Rudy Giuliani photo

Remarks at The Federalist Society in Washington, DC

November 16, 2007

MAYOR GIULIANI: Thank you very much Ted. Thank you. Thanks. Thank you. Thank you very much Ted Olson for that very humbling introduction and for your friendship and your support over the years. Eugene Meyer, Leonard Leo, Steven Calabresi, Lee Lieberman, David McIntosh, and all of you. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today.

Congratulations on your 25th Anniversary. It's been an absolutely terrific 25 years.

(APPLAUSE)

It's an honor to speak to a group of people who share my viewpoint. I didn't get that opportunity too often in New York. We're a city that was 5 to 1 Democrat as Ted pointed out, so it was an uphill battle. The ideas were always rejected, put aside, attacked, but then everybody loved the results.

But I'm happy to be able to speak to people where the ideas I think are very, very similar. I'm also happy to see that seven members of my judicial task force who advise me on everything are addressing the Federalist Society over the course of this conference. I think it shows the very close connection in terms of ideas, outlook, and goals. And I only have one criticism of your conference. You invited very, very distinguished people from President to Supreme Court Justices to lowly presidential candidates, but I'm a big believer in conversions. And you didn't invite one of the newest federalists. Well, she announced---

(LAUGHTER)

That the best way to deal with driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, well now wait now. I've got to get this straight.

(LAUGHTER)

First she was for the idea and supported Governor Spitzer who wanted to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Then she was against the idea. Then she was for and against the idea and then finally she said it should be decided on a state-by-state basis.

(LAUGHTER)

This is the only time in her career that she's ever decided anything should be decided on a state-by-state basis.

You know something? She picked out absolutely the wrong one.

(LAUGHTER)

Right? I mean this is one of the areas that is given to the federal government to deal with under our Constitution, the borders of the United States, immigration. So maybe you were right not to invite her now that I think about it.

But the people in this room have their sights on higher goals and not just short-term political approval.

You're focused on political principle which sometimes gets missed here in Washington and sometimes, quite frankly, it gets missed all over in the kind of arguments and debates and discussions that we have. And I think that's the reason why you've grown so much so quickly because people really want principle and they understand that our society is moved ultimately by ideas. Personalities can project ideas, but the healthiest way in which our society can move is by ideas. The Federalist Society was formed in the early years of the Reagan administration. At the time, I think you could have fit all the members of the Federalist Society in a phone booth. Of course that's when we had phone booths. I don't think I see any anymore. But today the Federalist Society has over 40,000 members, and it has chapters just about everywhere in the country and in every law school in the country just about.

So this reflects a total change in 25 years in our profession. And it marks the intellectual triumph of your philosophy – keeping faith with the Framers of the Constitution— and a growing momentum toward bringing this country back to its first principles with an understanding that that's where we really derive our strength.

The principles of the Federalist Society are based upon are simple: that the states exist to preserve freedom; that the separation of powers is essential to our Constitution; and that it is the duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what they would like it to be.

In the last 25 years, we've seen these ideas which in prior years had been largely rejected. We've seen them first start as slow and then really a very, very strong march back in to the forefront of the way in which we look at our country and the way in which we look at the interpretation of our country's laws and you should be very, very proud of the fact that the Federalist Society has played a very big role in accomplishing that because in accomplishing that, you are in fact preserving and expanding the very unique kind of freedom and liberty we have in this country. So I congratulate you for that.

(APPLAUSE)

I was privileged to play a role, small role, but a role, in the beginning of all that in the Reagan Justice Department with colleagues like Ted Olson and Ken Starr and Ed Meese and Ed Schmults and Jonathan Rose and lots of other people that you know really well.

It was a very, very exciting time. The Reagan administration had a real sense of mission, a real sense of excitement because it really was a sense of reform and nothing really excites people more than being able to change things in the direction thinking they're going to make things better.

