Hill looks back on Giuliani’s campaign

Following his decisive victories in a number of presidential primaries yesterday, many within the conservative establishment have turned their focus to Arizona Senator John McCain, who appears at this point to have the edge in securing his party’s nomination — and away from the one-time frontrunner, Rudy Giuliani.

But at Yale, diplomat-in-residence Charles Hill is still reminiscing — with a combination of fondness and disappointment — about the so-called “America’s Mayor,” on whose campaign he served until the doomed operation ended last week following disappointing Florida primary results.

Even though Hill said he enjoyed his work as chief foreign-policy adviser to Giuliani’s presidential campaign, he would demand a different role before he would consider doing similar work.

“I would have to have some greater say over, particularly, the public handling of [the campaign] … because without a good communications approach, it doesn’t matter what you do — it’s just not going to go anywhere,” Hill said.

Giuliani withdrawl came after a disappointing, though ultimately not unexpected, third-place finish in Florida, the state in which he had invested much of his time, money and the viability of his candidacy.

The candidate’s focus on Florida — at the expense of campaigning in the early primaries — was a mistake, Hill said in an interview with the News on Friday. But it was also part of a larger failure on the part of Giuliani’s communications staff to engage the media and, through them, the American public, Hill said.

Hill pointed to a foreign-policy speech Giuliani gave in September as emblematic of the campaign’s inability to draw attention to its candidate.

“Giuliani gave a speech in London that was a very serious and impressive speech,” Hill said. “It got very good press in London, and got no press here at all. Things that were done were not reported very well, and that, I think, was the fault of the communications team itself.”

These two problems, combined with debate formats that “trivialized and demeaned” and “swallowed … any attempt to stand out,” Hill said, left Giuliani with almost no public exposure.

“When the media was gearing up and becoming totally focused on the early primaries, they gave Giuliani almost zero coverage because he wasn’t a factor,” he said.

“Except for the New York Times,” Hill added.

Hill reserved his harshest criticism for the Times — “a never-ceasing slander machine,” he called it — but he admitted the paper succeeded where the Giuliani campaign did not.

“The communications strategy of the Times was far better than ours,” he said.

He criticized the paper for running what he described as stock feature stories looking back at and “denouncing” the mayor’s past — and using them in such a way that they seemed like news, even though Hill said they had no relevance to the current moment.

Another common criticism of Giuliani also had no basis in reality, Hill said.

“The neo-con charge, that was really a concoction,” he said.

Hill offered his own definition of neo-conservatives as liberal Democrats of the 1970s alarmed by what they perceived as an overly soft approach from Nixon, Kissinger, Ford and Carter towards Communists during the Cold War.

Hill noted that he was also tagged with the label for supposedly signing a letter to President George W. Bush ’68 from the conservative Project for a New American Century advocating the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Hill’s signature appears on the organization’s Web site, but he said he had specifically rejected the idea of putting his name to the letter, because his opposition to Hussein went all the way back to 1990, and he didn’t want to tie it specifically to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

Somehow, it appeared anyway, Hill said.

Instead of neo-conservatism, Hill said the defining feature of Giuliani’s foreign policy is what he described as his “comprehensive view of international affairs.”

“He saw the system as a whole and recognized that each part of it related to all the other parts,” Hill said. “His view of governance is looking to see what the system is. He recognized that everything has a system — a company has a system, a law firm has a system, a city has a system and the world has a system.”

Hill said this mode of thinking allowed Giuliani to see interconnections and that this was what initially drew him to the candidate.

“I think all the other candidates and generally the discourse about foreign affairs and political life don’t see it that way,” Hill continued. “They see it as a stand-alone question. Iraq is just Iraq, and if it’s going well, its going well.”

Bush has this ability to see regional interconnection to some extent, Hill said.

“You can see that in his National Security strategy of 2002 and 2006 … but not as much as with Giuliani,” he added.

That Hill even began working for Giuliani is mostly the product of the initial persistence of the Giuliani campaign.

A year ago, Hill met with members of the campaign on several occasions before finally meeting with the candidate himself. Although the initial meetings went well, Hill told the campaign that teaching commitments prevented him from accepting an offer as chief foreign-policy adviser.

