His 9/11 legacy and 2008 prospects
America’s still-vivid memories of that miserable morning five Septembers ago may be brightened by recollections of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani’s focused, confident performance on 9/11. The ongoing goodwill his leadership generated may explain why he outpaces his potential rivals for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
Recent polls show Giuliani waxing on the right, regardless of any misgivings conservative GOP voters may have with him on abortion, gay rights, or gun control.
- Among 432 registered Republicans and pro-GOP independents who CNN and Opinion Research Corp. surveyed from August 30 to September 2, 31 percent favored Giuliani for the nomination, while 20 percent backed Sen. John McCain. (Error margin: +/- 5 percent.)
- Of the 6,926 participants thus far in an ongoing Internet survey for the very conservative FreeRepublic.com, 45.1 percent endorsed Giuliani, 28.3 percent backed Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and only 5.3 percent picked McCain.
- An August 14–15 Victory Enterprises poll found 30 percent of Iowa Republicans for Giuliani, while 17.3 percent wanted McCain (+/- 4.9 percent). Among these 400 likely caucus voters, 70 percent called themselves pro-life.
- Strategic Vision’s August polls of Republican voters discovered these results — Washington State: Giuliani 40 percent, McCain 28; Florida: Giuliani 42 percent, McCain 28; Pennsylvania: Giuliani 44 percent, McCain 24 percent.
In a July 31 through August 3 survey of 623 New York state registered voters, the Siena Research Institute saw McCain beat Hillary Rodham Clinton in New York state by 46–42 percent (+/- 3.9 percent). Giuliani, however, would stomp Clinton even harder, 48–42 percent, and capture the Empire State’s 31 electoral votes.
In a world where Islamofascists plot to use baby-formula bottles to blow up tourist-filled jets, GOP voters understand how vital it is to assign someone tough and talented to confront this life-and-death challenge. Giuliani looks like that man.
Giuliani’s formidable stature seems to make liberals nervous. Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins, authors of Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11, have attempted to rain fresh rubble on Rudy. While they praise Giuliani for his on-camera comments that day, they mainly criticize him for what else they believe he should have done then and, indeed, throughout his mayoralty to cope with such a major terrorist attack.
Barrett and Collins are a two-man Hubble Telescope of hindsight. Yes, in retrospect, the Emergency Operations Center might have survived were it not situated at 7 World Trade Center, where it went unused that morning and then collapsed along with the entire building at 5:20 P.M. Besides, as Vincent J. Cannato recalls in his September 3 Washington Post review of this book, Barrett never embraced this “bunker in the sky.” In 2000, he called it “a symbol of Giuliani’s weakness for gadgetry, secrecy, and militarist overkill.”
These authors complain that Giuliani and his top aides kept moving around on September 11. Let’s see: Giuliani’s advisors considered 7 WTC too dangerous, as was the fire department’s impromptu command post at Vesey and West streets. The next stop, a basement at 75 Barclay Street, became uninhabitable after Lower Manhattan choked in dust and smoke. After phoning in a reassuring radio message to New Yorkers from a Houston Street firehouse, Giuliani finally settled in at the Police Academy on East 20th Street in Gramercy Park. Giuliani had little choice but to stay mobile that morning.
Barrett and Collins chide the Office of Emergency Management for not conducting a drill involving a major skyscraper fire. Yes, OEM should have. However, it stayed busy rehearsing for chemical-weapons attacks, securing Times Square’s millennium celebrations (a feared terror target), and guarding against immediate threats, such as a West Nile virus outbreak.
Could New York have prepared for and responded even better to 9/11? Naturally. Still, Giuliani and city employees helped some 15,000 WTC inhabitants flee to safety. While President Bush understandably remained a moving target, Giuliani restored city government, then calmly and firmly reassured Americans and the world that we had endured a serious blow, but bounced back up off the mat.
While Giuliani’s critics try to paint him as someone who first leapt on the antiterror bandwagon on 9/11, he actually has fought Islamofascists since the mid-1970s.
Barrett and Collins blow it big time when they write: “Giuliani had behaved from the outset of his mayoralty as if the 1993 [WTC] bombing had never happened.” In fact, just moments after becoming mayor, Giuliani said in his first inaugural address on January 2, 1994: “Your strength was demonstrated within sight of this place, last year, at the World Trade Center . . . those who work for our city are the most professional and best in the nation.” He praised New Yorkers, in and out of government, for emerging from that terrorist assault, and argued that Gothamites could accomplish great things under pressure.
As mayor, Giuliani had then-PLO leader Yasser Arafat ejected from an October 1995 Lincoln Center concert to which he was not invited. “Maybe we should wake people up to the way this terrorist is being romanticized,” Giuliani said. While a U.S. attorney under President Reagan, Giuliani investigated the 1985 PLO hijacking of the luxury liner Achille Lauro. Four terrorists fired on and wounded ship passengers and fatally shot Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound retired New Yorker who was selected for being Jewish.
As President Gerald Ford’s associate deputy attorney general, Giuliani was a member of the Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism. According to a declassified June 10, 1976, State Department memorandum, this panel addressed the “increased danger of major terrorist attacks in the US requiring urgent preventive and preparatory action.” Among other things, this memo reveals that, at a meeting that May 27, “Mr. Giuliani said that it would be important to have the USG [U.S. government] respond to press queries during an IT [international terrorist] incident with a single voice. He suggested that a model plan be worked out.”
As Barrett and Collins aim their lances at Giuliani’s post-9/11 armor, they largely miss what GOP primary voters clearly see: a dedicated and relentless patriot who has been fighting terrorists for 30 years. Facing an unprecedented crisis, Giuliani stayed remarkably cool, maintained order, and helped evacuate the financial district’s dangerous streets. “Just keep going north,” he told those still in Lower Manhattan.
To amplify his enduring post-9/11 reputation, Giuliani should educate Republicans on his Reaganesque tax-reducing, budget-restraining, crime-cutting mayoral record. Somehow, Giuliani also needs to make peace with pro-life and Second Amendment activists. But for now, “America’s Mayor” — previously caricatured as “too liberal for the nomination” — looks like 2008’s Republican to beat.
This article originally appeared in The National Review Online on September 12th, 2006. It is reprinted here with the author’s permission.