We were determined to restore sound constitutional principles to our judicial system and we've made a lot of progress and it's not complete. There are at least 200 reasons why the next election for President of the United States is going to be a critical one and the most important one that we have in our history. Now I know we say that all the time, that every presidential election is the most important one that we have in our history, but actually, it's a truthful statement isn't it? Because every presidential election, the next one is the most important because it determines the future course of this country. There are a lot of issues, there are a lot of differences, but I'm going to give you 200 reasons why the next election is really important. It's the 200 federal judges that the next President of the United States will likely appoint over four years in the White House. That's roughly the average that a president gets to appoint.

(APPLAUSE)

This organization, probably more than most, understands how crucial that difference will be if a president is elected who has the kind of thinking of a Hillary Clinton or a Barack Obama or a John Edwards, and I don't think there's much distinction there. I think you're going to see 200 decisions of judges who are like those judges who really began the reason for the Federalist Society in the first place. Judges who will be activists in the sense of trying to legislate their social policy through judicial interpretation. Let me assure you that if I am the President of the United States every single one of those decisions will be made very carefully, very deliberately with the advice of people like Ted and the people on my judicial advisory committee because we're seeking to find judges who understand the very, very important concept that judges exist to interpret the law, not to invent the law.

(APPLAUSE)

Last week, I was watching the Chris Matthews show. I have to watch these shows. And you know how he has that Matthews Meter. He takes a question and he gives it to 12 reporters. I have lost 40 of these in a row. But last week, he asked them the following question: "Do you believe that Rudy Giuliani will keep his word and appoint judges who interpret the Constitution, conservative judges?" You know what the vote was among these reporters, some of the most cynical people in Washington? 12-nothing, yes.

(APPLAUSE)

For the first time I agree with a group of Washington reporters. They're right because we believe in the rule of law, not in the rule of judges. Our constitutional principles instruct us that we have to recognize the limitations on power as a way of protecting our liberties. That's really one of the guiding principles of our whole constitutional structure. And for many, many years, law schools, too many of them, had been confusing constitutional law with sociology. And there is a big difference between constitutional law and sociology.

(APPLAUSE)

I stand with Ronald Reagan. He was once accused of having a 19th century attitude on law and order. He responded that it was a false charge. He had an 18th century attitude.

(APPLAUSE)

Our Framers had no doubt about the proper approach to interpretation of the Constitution. You could say they were the original originalists. Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton made current political argument and animosity seem trivial in comparison to the animosity that they had right? But they didn't agree on many things, but they did agree on the following, and I quote Jefferson, "Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction."

(APPLAUSE)

We need judges who embrace originalism, endeavor to determine what others meant when they wrote the words of our Constitution. Justices like Justice Scalia, Justice Thomas, Justice Alito, and Chief Justice Roberts. That would be my model.

(APPLAUSE)

The theme of this conference is "Shining City Upon a Hill: American Exceptionalism." Of course the shining city upon a hill was the great reference that Ronald Reagan used bringing up the words of John Winthrop, but the American exceptionalism is also a very, very important part of that theme. There are some people I think nowadays that doubt that America has a special, even a divinely inspired role in the world. Now I don't understand how you can look at history and not see the wisdom of that and the reality of it.

Most countries on earth developed out of a single ethnicity, a single religion, some common characteristic that bound people together before they were even a nation. America is very, very different. We're not a single ethnicity, we're all ethnicities. We're not a single race, we're all races. We're not a single religion. We were established so that we wouldn't be a single religion. So we're very different in our origins than just about any other country on earth. We're united because of ideas and ideals. That's what holds us together. That's the thing that makes America America, makes Americans Americans—shared ideas.

