Back in 2005, when Harriet Miers was humiliated and forced to withdraw her nomination to the Supreme Court, the Republican Party’s right-wing base was largely responsible. Having torpedoed their own president’s nominee for being insufficiently zealous regarding their social and legal agenda, the Right forced President Bush to send them someone whose ideological commitment could not be doubted, which he did by nominating Samuel Alito.
In the face of what, initially, seemed insurmountable odds, the Right mobilized and managed to torpedo Miers’ nomination in just under a month, achieving arguably their single most significant political triumph of the entire Bush presidency to date.
Now, heading into 2008, the Right is facing what some of them see as an even more ominous threat: the prospect that Rudy Giuliani could win the GOP presidential nomination. And just as they did with Miers, right-wing activists – especially anti-choice Catholic ones – are gearing up to launch an all-out attack in an effort to deny Giuliani the nomination:
Fidelis America, the political-action committee of Fidelis, is arguably the best-established of the anti-Rudy organizations, and it’s certainly the most open about its overall strategy. A Michigan-based Catholic organization cleverly designed to navigate the tangle of federal campaign-spending restrictions, the group’s various arms have been registered as political-action committees, independent-expenditure committees and nonprofits.
The organization, whose executive director previously headed the Ave Maria List, a nonprofit political entity founded by Domino’s Pizza magnate Thomas Monaghan, is perhaps best known for alleging bias when CNN refused to run one of their issue ads featuring Mother Teresa, but later ran a spot by the pro-choice group NARAL. Fidelis promptly launched an e-mail campaign that crashed the network’s servers within hours.
Fidelis also claims credit for spearheading the development of WithdrawMiers.org, a site that registered more than two million hits during the ideologically moderate former White House counsel’s failed bid for a Supreme Court slot.
Mr. Cella says that the organization will try to provide a comprehensive, Web-based “clearinghouse” of issue-based opposition research, and that it will also engage in the distribution of more traditional negative literature, as when the group recruited a handful of volunteers to network and pass out its anti-Rudy materials at the South Carolina debate earlier this month.
A separate effort from another group of Catholic activists—to operate under the admirably straightforward title of Catholics Against Rudy—will also take aim at Mr. Giuliani’s record on social issues. It’s the brainchild of Georgia lawyer Steve Dillard, best known as the formerly anonymous voice of Southern Appeal, a conservative Catholic legal blog that drew a wide-ranging, fiercely loyal audience until Mr. Dillard outed himself and subsequently retired the site five months ago.
Mr. Dillard, along with other bloggers, commentators and activists who are planning to participate in the effort, are modeling their project on the headline-grabbing Catholics Against Kerry site that targeted the Democratic nominee three years ago. (Organizers say that none of the individuals involved in that operation are principals in the new effort.)
“It’s not a vast right-wing conspiracy,” said Mr. Dillard, “but if you’re active on these issues, you build up networks of people who share your concerns, who are very involved, and who have very significant followings. These aren’t just ‘likely voters’—these are very serious, die-hard activists. And they all have readers and supporters.”
Though there has been a steady stream of grumbling from the Right about Giuliani to date, these two initiatives appear to be the first concerted efforts any activists have made to actually try and weaken his campaign chances.
While some on the right are hedging their bets, and even praising Giuliani for his pledge to appoint “strict constructionist” Supreme Court justices, that argument isn’t working with these fervently anti-choice activists.
Considering that both Fidelis and Dillard were instrumental in the successful take-down of Harriet Miers, it looks as if Giuliani’s campaign is about to have quite a fight on its hands.