Thursday, June 28, 2007

America's Mayor?

Perhaps The Former Mayor Should Stop Finger Pointing

In an April 2007 open letter that was published in the “Huffington Post”, former Colorado Democratic Senator Gary Hart ask former Mayor Rudy Giuliani where he was “on terrorism between January 31st 2001 and September 11?”

The letter, clearly retribution for a string of attacks on Democratic leadership in the years before 9/11 by Giuliani prompted Senator Hart to ask what specific steps the former Mayor had taken to protect the city from terrorism or the effects of such an attack.

“Until you do,” wrote Hart “then I strongly suggest you keep your mouth shut about Democrats and terrorism.”

But a quick stroll down New York’s political memory lane indicates a silent Giuliani is not likely. Instead, Giuliani the politician is more known to dismiss or attack, often with divisive and sometimes hurtful rhetoric. Many observers say that in the past, the former Mayor often used such tactics to further a self serving agenda along with the interests he represented. A number of those who dealt with him directly have said his methods involved bullying and were mean spirited. According to a January 2007 “Newsweek” column by Ana Quindlen, some described Giuliani as a man who considers those who disagree with him “enemies, not opponents, a divider not a uniter.”

There were times when Giuliani did go to great lengths in order to quiet down his critics as he did in 1997 when he tried to get the MTA to remove magazine ads from city buses that lampooned his style. Or when he went after the Brooklyn Museum over a controversial British exhibit that included a piece of work the artist said was the Mother Mary with elephant dung, an obvious affront to the Mayor’s strict catholic upbringing.

More importantly, it would appear that much of America and for that matter New York, paid little attention to the behind the scenes effect of the Mayor’s “zero tolerance” policies since all obvious indications pointed to a job well done-especially if you were a strictly day time person. Crime dropped and the economy boomed in the city. Many simply assumed and accept, that Rudy cleaned up the ‘big bad apple’ removing the homeless, bringing Disney to Times Square and an elimination of pesky squeegee men who terrorized the drivers from Jersey. But while he played a role in making New York a more manageable metropolis, dig a little deeper, and one finds that much of this credit is simplistic and overstated.

For example, more cops had been hired before Giuliani came on the job, the contract with Disney was already in the works, crime was dropping in all American cities and those missing homeless were simply moved away from Manhattan. Besides, as America’s economic engine, New York’s renaissance came in part due to a national expansion, simple economics that trickled down from forces beyond the control of a Mayor. And, as the curtain began to lift and expose the man behind the screen in the later years of his administration, the mayor’s popularity began to wane.

But, then, there was 9/11.

No one can deny the important leadership role that Mayor Gilliani played in the days after September 11. The sense of calm provided by his strong words of comfort and calm were seen as a beacon of hope by many New Yorkers during what proved to be some of the city’s most challenging days. But, soon, as the city moved on, and the former mayor began to show inklings of entering what is proving to be a highly contentious national political campaign, an opening has arisen allowing greater scrutiny and criticism. And, when the former Mayor brings his self righteous style of attack onto the national stage, he should be ready for a volley. The election of a President, is, after all, a decision not to be based on simple rhetoric, or timing.

Like a number of politicians, Rudy Giuliani, has capitalized from 9/11. Most New Yorker’s can’t forget the shameless exploitation of tragedy by the GOP when it brought its convention to a city where most estimates show only 1 in 5 to be declared Republican. And, most will not forget his claim before the cheering throes and a television audience of millions, that as he looked at the burning towers, he said to Bernie Kerik, “thank God George Bush is our President”

But, although Giuliani is Republican, he is a New Yorker not a Texan and his socially moderate ideology often doesn’t square with the Republican ideology of the more conservative elements in his party. So now, it appears his best weapon will be his ‘I was there’ claim of superiority, which he has used to shut down critics of Bush policy, like fellow Republican candidate Ron Paul, who pointed out America’s role in inciting anti-American sentiment while debating Giuliani in a campaign debate.

The 9/11 claim to fame has reportedly benefited Giuliani financially as well, thanks to paid speaking engagements where he is said to often speak of those dark days in Gotham. In fact there was a period where he was so busy making money speaking, that he eventually had to resign from the Iraq Study Group according to reports from “Newsday”. He eventually found plenty of time to criticize the group’s conclusions.

And, as far as the Mayor adhering to Gary Hart’s request to silence his critiques of Democrats and their policies concerning terrorism, fugetaboutit.

During a June 27 speech, Rudy Giuliani told a Virginia Beach Va., audience that President Bill Clinton made a big mistake when he didn’t see the 1993 World Trade Center bombing as an “act of terror” versus a mere crime.

Reportedly, Giuliani said “the U.S. Government and then President Clinton did not respond,” and after naming off other terrorist attacks added that “Osama Bin Laden declared war on us and we didn’t hear it”.

If the former Mayor wishes to take this kind of ugly and accusatory rhetoric to the national playing field, he should expect tit for tat.

Mayor Giuliani made a big mistake when he did not insist, and see through to full implementation, in the years before 9/11, that all emergency response personnel be equipped with interoperable radios so that the fire and police departments could communicate with each other during emergency situations, like raging infernos inside tall buildings. According to information documented by “Media Matters” the failings of Giuliani regarding terrorism preparation are clear, as reported by Wayne Barret and Dan Collins in their book “Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11”.

As the book reports, on 9/11, the New York City Fire Department was using outdated VHF radios that were not compatible with the Police Department’s UHF radios. Author’s Barret and Collins said these were the same radios the fire department used back in 1993, when the first attack on the World Trade Center occurred.

The book says that as a result, as many as eight Fire Department companies in the North Tower did not receive the evacuation order via radio or from other first responders. Because the radios were not interoperable, fire department rescuers never heard the police helicopter “pilot warning that the South Tower was about to fall” or “the pilot’s repeatedly warning about the North Tower, some 25 minutes before it fell.

Perhaps this go round, instead of pointing fingers, and shooting down one’s critics, the former Prosecutor and Mayor should come down from his mountaintop, and begin to offer a vision for the future, not an indictment of the past.


Pedro Morgado said...

Bush sucks???
"We are making progress in Iraq war...”
LOL :)

opit said...

You missed a couple of clips that came up about the NYC experience and 9/11, then. First responders were scathing - especially since incompatibility in radio systems led to loss of life because warning of imminent building collapse never made it to firefighters.
I scrolled back a few pages but didn't spot the link - sorry.