The ideas first proposed in the Declaration of Independence and then debated in the Constitutional Convention and embodied in the Constitution became the American creed. The set of beliefs that bind us together as a nation. No one was more articulate and better able to explain this than Abraham Lincoln who used to say, "How do you determine who's the best American?" He was once posed that question. Is the best American the one who's family has been here the longest and came over on the Mayflower, or the person who became a citizen yesterday? And Abraham Lincoln said, "The best American is the American who understands our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, our values of political freedom, economic freedom, the rule of law, freedom of choice, freedom of decision-making, freedom for people. People who understand what our country is all about. That's the one that makes the best American." And what he said was we're a people of belief. We're a people of ideas. So to the extent that we keep reminding ourselves of what these ideas are, to that extent we're really enforcing what America is all about. American exceptionalism isn't a debate, it's not something we should be arrogant about where we say, "Oh, we're very, very special." We're just very, very fortunate and when we don't recognize that, I don't think we do justice to our background and to what's expected of us.

(APPLAUSE)

It was this nation that took all of those ideas that developed from way back in the Old Testament and the Greek philosophy and Roman law and the enlightenment. They were all really ideas until they were actually put into practice and no one knew really whether those ideas put into practice would work, and America did. And America established this constitutional democratic government in the form of a republic and it was the nation that from the very beginning saw that tyranny and oppression is something that was illegitimate and had to be dealt with. It was this nation that saved the world from the two great tyrannies of the 20th century, Nazism and Communism. It's this country that's going to save a civilization from Islamic terrorism.

(APPLAUSE)

Now the United States of America has been and will continue to be a beacon of hope for the world. And the democratic debate that we have in this country and the disagreements that we have in this country should not be mistaken anywhere in the world for weakness. America's strength is just as great as it's always been. I remember on the day of September 11th thinking about that and wondering, you know are we up to this, can we deal it, can we handle this, so much worse than anything that at least we thought had happened to us before. And from the first moment when I saw the way the people reacted to it and I saw the way the firefighters and the police officers reacted to it and I saw the construction workers come and volunteer, you know hundreds of them, more than we needed, ultimately thousands of them. I realized that these people are the sons and daughters in spirit and sometimes in blood as the same people that saved our country some many times over and over again. And when you challenge us all this strength comes back, it's really there we should not be worried about it, we have it, this generation is as strong as prior generations of Americans because we come from them and we owe it to them and to ourselves to make sure that this principle of democracy and freedom is upheld, preserved and expanded everywhere in the world.

(APPLAUSE)

Now America is not great however because of our central government.

((LAUGHTER) and (APPLAUSE))

And that may be one of the basic distinctions between the two political parties right now because I do believe quite honestly that the other political party does believe that the greatness of America lies in the central government because they want to impose and give more and more responsibility to the central government. And I think it's a misunderstanding of what works here. We didn't take the European path toward a highly centralized government like most of the European countries did and are doing, some of which are now moving back from that. We chose a unique option, an exceptional American option. We chose a horizontal division of power among the different branches of government, called a separation of powers and a vertical balance of power between the central government, the national government and the states. And it's a maybe more complex way of doing it but it's the one that has worked for us and it's the one that we have to go back to and rely on when we solve our problems. And we have to have faith and confidence in that system because, and again without being arrogant and without being self-congratulatory, isn't it a fact that no other government, no other society has ever succeeded in accomplishing what America has accomplished. We've moved more people out of poverty than any country in the history of the world, we've given more opportunity to people, we have more fairness, not perfection, not absolute fairness, we have tremendous problems we to overcome. But who's done better than the United States of America in overcoming problems, empowering people, creating social mobility, giving people the chance to reach to sky and a realistic chance of getting there and moving people out of situations in which they were treated unfairly. No one's done a better job than us and maybe there's a reason for that. And you know that the reason for it is? The reason for it is number one that God has graced us with this wonderful land and number two it's the genius of our constitutional system. Let's rely on it, let's not reject it.

(APPLAUSE)

Our system doesn't force every state to fit into a straightjacket. So much of the anger and division in politics today stems from the attempt of one faction, whatever the political thinking, to impose their thinking on everyone else through the courts. I believe it's time to close that chapter in our history. I believe we can close that chapter.

(APPLAUSE)

MAYOR GIULIANI: And I believe we can close that chapter in our history by recognizing our history. By recognizing what the strengths are of this country. We can make the constitution once again a document that unites us rather than divides us and then we can focus the debate on the essential issues that are really challenging our nation. We can do it by reinforcing the essential principles our framers built into our democratic system, principles of federalism, limited government and judicial restraint.

