Giuliani Talks To CBS About Keynote Speech

The former Mayor of New York City and former presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani speaks at the New York Republican State Committee dinner in New York, Thursday, May 29, 2008. AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Former New York City Mayor and presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani has been announced as the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. Giuliani spoke to CBS News' Ryan Corsaro by telephone from California, where he is campaigning for Sen. John McCain. Giuliani talked about why he listens to Hillary Clinton, what he thinks of Senator Obama's experience, and how he'll write his keynote speech. Read the full transcript below.

CBS News: What's your reaction to being the keynote speaker for the Republican National Convention?

Mayor Giuliani: I'm very honored to do it. I believe that this election, and I have as a candidate and a supporter of John McCain, I believe this election is a very important election. Maybe - you know we always say this - maybe the most important. But it is the most important because there's going to be a real change in direction one way or the other. And I believe the change in direction provided by Senator McCain is going to be critical for the country.

CBS News: What are going to be the main differences between the parties that you're going to point out at the convention?

Mayor Giuliani: I haven't written my speech yet - this is not my speech. It may or may not be so I'll tell you what the main differences are. I think there's one overriding main difference between John McCain and Barack Obama, and it's the clearest one - and it's a factual one, not personal one - it's experience. John McCain has experience, Barack Obama does not. And it reflects itself in the way in which you react to world issues and it underlines all the mistakes Barack Obama makes. The most recent one being one of his advisers going to Syria, conducting discussions with the Syrian government, then coming to Israel to meet with Senator Obama. They [the Obama campaign] are not disclosing that and now the adviser is saying, you know, we're going to see if they were taken advantage of or not.

CBS News: Which adviser in particular are you referring to?

Mayor Giuliani: [Daniel] Kurtzer, who right before, as I understand it from a newspaper article, right before he joined Senator Obama in Israel, went on a mission with a group who was paid for by among other things, Syrian corporations, went to a conference in Syria and met with the Syrian foreign minister and during the discussion, according to the adviser, he told the Syrian foreign minister that they should make some progress on peace discussions with Israel so that the next president can come into a situation where there's been some progress made. And then he went to - he was with Senator Obama when Senator Obama was in Israel and none of that was disclosed. His meeting in Syria wasn't disclosed. The substance of the meetings weren't disclosed. The people who paid for it weren't disclosed. And then when he was asked about it, I guess recently, could this be seen as [Syria] being used, he said that remains to be seen.

CBS News: And what do you think this reflects about the Obama campaign in particular?

Mayor Giuliani: It's a lack of experience. Remember - this goes back to something Hillary Clinton pointed out, maybe with the most effect, and that is when [Obama] was asked whether he would negotiate with Assad, Castro, Ahmadinejad, and he said that he would negotiate with them without preconditions. And Hillary pointed out - I don't remember her exact language - but I believe she used words like immature, or inexperienced, or naive. That has continually been displayed by Senator Obama and his campaign. A meeting with the Assad government that isn't disclosed by an adviser to Senator Obama right before he goes to Israel, where the person gives advice on how to negotiate with the United States to the Assad government is not a very experienced thing to do. At least you should disclose it if you're going to be transparent.

And I thought the reaction the two of them had to the situation in Georgia indicates the major difference. Senator McCain's reaction was immediate. Speaking to two people, he immediately reacted. His reaction at the beginning is the same reaction he has today, it's the same he has a year ago. It's a position that's been developed over twenty years of study, including traveling to Georgia, at least three times. Traveling to the Ukraine, Russia, other places. Senator Obama hasn't been to most of these places and his reaction showed it. He had two or three different reiterations - his first reaction sounding very much like Georgia and Russia are equally to blame for this. And then he spoke to his advisors, made another statement, and then finally a third statement.

Senator Obama is struggling to learn what Senator McCain already knows, and I think that's going to be the major issue for a country that is facing substantial problems -- not just foreign policy, military - but also economic. We have an experienced senator who's been a leader, a person who's had a mind of his own, not a typical Republican or Democrat, whose searched for bipartisan solutions. On the other hand we have a highly inexperienced senator who has been the most liberal member of the United States Senate.

CBS News: Now Mayor, Senator McCain said last week that he did not want to politicize the issue of Georgia any further. Do you think Georgia is going to be a defining issue for the Republicans as far as separating themselves from the Democrats?

Mayor Giuliani: No, it won't be, because for Senator Obama, Georgia is just one of many examples of Senator Obama's inexperience in foreign policy and military policy. So it's part of a list that goes back to the one first noted by Hillary Clinton. We are merely repeating what Hillary Clinton noted three months ago - that he is inexperienced in the area of foreign policy.

CBS News: In regards to your keynote speech, are you going to be writing it yourself and is there anything that you have in mind, maybe left over from your experience out on trail as a candidate that you'll be adding?

Mayor Giuliani: I'm sure there will be! I am writing it myself…

CBS News: I didn't mean that in to be a disrespectful question…

Mayor Giuliani: No, no, no - I know you didn't. I've already - I'll write it myself but I'll also work with John Avlon and Ken Kurson who helped me write speeches during the campaign, and we all met and talked about it already, so we're all working on various ideas and writing out different drafts. That's what I usually do. I usually write something out. Then the person I'm working with writes something out, and then we kind of put it together. But a speech like this, you're really not going to decide until four or five days before, because the issues could change. Who knows? Who knows what's going to happen between now and then - but we'll get a general idea of it, and then we'll change it about three or four days before.

CBS News: Being the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention is a big honor for you - you had a big role at the last convention. What does it feel like to be picked after this long year as the current speaker?

Mayor Giuliani: It is a great responsibility and a great honor and it is particularly so because of my strong personal feelings for Senator McCain, which, you might remember, I indicated once during the debate, when I said if I wasn't running, I'd be supporting him.

CBS News: Mayor, I listened to every single one of your speeches and I don't recall you almost ever saying anything negative about John McCain - it seems like you've been a solemn supporter of him for a long time.

Mayor Giuliani: And I truly believe this is an enormously important decision for America that we have to get right and that John McCain is about as well-qualified to be President of the United States as any man who has ever run for president. So it's going to be a great honor to be a keynote speaker, not only a Republican convention, but a convention that's going to nominate a truly great and heroic American for President of the United States.
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