[FoRK] President Giuliani?

Contempt for Meatheads jbone at place.org
Fri May 21 07:16:51 PDT 2004

This crossed JRobb this morning:


  WP.  For perhaps 72 hours after 8:45 a.m. Sept. 11, 2001, Rudy 
Giuliani played the role of acting president of the United States.




What Giuliani Missed

By E. J. Dionne Jr.

Friday, May 21, 2004; Page A25

For perhaps 72 hours after 8:45 a.m. Sept. 11, 2001, Rudy Giuliani 
played the role of acting president of the United States.

Of course, the man who was then the mayor of New York had no formal 
national authority. But from the moment the terrorists attacked, 
Giuliani was the face of national resolve, the angry but calm voice 
reassuring Americans -- in Rocky Mountain hamlets no less than on the 
streets of the Rockaways -- that their country was brave, that it would 
survive, that it would eventually triumph.

Rudy, as all of us came to know him, lived up to a responsibility that 
fell to him by default. While the mayor rallied the firefighters and 
the cops and the rescue workers, President Bush found himself far from 
the action. He was visiting a school in Florida when the planes hit the 
World Trade Center and the Pentagon. As The Post put it at the time, he 
then "boarded Air Force One and, escorted by fighter jets, hopscotched 
to military installations in Louisiana and Nebraska before returning to 
Washington." Bush's speech to the nation that night was flat. David 
Frum, a former Bush speechwriter, noted in his largely laudatory book 
"The Right Man" that the president "had given not one indication all 
day long of readiness for his terrible new responsibilities."

Bush finally seized the moment three days after the attacks when he 
visited the Trade Center site and shouted to a rescue worker: "The 
people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon." The 
president finally seemed ready and soared in the polls. Until then, 
Rudy Giuliani was the de facto spokesman for a grateful nation.

All of which makes you want to ask Giuliani why he felt it necessary to 
rebuke the commission investigating Sept. 11 for pointing out important 
truths about what went wrong that day. In the matter-of-fact way of its 
valuable staff reports, the commission pointed to the turf battles and 
communication problems among New York City's uniformed services that 
may have cost lives.

Rudy, no one is asking you to be perfect. No one, and I mean no one, is 
taking anything away from the bravery of those who selflessly gave 
their all that day. But the Sept. 11 commission has the responsibility 
for making us more ready if a dreadful event of this sort happens 
again. They can't overlook what went wrong.

Alas, most things are personal for Rudy. "Our enemy is not each other," 
he told the commission on Wednesday, "but terrorists who attacked us, 
murdered our loved ones and continue to offer a threat to our 
security." Of course that's right. But no one says you're the enemy, 
Rudy. Yet none of us, certainly not you, would want systems kept in 
place that threaten the very men and women whose bravery protects us.

Most of the commission members seemed thoroughly intimidated by 
Giuliani and expressed their devotion. It fell to Bob Kerrey, the 
Vietnam veteran who does not intimidate easily, to state an important 
truth: "I don't believe it's an either/or choice of being angry at 
those who perpetrated this crime and feeling anger towards those with 

Kerrey went on to praise Giuliani too, but his point goes to the heart 
of the commission's challenge and mandate: to overcome the 
mythologizing of Sept. 11 and face what happened.

If, indeed, some firefighters died inside the World Trade Center 
because they did not hear an evacuation order, Giuliani does not have 
to deny the fact, as he did in his testimony. Let's assume Giuliani 
really does believe they stood their ground in order to rescue 
civilians. The commission has no choice but to deal with all the 
evidence that points instead to those communication and coordination 

And evidence is what should matter to this commission. It simply can't 
allow those with an interest in having the Sept. 11 story told a 
certain way to get in the way of telling us the real story. That means 
especially telling the story of what went wrong. That's the only way 
we'll learn how to do things right.

Rudy, listen to Bob Kerrey. You have nothing to fear from an honest 
account. As you acknowledged yourself, "some terrible mistakes were 
made," which were, as you also said, inevitable in these excruciating 
circumstances. Americans came to admire you because they saw you as a 
tough truth-teller. Don't let worries about your image now tarnish the 
image you've already earned.

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