(APPLAUSE)

Our system recognizes the fact that different cities and different states face different challenges. They demand flexibility for local decision making. What works in Manhattan, New York is not necessarily what works in Manhattan, Kansas or in Manhattan Beach, California. They maybe all named Manhattan but they have different problems, different issues. The genius of our system is we have the flexibility to allow local governments and to allow states to respond to the different challenges in a different way. We don't put a national centralized straightjacket on them. Federalism gives us flexibility to solve our own problems, it encourages experimentation and innovation. And I believe I understand this probably better than most because it's rooted in my own executive experience. I ran a local government, now when I say local government most people in New York don't think of themselves as having a local government.

(LAUGHTER)

Because New York is so big, it's the seventeenth largest economy in the world, the third largest government in terms of numbers of employees, one of the largest budgets in the country but still it's a local government. And I tried to learn from other local governments, I'll give you one example. Washington was still debating welfare legislation while welfare reform was being implemented in places like Wisconsin and New York. We learned the principles of welfare reform not from the central government, we learned it from Wisconsin. We borrowed it from Tommy Thompson when he was governor of Wisconsin. And then we built on them, he made them work in Wisconsin, we learned from them and then we made them work in the biggest city in the United States with by far the biggest welfare problem and if it could work in New York it could work anywhere. It can if it can work in New York, believe me if you can move welfare in New York, you can move welfare anywhere.

(LAUGHTER)

When we first started there was great consternation about it, great fear, great worry that it wouldn't work but we stuck with the basic principles of it, workfare, accountability, a JobStat program and I'll give you the end result. The end result was 640,000 people removed from the welfare rolls.

(APPLAUSE)

One of the proudest days I had of Mayor of New York City was changing the name on the door of the welfare office. We took down the sign that said welfare office and we put up a sign that said New York City Job Center.

(LAUGHTER)

And I believe that that change in New York City is one of the reasons why, not the only, reductions in crime, quality of life, reductions in taxes, increase in businesses certainly played a role in this but I think it's one of the reasons why New York City continues to be a city where crime is declining where many other cities unfortunately have started to move in the other direction because we made a fundamental change in the life of the people. And to understand what Federalism is all about and our constitution is all about you have to recognize that this is all about the people, it's not all about the government. The government is incidental, the people are primary.

(APPLAUSE)

When I first entered office as Mayor of New York City the liberal tax policies and social policies were so bad that the city was unlivable for many, many people. I was elected, I wasn't the mayor yet and they went and took a poll and 60 percent of the people in New York City wanted to live somewhere else. This is a tough way to start.

(LAUGHTER)

When half your people and more want to leave. But I said to myself New York was kind of beyond malaise, see New Yorkers don't feel malaise, they get angry.

(LAUGHTER)

And they let you know about it.

(LAUGHTER)

But our city was hemorrhaging people, it was hemorrhaging businesses and I was presented with a report on what to do about it. The report was bigger than this, it was handed to me and it was a report on how to solve all of our fiscal problems. And the report was basically to raise taxes and it was a big report because we have a lot of taxes.

(LAUGHTER)

And they said what are you going to do with the report? And I said in my usual very understated way…

(LAUGHTER)

…I'm going to throw it in the garbage.

(LAUGHTER)

And I proceeded to do that, I threw it in the garbage and I did something totally different. I lowered taxes. I lowered taxes not once, not twice, I lowered taxes—I actually proposed 64 tax reductions, ended up with 23 for over nine billion dollars and it was at the core of turning New York City around. We were collecting billions of dollars more from the lower taxes than from the higher taxes. We cut the income tax rate by 24 percent. We were collecting 42 percent more revenues from the lower tax than from the higher tax. So don't tell me supply side economics doesn't work. I can prove that it does.

