The Blog

Exclusive: Hizzoner Strikes Back

9:52 AM, Oct 10, 2007 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Today the Giuliani campaign plans to launch an attack on Mitt Romney's comment during the CNBC debate last night that he would check with White House lawyers before launching a preemptive attack on Iran without congressional authorization. "You sit down with your attorneys and tell you [what] you have to do," Romney said, "but obviously the president of the United States has to do what's in the best interest of the United States to protect us against a potential threat."

Whereupon moderator Chris Matthews asked whether President Bush needed congressional authorization to invade Iraq in 2003.

"You know, we're going to let the lawyers sort out what he needed to do and what he didn't need to do," Romney replied. "But, certainly, what you want to do is to have the agreement of all the people - leadership of our government as well as our friends around the world where those circumstances are available."

This has the potential to be a major gaffe for Romney, for a few reasons. One: It demonstrates that he continues to think like a CEO - someone who would "let the lawyers sort [it] out" before conducting another round of layoffs - rather than a potential commander in chief. Two: Romney once again avoided strongly defending President Bush's decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, ceding territory to McCain and Giuliani, who both aggressively defend the Bush policy. And three: It allows the Giuliani camp to make an unfavorable comparison between Romney's "attorney test" and John Kerry's "global test."

Don't remember the "global test"? Here's Kerry at the first presidential debate in 2004: "No president, though all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."

I'm not sure what the results of this Giuliani attack will be, but it's likely to put Romney on the defensive, at least for a few days. And one thing's for sure: Hizzoner has taken the gloves off.

UPDATE: Giuliani's chief foreign policy adviser, Yale professor Charles Hill, has released the following statement: "Matters of war and peace should be decided by the commander in chief. Looking first to lawyers puts us back on defense in the terrorists' war on us like we were in the 1990s."

Something tells me this is about to get ugly.