Three or four weeks later, though, the campaign returned, asking again, and promising that it would work around time conflicts.

This time, Hill agreed, and after a conversation with Giuliani that “ranged across all the continents,” he settled down to the task of creating a foreign-policy team.

After assembling a team that was geographically and functionally diverse, Hill said, the members set about creating “a complete foreign policy for the next president.”

“In other words, I was not waiting to respond to questions from the campaign, and I was not focused on the immediate issues of world problems of this week or this day,” Hill explained.

Hill was interested in looking ahead, but not for himself. He said he had been up front with the campaign that he had no interest in accepting a position in a future Giuliani administration.

But the possibility of that appointment never became an issue, as Giuliani — the one-time front-runner — made an early exit. Upon leaving, Giuliani immediately endorsed McCain, an offering of support that did not surprise Hill, given their agreement on some foreign-policy issues.

Both politicians supported the “surge” in American troop levels in Iraq last winter, although Hill said McCain was in better position to tout that support because he had been to Iraq to see the situation with his own eyes. Because Giuliani, unlike McCain, is not a current member of the government, Hill said, he had no ability to request such a visit, even though he would have liked to go.

The troop increase was not the only area in which Giuliani failed to capitalize on his foreign-policy proposals, Hill said. Regarding Pakistan — which was riled by protests surrounding its parliamentary elections and suffered the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto — Hill said the other politicians, on both sides of the aisle, made a number of foolish statements — that the country was breaking up, or that Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf had to leave.

Giuliani’s “moderate” approach was responsible, but not a headline maker, Hill said

“Keep the nation together and keep on the offense against the terrorists,” Hill said, explaining Giuliani’s position, “and you’ll see democracy go forward under the Constitution.”

The experience as Giuliani’s adviser was “really fun,” Hill said, noting that serious candidates, regardless of party affiliation, truly care about helping the country and “doing the right thing.”

He pointed to an appearance in New Hampshire last month at which Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 became “emotional.”

“That was a very affecting moment, because it was really honest,” Hill said. “She was really saying, ‘I’m doing this because I really, really want to help fix this country’s problems.’”

Still, the Giuliani campaign was not all pleasantries.

“It’s really a pretty dirty business,” Hill said. “That’s one of the reason these campaigns are good — because you’ve got to be able to handle the brutality. You have to have the scars.”

One of Giuliani’s problems, Hill said, was that he ran such a clean, positive campaign.

“He refused to be negative,” remarked the Studies in Grand Strategy teacher.

Hill said there were good advertisements that argued back, that Hill said seemed to him perfectly honest, but which Giuliani rejected for fear of appearing to unfairly attack his fellow Republicans.

“That approach, I think, doesn’t work,” Hill said. “When you’re charged with something and you don’t answer, then it’s taken to be truth.”

Comments

  • Anonymous

    What's with you guys at the YDN and the love-affair with Hill? Over 1400 words wasted on a self-promoting, pompous, "diplomat-in-residence" (whatever the hell that is). Does the willingness to give interminable/innumerable interviews on one's own importance make one newsworthy? Rudy and Charlie! What a team!!!

  • Gary Schmitt

    I was executive director of the Project for the New American Century from 1997 to 2005. I have never met Charles Hill in person, although he and I have numerous mutual friends. It is inconceivable that I would put his name down on a letter to the president without having some affirmative response from him since, again, I did not know him and would never have acted so presumptively. Moreover, whatever Mr. Hill is telling himself now, he never called me to ask to have his name removed from any letters. Again, I would have remembered such a event since it would have been the only occasion in the history of PNAC for a signatory to ask to have his name removed. Sorry, Charlie. Gary Schmitt

  • Laurence Sterne

    I have to agree with poster #1, above. The grip that this strange Charles Hill has on the minds of some Yale undergrads today is troubling. What has happened to these students' critical faculties? They might exercise those faculties by scrutinizing some of the nonsense that Hill pours forth in this interview. And, yes, what kind of editorial judgment do those in charge in the Britton Hadden Memorial Building possess. The number of minds at Yale who merit 1400 words is many. Charles Hill hardly counts among them, however. And if he is to be interviewed on his support for Giuliani, he needs to be asked some tough questions, not just offered an "open mic."