(APPLAUSE)

But there's something beyond just the economics of it. There's something that goes to the core of what this organization is about. The reason tax reductions work when you do them right and not all tax reductions work and not every tax can be reduced and of course the government needs responsible level of revenues. But if you do tax reductions right where it can be done, where there's discretion to do it do you know what you're really doing? You're making a choice, you're making a choice between who do you trust more, the government or the people? When people like Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and Barack Obama and Charlie Rangel, when they're talking about a trillion, two trillion, three trillion dollar tax increases what they're really saying to you is and I believe in good faith they believe this, they're saying government knows better. We can spend your money more wisely than you can. They're sort of playing out the philosophy that the leading Democratic candidate once announced about tax reductions, which was we're going to have to take things from you for the common good.

(ONE PERSON CLAPS)

There's the one person who agrees with that.

(LAUGHTER)

One person. That's about the correct percentage in most of America. One person.

(APPLAUSE)

I have a different philosophy, which I imagine is the philosophy that most of you have, which is that we do best, we effectuate the common good, if we give more things back to you. We leave more of your money in your pocket. It's a choice. It's a choice between government or people. Who do you trust more, government or people? I trust you more. I trust that if I leave money in your pocket, you're going to spend it in a wiser way, in a more intelligent way, in a more productive way. In a way that brings about growth, in a way that brings people out of poverty. It's those principles that I brought to New York City that cut the unemployment rate in half, that brought back 450,000 jobs and just didn't cut welfare but took people on welfare and put them to work so that they could be productive and they could grow. So it's more than just do you cut taxes or do you raise taxes. It's about who do you trust more? Where are you gonna go over the next three or four or five or six or seven or eight years? You're gonna go in the direction of a much larger central government to make all your decisions for you, decisions about health, decisions about your pension, decisions about where your child goes to school, decisions about what happens with your money where there's discretionary money to decide on. Or are you going to go in the direction of what I believe is the quintessential American solution, the thing that makes us great, the thing that has made us exceptional. We're gonna go, if I'm President of the United States, in the direction of giving more money, more authority, more decision making to the people.

(APPLAUSE)

We're also going to put behind us what has been a very, very sad chapter in our history, and we really have to put this behind us and start anew. I think I would trace this chapter to the nomination of Bob Bork, a man who Chief Justice Burger described as one of the most qualified to ever be nominated to serve on the court. I believe--

(APPLAUSE)

His nomination fight hit a new low, and then of course there was the battle regarding Justice Thomas, the attempted character assassination of Justice Thomas, and we had almost gone to the point where the advice and consent clause was being reinterpreted as a way to bring back the Spanish Inquisition rather than what it's supposed to be, which is if you have a Republican President with essentially conservative viewpoint, then that Republican President should be given deference. Even if you don't agree with the philosophy of a particular candidate, you have to give the President his or her choice, and the same thing is true on the other side. With a Democratic President, if the country chooses a Democratic President with a somewhat more liberal or liberal philosophy, what we are going to expect is that that Democratic President is going to make those choices and qualification then should be the issue. Honesty, qualification, integrity, not philosophy. The electorate kind of decides that in the President that they choose, and this has become very, very much distorted. You know about the situation with Miguel Estrada. He was an outstanding candidate, an excellent lawyer, one of the best lawyers in this country, and he wasn't even allowed to get a vote on the floor of the Senate. It was blocked with numerous attempts to stop it and filibusters, and that really isn't right. I believe that is a perversion of what our advice and consent clause really means, and then we saw that happen again with Janice Rogers Brown and with others. And really, the next President is gonna have to call on the Senate to change its rules and ask the Senate to really take seriously what advice and consent means. What advice and consent means is that someone if sent there by the President should get an up or down vote within a reasonable period of time.

(APPLAUSE)

At least have the courage of your convictions. If I'm President, you can be certain I will have the courage to present nominees that I believe in and am willing to stand behind. Well, the Senate should have the courage to vote yes or no but not to hide on those nominations.

