Hewitt opens the book with an odd quote though: “Mr. President,” Dean Acheson says in a call to Harry Truman. “The North Koreans have invaded South Korea.” Hewitt writes, “It is with evenings like that one of June 24, 1950, in mind that Americans ought to cast their primary and general election votes for presidents. When devastating surprises arrive, whether on Dec. 7, 1941, Sept. 11, 2001, or any such future day – and there will be many – our country’s survival depends upon the man or woman in the Oval Office.”
Now maybe it’s a New York thing, but if I didn’t know I was reading a Romney book by a Romney fan, I’d immediately have figured I was about to read about Rudy Giuliani.
I think this brilliantly sums up what’s so wildly off-base about conservative thinking. Absolutely nothing in Giuliani’s history suggests that he is any more skilled than a randomly chosen individual at plotting a military response to an armed attack on the United States of America. I understand, of course, why it is that as a matter of electoral politics an “image of toughness” matters more than actual experience or sound policy ideas. What’s crazy about today’s rightwingers, however, is that they’ve chosen not only to accept this slice of politico-media reality but actively embrace it. K-Lo isn’t saying that she thinks others will think Giuliani is good on national security for irrational reasons. She’s saying that she thinks this is true and as best I can tell every conservative pundit in the business thinks the same thing. All of them are actually incapable of discerning the difference between “acts like a jerk” and “would do a good job of organizing a military campaign.”
In addition, we’re seeing a slightly odd revaluation of values. It used to be that the characterological trait looked for in these situations was a kind of stoical poise — someone who could think clearly in the midst of a crisis and issue calm, decisive orders. Giuliani is a bit temperamental and high-strung — prone to lashing-out at radio show callers; his campaign staff doesn’t even trust him to go eyeball-to-eyeball with the national press corps. He’s a sentimentalist who stands by his corrupt friends, a glory hound who fires competent aides who get too popular (imagine FDR sacking Eisenhower in the middle of the war), prone to bouts of senseless cruelty (see, e.g., his treatment of Donna Hanover), public hand-wringing (see, e.g., his abortive 2000 Senate campaign), poor strategic judgment (endorsing Cuomo in ’94), who looks to turn crises to personal advantage (see, e.g., his effort to suspend the rule of law and stay in office past the expiration of his term).