Speaking of Rudy Giuliani, there’s a point I meant to make a while back when Keith Olbermann and others were making a stink about something Giuliani had said. Since the general issue is bound to come up again, it might be worth pointing this out, even though that little spat is long over. The issue was this: Giuliani said that if the United States chooses a Democratic president, we’re all likely to be less safe. Olbermann had a cow over this.
Now, the problem I had with Olbermann’s response is that it seemed to me to run together two very different kinds of criticism. We might say:
a) Giuliani’s claim is false; and/or
b) Giuliani’s claim is out of the bounds of acceptable political discourse; it’s not the sort of thing that is appropriate for a politician to say.
Now (a) seems to me indisputable, but (b) seems very disputable indeed. Look, Democrats and Republicans are engaged in a policy debate about security. Unless you think that security policies broadly conceived make no difference whatsoever to security, then I think you’re bound to allow that there’s nothing objectionable at all about claiming that people who favour different security policies will make you less secure. Giuliani’s claim is silly in the extreme, but there’s nothing wrong with this kind of claim in general. And it’s a damn good thing too. I want to say – because it’s true! – that George Bush’s policies have made us much less safe than we might otherwise be. When I say this I’m not ipso facto fear mongering.
None of this is to deny, of course, that Republicans have contemptibly exploited people’s fears for several years now. Or that Giuliani ought to be laughed off the national stage for this remark, and many others. Or that he’s an awful man who needs to be vigorously challenged when he says things that are obviously false. But the critical response to this needs to be more precisely targeted, or risk falling into absurdity itself.