Giuliani's Law and Order Armor
There's no questioning Rudy's bold leadership on crime and terrorism. Or is there?
When Rudy Giuliani was still deciding whether to run for president, a leaked confidential strategy memo provided an unvarnished view of liabilities advisers told the former New York mayor he would face in a battle for the 2008 Republican nomination.
Three marriages and a public affair. Millions earned at his post-9/11 consulting business from some questionable clients. His disgraced former police commissioner and ex-business partner Bernard Kerik. Support for legalized abortion.
But Giuliani had two potent assets: the enduring image of "America's mayor" leading New York City after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And an unprecedented crime drop while he ran a city once branded "ungovernable." "His record speaks for itself," says John Odermatt, emergency management commissioner under Giuliani.
Attack. Now, however, with the former two-term mayor making a formidable presidential bid, his campaign is facing its first full-on attack. Critics are questioning credit the mayor is taking for reducing the city's crime rate. And his 9/11 credentials, which revived his political fortunes, are being challenged by a group that also emerged from the tragedy with a hero's sheen: firefighters.
But just how difficult will it be for critics like the firefighters to chip at the very foundation of Giuliani's White House run? An uphill battle, says GOP consultant Ed Rollins, because Giuliani has celebrity name recognition and a durable image as a "significant, tough leader." At a June campaign event in New Hampshire, retired executive George Carlisle introduced the former mayor as "the greatest leader I've seen in my lifetime."
But last week, when the International Association of Fire Fighters released a video critical of Giuliani's 9/11 performance, the campaign was worried enough to dispatch a small army of high-level supporters and former city officials to defend the candidate. With good reason: "If there's an organization with the kind of public support and image that could break through Giuliani's image, it's the firefighters," says Dave Redlawsk, a University of Iowa political science professor.
And the firefighters, who blame Giuliani for outdated radios that failed on 9/11 and for suspending the search at ground zero when they say 242 firefighters were still missing, haven't been alone in questioning the former mayor's leadership. Though the federal 9/11 commission treated Giuliani with kid gloves during its hearings, it concluded that he had failed to get the police and fire departments to cooperate before the attacks and hadn't resolved a decade-old problem with firefighters' radios.
In their 2006 book, Grand Illusion, authors Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins also fault the mayor for moving the city's emergency command center to the 23rd floor of 7 World Trade Center in 1998. It put the center in a building that was part of the twin tower complex, which terrorists had attacked five years earlier. "He had prepared the city? Handled the aftermath? Fallacy," Barrett says.
In the documentary-style video the union is distributing online and to its 280,000 members, firefighters claim that the lack of radio contact led directly to the deaths of 121 of their comradesa total of 343 firefighters perished that daywho never received two evacuation orders before the North Tower collapsed. "[Giuliani's] attempt to be president of the United States is based solely on this urban legend, this myth of leadership on 9/11," says the union's general president, Harold Schaitberger.