Fudge Cycle

Rudy Giuliani seems to have a lot of trouble admitting hemessed up. In a

radio ad

released last week, he said that the chances of survivingcancer “under socialized medicine” in Englandare 44 percent, compared to 82 percent in the U.S. But those statistics have been strongly disputed.

First, Dr. David Gratzer, the author of the CityJournal article Giuliani drew the numbers from and an adviser to theGiuliani campaign, acknowledged that they were outdated and “crude.” Then his source for the numbers, a health research organization called The CommonwealthFund, accused Gratzer of misusing the data. In other words, no one was willingto stand behind the numbers. Both the WashingtonPost ’s Fact Checker and, two watchdogs for the lies, damnedlies, and statistics of the 2008 presidential candidates, roundly rejected Rudy’s statement.

At the time, the Giuliani campaign itself issued anot-quite-defense of the statistic: ” The citation is an article in a highly respectedintellectual journal written by an expert at a highly respected think tankwhich the mayor read because he is an intellectually engaged human being.” Buton Friday, Giuliani reiterated his support for the numbers as “absolutelyaccurate,” if a little dated: “Even if you want to quibble aboutthe statistics, you find me the person who leaves the United States and goes to England for prostate cancertreatment, and I’d like to meet that person,” he said .

Rudy does have defenders other than himself. The Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner argues in National Review today that Giuliani’snumbers are problematic, but that his overall point stands. “Beyondthe debate over numerical minutiae,” Tanner writes, “the basic fact is that Britain’ssystem of socialized medicine is bad for your health.”

But then why use such murky numbers? As Tanner himself notes, the stats on non-prostate cancers support his point much better. Itillustrates a larger point about Giuliani that Slate ’s John Dickersonhas made before: that his greatest strength is his willingness to make highly questionable statements withutter conviction . It’s an approach that has gotten Rudy in trouble before,like when he said he’d pay for tax cuts withmore tax cuts . But getting in trouble with fact-checkers is different fromgetting in trouble with Republican voters. From the perspective of the polls, whathe says seems less important than how loudly and how often he says it.