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THE NATION

Giuliani praises Bush's Iraq policy, foresight

He disparages a Senate nonbinding rebuke on a visit to California to build a GOP campaign base for the presidency.

February 11, 2007|Michael Finnegan | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Republican presidential hopeful Rudolph W. Giuliani praised President Bush's war leadership on Saturday and mocked supporters of a nonbinding congressional resolution condemning the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq.

The former New York City mayor came to Bush's defense as he promoted his White House candidacy at a California Republican convention. Drawing parallels between Iraq and America's Civil War, Giuliani compared Bush's political troubles to Abraham Lincoln's. When the Civil War was unpopular, Giuliani said, Lincoln "kept his eye ahead."

"He was able to say, 'I know my people are frustrated, and I know my people are angry at me.' " But after weighing public opinion, Lincoln had "that ability that a leader has -- a leader like George Bush, a leader like Ronald Reagan -- to look into the future," Giuliani said.

Giuliani's defense of the currently unpopular president comes as he is portraying himself as a decisive leader unafraid to buck public opinion.

Several potential Republican presidential candidates, including Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as well as Giuliani, have supported Bush's plan to add more than 20,000 troops to U.S. forces in Iraq.

The major Democratic candidates have opposed the move. Several are senators who have advocated a nonbinding resolution condemning the buildup.

"In the business world, if two weeks were spent on a nonbinding resolution, it would be considered nonproductive," Giuliani told the lunch crowd, setting off a burst of laughter.

He called the concept "a comment without making a decision." America, he added, is "very fortunate to have President Bush."

"Presidents can't do nonbinding resolutions. Presidents have to make decisions and move the country forward, and that's the kind of president that I would like to be, a president who makes decisions."

Giuliani, who takes liberal stands on abortion, guns and gay rights, avoided those issues in his speech to party delegates, many of whom are staunch social conservatives. They warmly applauded him, giving him several standing ovations for a speech that emphasized tough rhetoric on terrorism and repeated invocations of Reagan and other Republican icons.

"The great moral issue of Ronald Reagan's time was defeating communism, and he understood that," said Giuliani, whose national popularity burgeoned after he led New York through the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "The great moral issue of our time is defeating terrorism."

Giuliani spent a good deal of time in Sacramento courting Republican lawmakers, part of his early effort to build the foundation of a political operation in California.

The state, long an afterthought in races for parties' presidential nominations, California is likely to play a much larger role in 2008 because lawmakers are on the verge of advancing the state's primary to Feb. 5.

That could benefit Giuliani, since California's Republicans are somewhat more accommodating to socially moderate candidates than those in other states. He plans to spend Monday and Tuesday in California as well, raising money and introducing himself to key voter groups.

Giuliani made the rounds of Republican constituency groups at the convention, attending small meetings of women, Jews, Asian Americans and lawyers.

But he canceled a plan to take questions from members of the conservative California Republican Assembly. The group's president, Mike Spence, called it "your basic snub."

"His problem is that his views on so many issues are out of the mainstream of the Republican Party," Spence said. "He has a lot of explaining to do."

But Bruce L. Bialosky, a moderate Republican fundraiser in Los Angeles, called Giuliani "an excellent candidate" after hearing his speech.

"He can really connect with the American people," Bialosky said.

michael.finnegan@latimes.com

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