(APPLAUSE)

We also believe that the Constitution should be interpreted as it's written not as someone would like it to be. There's a recent decision in the D.C. Circuit on the right to bear arms written by Judge Silberman. I think it's an excellent example of the kind of interpretation that I would expect of judges and justices. He examined the history of the Second Amendment. It's an ancient amendment. It goes back to the Bill of Rights. It's the Second Amendment. He looked at the language, he looked at the history, he looked at the debates, and he came to the conclusion that it's an individual right. Seemed to me almost an obvious conclusion since it's surrounded by the same language that the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment and the other individual rights the people are secure. The people suggests an individual right. He used the power of that semantic argument and then the debates that went on to come to the conclusion that it is a individual right not a right that just pertains to people in the militia. That's the kind of interpretation—

(APPLAUSE)

We want judges who exercise common sense, who use sound principles of interpretation. We want justices who understand that taking private property from individual owners to enrich private developers just distorts entirely the meaning of the Constitution. We need justices who understand—

(APPLAUSE)

We need judges and justices who understand that imposing racial quotas is really a denial of what America is all about. As—

(APPLAUSE)

As Chief Justice John Roberts recently wrote, "the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

(APPLAUSE)

And I can't figure out where in the Constitution, in the First Amendment or anywhere else in the Constitution, either the clause against establishment of religion or protecting the free exercise of religion, I cannot figure out where some imperative exists to take the words "under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance or to ban the mention of the Ten Amendments in a public square—the Ten Commandments in a public square.

(APPLAUSE)

So we live in a nation of laws not of men. Some of these social theories people may agree with, some of these social theories people may disagree with, but that isn't the point. The point is what did the Framers of the Constitution intend when they wrote these Amendments and when they wrote these provisions in the Constitution. That's what liberty is all about. Our liberty is secured even before it was secured by the Ten Amendments to the Constitution, it was secured by the structure of our government. It's probably our most reliable assurance. The structure of our government as a limited government. A government in which each one of the branches is limited by the power of the other branch, and then the national government is limited by the rights of the state governments and then all of those rights that haven't been granted devolved to the people. It's a very, very intricate structure but enormously important.

(APPLAUSE)

So every generation of American is called upon to lead. I get very, very frustrated when I hear Americans talk about or hear certain Americans talk about how difficult the problems we face are, how overwhelming they are, what a dangerous era we live in. I think we've lost perspective. We've always had difficult problems, we've always had great challenges, and we've always lived in danger. Do we think our parents and our grandparents and our great grandparents didn't live in danger and didn't have difficult problems? Do we think the Second World War was less difficult that our struggle with Islamic terrorism? Do we think that the Great Depression was a less difficult economic struggle for people to face than the struggles we're facing now? Have we entirely lost perspective of the great challenges America has faced in the past and has been able to overcome and overcome brilliantly? I think sometimes we have lost that perspective. Do you know what leadership is all about? Leadership is all about restoring that perspective that this country is truly an exceptional country that has great things that it is going to accomplish in the future that will be as great and maybe even greater than the ones we've accomplished in the past. If we can't do that, shame on us.

(APPLAUSE)

If we heal the divisions based on our Constitutional principles and we learn to live with our differences, and the beauty of our Constitution is it gives us a way of resolving our differences so we can all live together toward a united purpose. If we continue to inspire faith and hope and optimism, and optimism is so important. Every single problem that I solved in New York City that people thought were impossible to solve, I solved it because I'm an optimist, because I refuse to accept defeat, because I refuse to accept that intelligent people with the kind of advantages we've been given can't solve any problem that we're faced with. The values of democracy and equality before the law give us great strength that other societies don't have but it also gives us great responsibilities. This is a very precious inheritance that we have. We have a very high standard to live up to given the history of our country, but organizations like the Federalist Society that take us back to our original principles is where our strength comes from. Thank you very, very much for your 25 years, and thank you for what you're going to do for the future of this country, which will be even greater than its past. Thank you and God bless you.

(APPLAUSE)

Rudy Giuliani, Remarks at The Federalist Society in Washington, DC Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/295496

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