National Catholic Register


Why the Rudy Rejection Matters

BY Paul Kengor

February 24-March 1, 2008 Issue | Posted 2/19/08 at 2:43 PM


With little fanfare, something politically, historically, and even morally significant quickly passed on Jan. 30, 2008, when New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani withdrew from the Republican presidential race.

Such is the superficiality of our media that within a span of minutes the news cycle had already shifted to the Republican crowning of John McCain, the political demise of Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee hanging on.

The reality is that the rejection of Rudy by Republicans should not be brushed off lightly and quickly; it merits pause for careful reflection, and perhaps even celebration.

Let there be no doubt that Rudy was refused because of outrage at how he proudly and unequivocally supports a “woman’s right to choose.” This was a Republican religious rejection of Rudy. He was rejected not only by evangelicals but by the pro-life Catholics who share his party and his faith.

Yet, it was also much more, especially for Republicans and for Catholics. Consider the big picture:

Over the last two or three decades, the Democratic Party has increasingly championed policies that extinguish what Pope John Paul II and his Church have called the first of all freedoms and the most basic of all human rights: the right to life.

Since Roe v. Wade, and particularly since Ronald Reagan’s election in 1981, the Republican Party (by and large) has not sacrificed its soul at the altar of political expediency on the abortion issue. Republicans like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have battled dogmatic abortion advocates in the Democratic Party like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi and now Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, for whom abortion remains a kind of political sacrament, even though some of them are Catholic.

The Democratic leadership has been inhospitable and even hostile to the rare pro-life candidates seeking their party’s presidential nomination, like the late Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey.

This marked split in the two parties has sent many Catholic pro-lifers into the Republican Party. I recall a recent response to an article of mine posted at the website Catholic Exchange, where one e-mailer said that if it were not for the abortion issue, he would never vote Republican.

“A pro-choice Republican is a complete coffin all the way around,” wrote “GK.” “I vote Republican only because of life. Otherwise, I find little to agree upon.”

All of this now brings us to a historic crossroads: Thanks to pro-life diligence by certain Republicans, and particularly two decades of generally decent court appointments by Reagan and Bush (along with some obvious failures), Roe v. Wade has the chance of being reversed under the next president.

And that’s where denying Rudy Giuliani the 2008 Republican nomination and the presidency becomes so profoundly important: If Roe v. Wade is reversed, Catholics, and Catholics who are Republican, will be spared the shame of a Catholic Republican president unable to understand or make the moral case against abortion. They will be spared the spectacle of a Catholic Republican president voicing his “personal disagreement” with the decision.

Imagine the scenario: It is, say, January 2010, and the Supreme Court has just narrowly voted to overturn Roe. The dominant media, which is fanatically in favor of legalized abortion, is fuming with rage. At a White House press conference, reporters are livid, demanding a response from President Giuliani. Instead of hearing thoughtful, reassuring words about the sanctity of unborn life, about charity and compassion, about true social justice for all members of the human family, the president — a Catholic and a Republican — regurgitates some awful Planned Parenthood boilerplate about “women’s health care.”

What a wasted, tragic opportunity that would be.

Alas, the good news is that such will not occur, because of Rudy’s exit from the race. Both the Catholic Church and the Republican Party, which have long been on the right side of the abortion debate, will be saved from the sudden confusing contradiction of a Catholic Republican president who, at a critical juncture in this terrible period of history, represents a very important symbolic and political repudiation of their beliefs on life.

Notably, that repudiation includes Rudy Giuliani’s embrace of not only legalized abortion but embryonic research — i.e., the creation of human life solely for the purpose of destroying it for medical research. Rudy’s Catholic Church calls that an “intrinsic evil.”

Yet, that was where Rudy Giuliani stood on unborn human life. His stance was no different than the tragic positions of John Edwards, of Hillary Rodham Clinton, of Barack Obama. They all shared the same sad nod to the culture of death. And, in the end, death bit the presidential candidacy of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Do not underestimate the lifetime of victory within that loss.

Paul Kengor is author of

The Crusader: Ronald Regan and the Fall of Communism (HarperPerennial, 2007) and The Judge: William P. Clark (Ignatius Press, 2007).