Today, Giuliani is a front-runner for the presidency of the United States. Since 9/11 the office he seeks has been radically remade. Led by Dick Cheney, the Bush administration has expanded White House powers to levels unseen since the Nixon years. Claiming an inherent authority to act outside the law, it has unilaterally set aside treaties, intercepted telephone calls between citizens without court warrants, detained individuals indefinitely without judicial review, ordered "enhanced interrogations," or torture, prohibited by law, and claimed the ability to disregard more than 1,000 parts of legislation that it has deemed to improperly restrict its authority. To thwart oversight and checks on its power, all spheres of executive branch operations have been fortified by heightened secrecy.Like the Bush Cheney administration Rudy Giuliani surrounded himself with yes men and ran New York City like the would be tyrant he is. If you liked the Bush/Cheney administration you will love a Giuliani administration. Under Rudy Giuliani whatever is left of the constitution after eight years of Bush/Cheney will be shredded.
This expansion has warped policy decisions, undermined the country's authority abroad, and damaged the framework of laws, institutions, and processes that secure citizens against abuse by the state. It also prompts two of the most crucial, if as yet unasked, questions of the 2008 presidential race: Which contenders are most likely to relinquish some of these powers, or, at the very least, decline to fully use them? And, alternatively, which candidate is most likely to not only embrace the powers that Bush has claimed, but to seize more? The reply to the first question is complicated, but to the second it's simple: Rudy Giuliani.
Many Giuliani watchers already understand that Rudy is a hothead and a grandstander, even a bit of a dictator at times. These qualities have dominated the story of his mayoralty that most people know. As that drama was unfolding, however, so was a quieter story, driven by Giuliani's instinct and capacity for manipulating the levers of government. His methods, like those of the current White House, included appointments of yes-men, aggressive tests of legal limits, strategic lawbreaking, resistance to oversight, and obsessive secrecy. As was also the case with the White House, the events of 9/11 solidified the mindset underlying his worst tendencies. Embedded in his operating style is a belief that rules don't apply to him, and a ruthless gift for exploiting the intrinsic weaknesses in the system of checks and balances. That's why, of all the presidential candidates, Giuliani is most likely to take the expansions of the executive branch made by the Bush administration and push them further still. The blueprint can be found in the often-overlooked corners of his mayoralty.
By Giuliani's own admission, he would, as president, perpetuate many of Bush's boldest assertions of presidential authority. In 2006, Giuliani told the Wall Street Journal that he would probably keep the detention center at Guantanamo Bay open, saying that its conditions had been "grossly exaggerated." This year, at a New Hampshire town hall meeting, he refused to say whether the Bush administration had gone too far in denying the protection of the Geneva Conventions to terrorist suspects. Giuliani has also indicated that presidents have the power to indefinitely detain American citizens without trial. At a debate, he declared himself opposed to torture but refused to say whether he would outlaw waterboarding, instead offering that interrogators should perform "any method they can think of."
What is most disturbing is the likelihood that a Giuliani administration would venture beyond the expansive claims of executive authority staked out by the Bush White House. For instance, though Bush has demanded that Congress fund the war in Iraq, he has never openly questioned Congress's power of the purse. Giuliani, however, told a reporter that the president has the right to provide money for the troops to stay in Iraq even if Congress withdraws funding. Similarly, Bush has implied that critics of his Iraq policy are unpatriotic, but he has not declared that the government can silence their voices. This September, echoing the sentiments that he repeatedly attempted to enforce as mayor, Giuliani said that the "General Betray Us" ad paid for by the left-wing group MoveOn "passed a line that we should not allow American political organizations to pass."
One might minimize the significance of these kinds of statements as the loose talk of a candidate trying to impress conservative primary voters—indeed, that is how the press has generally treated them. To believe that Giuliani is merely grandstanding, however, is to ignore his history. If he reaches the White House, he will almost certainly do what he did at City Hall: punish dissent, circumvent the law, conceal the workings of the government in secrecy, and use his litigator's gifts to obstruct mechanisms of oversight and accountability.