From NBC's Carrie Dann
Hours after speaking at Pat Robertson's Regent University, a must-stop destination for Republicans wooing Christian voters, Giuliani strode through the doors of a Jewish temple in Maryland to address members of another faith. The contrast was not lost on Giuliani, who joked, "If I hit a Catholic church tonight, I'm all set!"
But aside from the late-night comedy potential of the mayor's schedule Tuesday, the back-to-back speeches also offered some intriguing insights into how Giuliani tailors his anti-terror message to each of his audiences.
"Number One: I will keep America on offense in the Terrorist's War on us," he declared to thunderous applause at both venues, reading aloud from a credit-card-sized list of his campaign "commitments" theatrically fished from his jacket pocket. The basic message of both speeches was the same, but Giuliani tweaked its angle substantially during his storm-delayed flight from Virginia Beach to DC.
Sharing a stage with televangelist Robertson early in the day, Giuliani painted the war on terror as a broad struggle of good versus evil, saying that America's ideals "come from God." He bewailed political opportunism, appealing to the particularly sharp disdain of many Evangelicals for moral relativism. And, yes, he did jokingly bring up that his "Twelve Commitments" sound a lot like another list they might have read about in the Old Testament.
At B'nai Israel Congregation a few hours later, Giuliani's description of "Islamic terrorism" went from macro to micro. Although he described the same fronts on the war on terror -- Iran, Israel, and Iraq -- he zoomed in on the past and present conflicts most relevant to his Jewish audience. He called the Hamas-Fatah crossfire in Gaza a "microcosm" of what could happen in Iraq upon a precipitous US troop withdrawal. At Regent, Giuliani accused Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat of disingenuously "leading us down the primrose path" during the 1990s. But that criticism paled in comparison to his labeling Arafat a "horrible assassin" before the pro-Israel crowd.
Perhaps most dramatically, he freely invoked the name of Hitler and drew specific parallels between victims of terrorism and of the Holocaust. Not so at Regent.
The mayor's ability to modify his anti-terror battle cry may be one reason that he has rallied support among some unlikely groups. It's worth noting, however, that Giuliani's deft portrayals of the problem of terrorism are not always matched by specific solutions. Last night, he admitted some uncertainty about the resolution of the Hamas versus Fatah conflict, saying he'll have to "leave that to other people to figure out." Earlier this month, he struck a similarly ambiguous tone on Iraq, which he said was "in the hands of other people." But his platform is, in some ways, built upon the criticism that his rivals fail to acknowledge the gravity of a looming terrorist threat. If the polls are right, a lot of voters are content to say that recognizing the problem -- for now -- is the first step to recovery.