Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Decision '08, Politics — Rick Moran @ 10:28 am

As it stands now, the performance of Rudy Guiliani on 9/11 is one of unquestioned courage and leadership. Images of Rudy striding down the streets of Manhattan as the world literally collapsed around him and appearing before the cameras as a calm, honest spokesman for not only the government of New York city but for the US government as well will be with us forever. Even the left grudgingly gave him high marks for his remarkable performance that day.

But as in all human endeavors - and indeed all human existence - there were mistakes, missteps, bad decisions, and pettiness. And the fact that government was involved means that there were bureaucratic turf battles, political considerations, and bad planning that, when they are examined (and you can count on them being thoroughly looked at during the campaign) will take some of the luster off of Rudy’s performance that day.

Certainly some of this is part of the process of vetting presidential candidates. The press feels an obligation to expose the worst in our next president - especially if he happens to be a Republican. But you can bet that the Democratic candidates will come in for their share of bad press although one gets the sense that the press doesn’t take quite the gleeful pleasure in exposing Democrats as they do in savaging Republicans.

In short, Rudy is about to have his 9/11 credentials wrung through the ringer. And for ammunition, the press need look no further than this book by reporters Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins.

Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11 claims to be meticulously researched and sourced. Not having read the book I can’t say. But this long excerpt from the book in Village Voice will give you an excellent idea where Rudy’s critics will take aim:

Giuliani has never acknowledged a single failing in his own performance. Yet he did nothing before September 11 to alleviate the effects of a terror attack. He embodied his city’s lack of preparation on West Street that morning. And he did not do anything later that matched the moments of grace and resolve he gave us the day we needed him most. What we have left is this: At a moment when the public needed a hero, Rudy Giuliani stepped forward. When he assured New York that things would come out all right, he was blessedly believable. It was a fine thing. But it was not nearly as much as we, at the time, imagined.

You really must read the whole thing to get a sense of the kinds of issues that the authors believe Rudy failed to address that day and the aftermath. But a short version is that Guiliani’s mistakes both prior to 9/11 and on that tragic day were magnified by the sin of hubris - overweening pride that prevented several key decisions from being made that would have saved lives. How the authors arrive at these conclusions is a mystery. And I’m sure you’ll end up reading some of their criticisms and wondering if anyone could have done any better considering the circumstances - something authors are clearly not interested in exploring. But what makes this critique of Guiliani’s performance so problematic for the Mayor is that Rudy, like John Kerry, is running using his past experience in the fires of tragedy as proof of his fitness for office - and not much else.

When you think about it, what else has Rudy got to offer in the way of experience? He’s never been to Congress. He never even served in the state legislature of New York. His experience outside of New York is confined to a stint as Associate Attorney General in Reagan’s Justice department - hardly a position that would inspire confidence in his abilities that would be translatable to the presidency.

Rudy was Mayor of New York city. And beyond that, he was Mayor of New York city on 9/11 for which he is properly considered a hero. But if the press starts to chip away at Rudy’s 9/11 personae, what we might find underneath will not be pretty nor attractive to the mostly conservative voters in Republican primaries.

What might the press find by reading the Barrett-Collins hit piece? This article by AP writer Larry McShane makes it clear that the top two issues that will play against Rudy’s 9/11 narrative are the communication’s snafu at Ground Zero that day which has been flogged by some widows and firefighters for years as well as Guiliani’s decision to shut down the meticulous search for bodies in November of 2001 when so many were still missing:

Giuliani, the leader in polls of Republican voters for his party’s nomination, has been faulted on two major issues:

• His administration’s failure to provide the World Trade Center’s first responders with adequate radios, a long-standing complaint from relatives of the firefighters killed when the twin towers collapsed. The Sept. 11 Commission noted the firefighters at the World Trade Center were using the same ineffective radios employed by the first responders to the 1993 terrorist attack on the trade center.

