What's the difference between a change of position and a change in tone?

On so many issues -- abortion rights, gay rights, gun rights, and now immigration, Giuliani has adopted the language, intonation and policy orientation of a conservative while insisting that his underlying position hasn't changed.

Does it really matter if Giuliani says he is pro-choice if he'll appoint pro-life "(non-activist")judges? That he supports domestic partnership benefits for gays if he won't sign any do-pa legislation while in office? That he's hard on illegal immigration if he won't deport the 12M illegals already here?

One cannot listen to this excerpt of Giuliani, taken from an apperance before the Kennedy School of Government in 1996, and conclude that, in the back of his mind, Giuliani was somehow arguing that if only our law enforcement techniques got better, we'd be able to solve the problem. He was making an affirmative argument that solving the problem itself could be more harmful than preserving the status quo So -- clearly -- Giuliani's argument has changed.

Perhaps 9/11 is responsible; perhaps the events of that day convinced him of the imperative of finding a solution to this insoluble problem. Perhaps he has adjusted his tone for political reasons.

Is it fair to compare Giuliani and immigration to Mitt Romney and abortion? Well, Romney changed his mind about abortion and admits it.

Jason Miller, a Giuliani spokesperson, e-mails:

“As the Mayor made clear in his comments over a decade ago the technology simply did not exist to completely secure the border in 1996. Reasonable people understand we have made great technological strides in the past 11 years and our national security now depends on stopping the flow of illegal immigrants to our country. The fact of the matter is we can and must end illegal immigration, and Mayor Giuliani is the leader our country needs to get it done.”

A side note: it might be tougher for Romney to try to turn this particular issue into an example of Rudy's flip-flopping, given the reams of YouTube videos purporting to document his own evolution. Romney is on safer ground when he argues that Giuliani is weak on immigration, not that he's changed his position.

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