April 25, 2007 -- Aboard a bus emblazoned with the state slogan "Live Free or Die," former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani barnstormed New Hampshire Tuesday, preaching the lessons of Sept. 11, and making the case that the best defense is good offense when it comes to issues of national security.
Pressed on only a few occasions in four stops, Giuliani came across as a man comfortable in his own skin, attempting to make history as the first mayor elected directly to the White House from City Hall.
And Giuliani made no secret of how he intends to win: It's all about keeping the country safe and making the pitch that only the right Republican can do so.
New York State of Mind
Speaking before several hundred students, teachers and members of the community at a town hall meeting at New England College in Henniker, Giuliani fielded audience questions for a little over an hour, sparking the most heated exchange of a long day on the campaign trail.
Marty Capodice, a former Republican from Hopkinton, N.H., questioned Giuliani about how the Bush administration has undercut "just about every personal right" in its pursuit of the war on terror and trampled on the Geneva Convention.
Without pause, Giuliani took Capodice to task, saying he "over exaggerated the case."
"There are people in this world that are organized, and they are organizing around the notion of coming here to attack us and kill us," Giuliani added. "The only way you're going to stop this, the only way you are going to find out about it in advance, the only way you are going to prevent another Sept. 11 from happening, is by being aggressive."
Capodice, unhappy with Giuliani's answer blurted out "no rights?", to which the former mayor of New York took umbrage.
"That's hardly no rights," he said, with his voice rising, displaying the combative style which became commonplace during his tenure as mayor.
"You live in a country where you have more courts than anybody in the world. You live in a country that has more rights than any in the history of the world. You have more freedom than anyone, than anyone in this world has ever had. And no one is taking that away," Giuliani rebutted.
The crowd, while cheering initially for the question of Capodice, cheered even louder as Giuliani concluded his response.
Even when the subject of national security went unsolicited, it remained the key thrust of Giuliani's approach.
Speaking at a Lincoln Day Dinner sponsored by the Rockingham County Republican Committee, Giuliani asserted, "If any Republican is elected president -- and I think obviously I would be the best at this -- we will remain on offense and will anticipate what (the terrorists) will do and try to stop them before they do it."
Choosing to focus on his differences with Democrats rather than with his own party, Giuliani took aim on Democrats on several issues; most pointed was his criticism of how Democrats would handle the war on terrorism.
"I listen a little to the Democrats and if one of them gets elected, we are going on defense," Giuliani continued. "We will wave the white flag on Iraq. We will cut back on the Patriot Act, electronic surveillance, interrogation and we will be back to our pre-Sept. 11 attitude of defense."
"The Democrats do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us," he added.
It was Giuliani's recurring theme: The Democrats are weak on national security and any Republican candidate would make a better president; but, given his experience running one of the largest cities in the world, and particularly on Sept., he's the best choice.
Giuliani's potential Democratic foes were not amused, wasting no time in rebutting the former Mayor's argument.
"Rudy Giuliani...has taken the politics of fear to a new low and I believe Americans are ready to reject those kinds of politics," said Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in a statement. "America's mayor should know that when it comes to 9/11 and fighting terrorists, America is united."
Fellow candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., also responded to Giuliani's remarks, though did not mention him by name.
Citing the threats faced by the country, Clinton said in a statement: "If the last six years of the Bush Administration have taught us anything, it's that political rhetoric won't do anything to quell those threats," asserting, "One of the great tragedies of this Administration is that the President failed to keep this country unified after 9/11."
"The next President is going to be left with these problems and will have to do what it takes to make us safer and bring Democrats and Republicans together around this common mission of protecting our nation," said Clinton.
Giuliani Pressed on Domestic Issues
Voters in New Hampshire, home to the nation's first primary, had more than just security on their minds. Over the course of the day, Giuliani faced questions on abortion, health care and the tragedy at Virginia Tech.
On the subject of the Supreme Court's ruling last week on the procedure known to its opponents as partial-birth abortion, Giuliani insisted his support for their decision to uphold the ban was consistent with his pro-choice views.
"I said that choice is a matter of personal freedom and I believe that," said Giuliani. "I believe that abortion is wrong and if that was something I was gonna be asked, my opinion about it, I would tell a woman that there is a better choice. That adoption is the better choice."
Throughout the day Giuliani met several Granite Staters wearing T-shirts reading: "I am a Health Care Voter."
Giuliani was prepared for their questions and outlined how he would go about dealing with the health care crisis, but again phrased each response not in terms of his differences with fellow Republicans, but rather in opposition to the Democrats.
"What (Democrats) want to do is increase the government control of it," Giuliani told voters. "Right now health care is controlled too much by the government and too much by employers. And it's become an entitlement, not an insurance program. What we have to do is increase the amount of competition."
Giuliani laid out a tax deduction plan for those who bought their own health insurance.
Under this proposal, Americans who bought their own health insurance would be entitled to a $15,000 tax deduction. Those who were able to find insurance for less than that amount would be able to pocket the balance in addition to expanding health care saving accounts.
Asked about gun control and school safety in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre, the former mayor responded, "No place is ever totally safe, there is no such thing as total safety…One of the things that I had to do (as mayor of New York), which was controversial, was put police officers inside schools."
"The reason I had to do it," he added, "was that there were kids inside the school that were armed who were taking advantage of other kids. And we needed to protect them. So if that necessary than that is something you have to be willing to do."
Giuliani, who supported gun control efforts in New York, also added, "It looks like the laws were in place that, if followed, would have prevented this, laws against people with mental disabilities of this kind…There was a ban on guns on that campus. But the fellow who didn't follow it was the perpetrator."
Trading Manhattan for Manchester
If the voters in New Hampshire didn't like Giuliani's answers, they certainly liked Giuliani.
Shaking hands and autographing pictures, books and baseballs, Giuliani seemed to shine in the attention of often adoring crowds.
And Giuliani got personal: At Blake's Restaurant in Manchester, the once unpopular mayor turned national fixture on Sept. 11, stepped behind the counter to take orders, calling out one request for a hamburger and another for ice cream.
It was that day, that experience, that propelled Giuliani onto the national stage, giving him a chance to make a run for the White House and the former mayor certainly doesn't let audiences forget it.
"This war ends when they stop planning to come here and kill us," Giuliani said at a Republican dinner. "But until then, if I have anything to say about it, the lesson I learned coming out of Sept. 11, 2001, is, never, ever again will this country be on defense waiting for them to come to us. The United States of America will be on offense and, make no mistake about it, the Democrats want to put us back on defense," Giuliani said, drawing applause, once again, from the crowd.