Regenhard, at a 2004 commission hearing in Manhattan, screamed at Giuliani, “My son was murdered because of your incompetence!” The hearing was a perfect example of the 9/11 duality: Commission members universally praised Giuliani at the same event.

• A November 2001 decision to step up removal of the massive rubble pile at ground zero. The firefighters were angered when the then-mayor reduced their numbers among the group searching for remains of their lost “brothers,” focusing instead on what they derided as a “scoop and dump” approach. Giuliani agreed to increase the number of firefighters at ground zero just days after ordering the cutback.

More than 5 1/2 years later, body parts are still turning up in the trade center site.

AJ Strata does a good job debunking these criticisms:

That (bad communications) was not caused by Rudy, but by the different police and fire bureaucracies which refused to integrate their purchasing. If a government entity at any level gives up the power to purchase it gives up authority. And so the firefighters and port authorities and city police and state police all refuse to coordinate their equipment. Many times their money comes from different sources, for instance state, city, county, various federal agencies. The Port authority would get Federal dollars from ICE or the Coast Guard and the cops from DoJ. This is not Rudy’s fault and even a bush-league reporter would know this is the case…

The decision (to step up removal of debris) was WEEKS into the clean up, not days or hours. And the problem here is the mound of debris was a festering health hazard. There was no time to pick delicately through the pile of rubble, within which the fires did not finally go out for MONTHS afterwards.

As for the first issue, Barrett and Collins point out that Rudy had ridden roughshod over many of those same bureaucracies during his terms in office and that the fact he didn’t butt a few heads together in order to get the firefighters and police modern communications was a failure of will on his part. Beyond that, the authors point out that Guiliani put the emergency management bunker at the World Trade Center - even after the towers had been attacked in 1993. Was this smart? The towers were centrally located and seemed a natural place to put the emergency bunker. But the authors are looking at Rudy’s decision from a post 9/11 world. The 9/10 world inhabited by Rudy and the rest of us would have seen the attack in 1993 as an aberration and not a harbinger of things to come. In that context, Rudy’s decision was probably the right one.

But don’t expect too many people to be giving Guiliani the benefit of the doubt once the stories start pouring out criticizing his performance on 9/11. There is also the real question of whether he should have been walking the streets in the first place. Why didn’t he head for the temporary emergency bunker where he could monitor communications? As he was walking around lower Manhattan, he was deaf and blind to what was going on at Ground Zero.

There’s also the question of why the police and fire chief met only once during the crisis and very briefly at that. Couldn’t many lives have been saved if the two were side by side, listening to their own people communicating since their equipment wouldn’t allow them to talk to each other? Could Rudy have ordered the two to stay close by?

Barrett and Collins raise a half dozen other issues - some of them germane, some silly - each of which will force Rudy on the defensive. Notoriously thin skinned, one wonders if the scrutiny becomes too intense if Rudy will be able to weather the public storms without lashing back. This, he must resist in that it will make people start to doubt Rudy’s own narrative of events.

For the moment, Guiliani basks in the glow of being the Republican front runner. But the appetite of the press for a horse race means that they will almost certainly begin to hammer away at Rudy’s version of what happened on 9/11. And how Rudy emerges from this scrutiny will determine whether or not he can go the distance and capture the nomination.


  1. Great post Rick (and thanks for the link). I wonder how much of this will play in America. Trying to tear down an established symbol of American resolve because he was not omnipotently prescient to all things coming on 9-11 seems to fall well short of respectable journalism - even to the casual observer. Or maybe even more so to the casual observer. It is like taking Bush on regarding his response to 9-11, it never payed off really.

    You definitely said it better than I did (as usual).


    Comment by AJStrata — 3/30/2007 @ 11:00 am

  2. I have a friend who worked (or maybe still works) for NYC’s department of emergency management.
    Yes, they had to relocate from 7 WTC, but they did have a backup site. Maybe the communications equipment wasn’t coordinated, but he said that Giuliani had largely put the police and fire departments under the same department that led to their generally successful cooperation in the wake of 9/11.

