2008.
What is at stake here is America’s willingness to remain America. When Mr. Giuliani says in Foreign Affairs that “the era of cost-free anti-Americanism must end”, and that “preserving and extending American ideals must remain the goal of all U.S. policy, foreign and domestic”, I believe him -- and I believe he can deliver.
P.S: Bob, good luck with your US Senate campaign in Colorado.
Note: “Paoli” is the pen name, or should we say nom de plume, of our French correspondent. Monsieur is a close student of European politics, a onetime exchange student in Colorado, and a well-wisher to us Americans. He informs us the original Pasquale Paoli, 1725-1807, was the George Washington of Corsica.