Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks at Republican Jewish Coalition's Victory 2008 candidate forum at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington DC
Matthew Cavanaugh  /  EPA
Rudy Giuliani addresses the Republican Jewish Coalition's candidate forum in Washington Tuesday morning.
By Tom Curry National affairs writer
updated 10/16/2007 10:19:12 PM ET 2007-10-17T02:19:12

“I didn’t call for a team of lawyers,” Rudy Giuliani wryly told a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington Tuesday morning.

He was recalling the occasion when, as mayor, he ordered the New York Police Department to eject Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from a UN-sponsored concert at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan.

A team of lawyers, he joked, would have advised him “maybe you can partially throw him out; maybe he can sit further up” in the upper tiers of the concert hall so he wouldn’t be so visible.

Like much of what Giuliani said in his speech Tuesday there was an edge of sardonic humor to his “team of lawyers” quip.

The barb was directed at Mitt Romney, Giuliani’s rival for the Republican presidential nomination.

Check with lawyers first
In a debate last week on CNBC, Romney answered a question about whether he’d order a pre-emptive strike on Iran, without the consent of Congress, by saying, “You sit down with your attorneys and (they) tell you what you have to do, 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.”

In his speech Tuesday, Giuliani, without identifying Romney by name, mocked him for saying this.

But Romney needn’t have felt singled out for Giuliani’s scorn.

Giuliani also mocked former president Jimmy Carter, for his handling of the Iranian hostage crisis of 1980-1981.

Rate candidates' positionsHe ridiculed the entire field of Democratic presidential contenders, for not using the term “Islamic terrorists” because “they think it is politically incorrect.”

And he mocked Sen. Barack Obama, for saying that as president he’d meet without preconditions with envoys from Iran, Venezuela, and other foes of the United States.

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As if lecturing the absent Obama, Giuliani explained that Reagan had deployed a new generation of offensive missiles in Europe before being willing to negotiate with Soviet leaders.

“I say this most respectfully, you’re not Ronald Reagan,” Giuliani told Obama.

Giuliani's vow on Iran
Giuliani was the most emphatic and repetitive of the five GOP candidates addressing the RJC Tuesday to say he’d use force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

“We’ve seen what Iran will do with ordinary weapons,” he said. “If I am president of the United States, I guarantee you, we will never find out what they will do if they get nuclear weapons — because they’re not going to get nuclear weapons.”

This brought a boisterous burst of applause.

He said it was “absolutely necessary that we’re clear the military option is not off the table.”

Video: Obama vs. Giuliani He left the impression of an unapologetic leader who was happy to offend those who he thought deserved to be insulted.

"Islamic terrorist,” he explained, is not a term that an American president should be shy about using. It is not an insult to all Muslims or all Arabs, rather “I am offending exactly who I want to offend,” he explained.

McCain sees experience deficit
Speaking after Giuliani, Sen. John McCain of Arizona pointed to a deficit of experience in some of his rivals for the nomination.

“I’ve been to Iraq many, many times. We have got people running for president that have never even been there, much less know about it,” he told the crowd.

Giuliani is one of those who has not been to Iraq, but his campaign officials have said it’s nearly impossible for a non- government official or member of Congress to go there.

Where Giuliani repeatedly mentioned the need to keep the military option clearly in view with Iran, McCain decided one statement was sufficient.

“There’s a lot of things we can do by joining like-minded democracies to bring abut strong sanctions, strong punishment to the Iranians for their behavior but at the end of the day, we can not allow the Iranians to acquire nuclear weapons,” he told the crowd.

Romney, who addressed the RJC afternoon session, said Democrats must be forced to answer the question, “’Will you act to stop a nuclear Iran?’ Let me assure you of one thing — I will.”

Romney sought to advance beyond the now somewhat stale formula that use of military force “is on the table.”

Tehran must understand “not only is the military option on the table, it is in our hands…. We are poised and ready to act,” he said. The former Massachusetts governor didn't repeat his statement from last week about consulting with lawyers first.

Inadvertently Romney brought up the issue that neither Giuliani nor McCain nor any member of the audience raised: the economic consequences of a strike on Iran.

What happens if oil goes to $100 a barrel?
In the course of answering a question from the audience on energy dependence, Romney said, “What happens to the world if we have $100 a barrel oil or $150 a barrel oil?”

None of the candidates offered or even hinted at any contingency plans for after the attack.

Speaking last on the bill, former Sen. Fred Thompson delivered a speech that often trafficked in general phrases rather than vivid specifics: “It is vital that we signal to our friends and foes alike that we will do whatever is necessary, wherever we must draw the line, to prevail in any crisis that we face.”

Thompson was in unison with others on Iran: “The U.S. must make it clear we will not allow Iran to become a nuclear threat. The military option must never be off the table.”

The crowd gave him dutiful but brief applause

The RJC audience did not have a chance to apply the toughness test to former Gov. Mike Huckabee, who was not at the RJC event due to a scheduling conflict.

He was the most blunt and militant in the CNBC debate. "I would do it in a heartbeat," he said referring to a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear sites, if the mullahs appear on brink of testing a bomb.

Bipartisan accord on Iran
Up to a point, the accord on Iran is bipartisan.

“Let me say very clearly: Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon. We cannot have this proliferation of nuclear states. It's just not safe for the world.”

That wasn’t any GOP presidential contender, that was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking two weeks ago.

But Pelosi said that President Bush does not have authority to use military force against Iran. “The only military action a president can take without an act of Congress is if our country is attacked,” she said.

What the presidential contenders haven’t yet addressed is the day after the attack on Iran and the prospect of life with $150-a-barrel oil.

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