    Comment by soccer dad — 3/30/2007 @ 12:07 pm

  3. Fred Siegel is as much a Giuliani booster as Barrett is a detractor, still you ought to read this.

    Comment by soccer dad — 3/30/2007 @ 12:10 pm

  4. Well, I do hope these paragons of pointing out that NYC was unprepared have ginned up the list of all the cities that *were* prepared in 2001 for something like this… I can think of a number of cities that are unprepared for huge disasters, that make Katrina seem like summer breeze. And how about NOLA, have we gotten a clue as to how to stop it from sinking yet? Or even find a way to ensure the population there is safe in the future? Ready for the La Palma slump and tsunami on the East Coast yet? The ‘Big One’ in LA? Cascadia earthquake and tsunami? New Madrid Fault Zone all shock absorbered thoroughly? No? Why not? We have known about these for years, if not decades… shall we call all those Mayors and Governors and Congresses and Presidents slouches?

    Probably, yes on that last.

    If we aren’t preparing for the things that *will* happen sooner or later. Where is the preparedness *now*?

    And why are we putting billions into a city that is *sinking*?

    Terrorism? Well, if we can’t prepare for the ‘knowns’ then how, pray tell, are we going to handle the ‘unknowns’?

    If VV starts at ‘preparedness’ then they can go take a jump as the Nation, as a whole was not prepared before 9/11 nor since. That is not only *not* serious, it is disingenous. How much was the Village Voice calling for terrorist preparedness before 9/11? Did they have splendiferous insight into all things nasty? If that is the sort of place they want to start, then they have stepped off the end of a dock.

    Comment by ajacksonian — 3/30/2007 @ 3:29 pm

  5. The simple fact is Rudy led the city through the worst of times. What problems there were, and there all will be, paled in comparison to what positive was done. He did good.

    I am not a Rudy supporter and don’t plan on voting for him.

    Comment by bill — 3/30/2007 @ 6:55 pm

  6. “And how Rudy emerges from this scrutiny will determine whether or not he can go the distance and capture the nomination.”

    Very true.

    I recently watched a view of someone viciously heckling Romney about not being a true Christian, and Romney handled it with impossible and superlative skill, turning it into a plus for him while remaining likable the entire time.

    This is a sharp contrast to someone like Howard Dean, who got red in the face and told a heckler George Bush is not his neighbor, and “You sit down! You had your say, and now I’m going to have my say!”

    Comment by J.H. Bowden — 3/30/2007 @ 8:13 pm


    As opposed to Bill Clinton’s NON reponse after the first World Trade Center bombing?

    On February 26, 1993 terrorists attacked the World Trade Center during the Clinton administration. The explosion caused 6 deaths, 1,042 injuries, and nearly $600 million in property damage. Bill Clinton never visited the World Trade Center sight after the attack, and during his weekly radio address, advised Americans to “not over-react” to the attack.

    It was the first attack on U.S. soil since the attack on Pearl Harbor. The attack was planned by a group of conspirators including Ramzi Yousef, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, El Sayyid Nosair, Mahmud Abouhalima, Mohammad Salameh, Nidal Ayyad, Ahmad Ajaj, and Abdul Rahman Yasin. They received financing from al-Qaeda member Khaled Shaikh Mohammed, Yousef’s uncle, who was the mastermind behind the 9-11 attacks.

    Ramzi Yousef was later found with an Iraqi passport in Pakistan. According to phone records, Mohammad Salameh made 46 phone calls to Iraq after the attack.

    The FBI believed that Yousef was possibly an Iraqi intelligence agent who worked for Saddam. They believed that Saddam was likely behind the attack since the attack happened on the second anniversary of the end of the Gulf War, and the attack was his revenge for the war.

    Abdul Rahman Yasin fled to Iraq after the attack. He was the only member of the al Qaeda cell that detonated the 1993 World Trade Center bomb to remain at large in the Clinton years.

