Giuliani is not, pace the NYT, gently shifting to the "right" on abortion and marriage. As best I can tell - and Ann Althouse has done more spadework here - he's simply favoring a federalist answer to divisive, difficult, social and moral questions. As readers know, that's what I've been favoring for quite a while as a small-c conservative truce in the culture wars. There truly is no need to forge a national consensus on issues like abortion and marriage. That's why I've long opposed Roe and supported states' rights on the issue of marriage equality. I don't think Alabama is ready to have the same rights as California or Massachusetts. I feel sure they will one day, just as they eventually dropped slavery and bans on inter-racial marriage. The South is a very conservative place. Forcing them to move more quickly on issues of basic human dignity has historically led to even worse spasms of hatred, as Virginia has shown in the last decade in its vicious legal campaign against gay people.
It seems to me that if the conservative coalition is not going to fracture completely, then federalism is its only option. That way, centrists like McCain, Romney and Giuliani can actually become Republican presidents. Romney, of course, has tried to solve this problem by the most blatant, ugly and naked piece of political cynicism since Hillary focus-grouped her hair. But Giuliani is smarter. For him to adopt the anti-gay bigotry of the GOP base would not be smart politics. Ditto on abortion, where his position is mine: a personal abhorrence for abortion but a reluctant acceptance of its legality in the first trimester, combined with serious efforts to reduce its incidence. Opting to use federalism as the mechanism to allow the social conservatives to support him on other issues like national security and a more competent government, while personally supporting women's freedom and gay dignity, is extremely smart politics.
I think Rudy is the best and most viable candidate the Republicans now have. Scandal may still derail him; but his tolerance, sense of fun, respect for alternative views on abortion, and connection with urban America should be regarded as assets, not liabilities for an increasingly marginalized GOP. Sure: appoint judges who think poorly of Roe. But let the states decide the substantive policy decisions on marriage and life.
And give McCain the Pentagon. They need him.
(Photo: Nicholas Roberts/AFP.)