    In the spring of 1994, a Jordanian stringer working for ABC News spotted Abdul Rahman Yasin outside his father’s house in Baghdad and learned from neighbors that he worked for the Iraqi government. As recently as May 1998, FBI director Louis Freeh affirmed that Yasin was in Iraq.

    Yet the Clinton administration made no serious attempt to secure Yasin’s extradition. Baghdad might well have refused to turn him over, but the US could have used Yasin’s presence in Iraq to isolate and condemn the Iraqi regime. It was as if the administration did not want to draw attention to aspects of the case which suggested an Iraqi link to the Trade Center bombing.

    U.S. forces recently discovered a cache of documents in Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown, that show that Iraq gave Mr. Yasin both a house and monthly salary. According to Laurie Mylroie, who served as Clinton’s adviser on Iraq during the 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton’s decision to hit Baghdad with cruise missiles on June 26, 1993, was made in part because he believed Iraq had been involved in the first World Trade Center bombing four months earlier.


    Can’t wait for Rudy to debate Hillary actually! The question is CAN HILLARY hold up the scrutiny??

    Comment by carol — 3/30/2007 @ 10:10 pm

  8. J.H., Romney is certainly very polished. But unfortunately, that sometimes gives the impression of being “a policitian” (fake) like John Edwards. Romney’s a fine candidate, but he has to overcome the “politican” and “flip flopper” stigma.

    Rudy’s favorable traits are consistency and “balls.” He’ll take an unpopular position, and stick with it. He’ll dress as a woman. He’ll run around with a bald head. In short, he’s an executive - which is why I don’t care that “he never even served in the state legislature.” There is a reason Senators don’t win the presidency.

    I abhor Rudy’s social policies (I’m pro-life and a gun nut). All the pundits seem to think either that (1) when joe public learns about Rudy’s social views, we won’t vote for him, or (2) social conservatives are losing influence. The pundits are wrong, for three reasons. First, Rudy has embraced federalism. A federalist president understands social issues are for the states to regulate, so he won’t impose his social views on America. Social conservatives are fine with that compromise. Second, Rudy pledged to appoint”strict constructionist” judges, which is beyond Scalia. Essentially, Rudy will appoint Thomas clones, which will kick abortion, gay rights, etc, to the states. Social conservatives are fine with that compromise too. Third, Rudy understands that if we don’t win the war on terror, social issues won’t matter.

    9/11 only relates to Rudy’s charisma - mistakes related to radios don’t matter.

    As far as I know, known of the other presidential candidates meet all three points (especially the first federalist one), except for Ron Paul (yes) and Newt Gingrich. Neither Ron nor Newt have the requisite charisma for the presidency. Of course, Fred Thompson will probably meet all three.

    Comment by wooga — 3/31/2007 @ 12:13 am

  9. As one of the few people who reads both mydd.com (apologies) and rwnh, as a commenter said:

    “I am not a Rudy supporter and don’t plan on voting for him.”

    on the other hand, if you are a Rudy supporter, please contact me because I don’t see why anyone really believes this guy/hack is the heir apparent. I could be wrong but convince me.

    Comment by a reader — 3/31/2007 @ 2:17 am

  10. Any citizen can easily become an expert on Rudy. Rudy was the center of the N.Y. City universe for all of his terms. “Google” Rudy and you will get more information and have more fun than any soap opera or even a Jimmy Breslin novel. I am certain there is enough material to convince anyone that President Rudy Guiliani would be a disaster. Rather than solving problems, Rudy delighted in creating them.

    Comment by Carlyle Perry — 3/31/2007 @ 7:22 am

  11. Rudy was a great mayor. All this carping about him shows how ignorant people are. In many ways we will deserve a President Hillary. By the way the two authors have been long Rudy critics and the Village Voice is a Stalinist rag.

    Comment by Scipio — 4/3/2007 @ 9:15 am

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