By Brigitte L. Nacos
If you are interested in gauging presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, his rise to become the Republican Party’s current frontrunner, and the contradictory traits recognizable in his public and private life, read today’s op-ed article by Andrew Kirtzman in the Washington Post. Kirtzman, a correspondent for WCBS-TV in New York and the author of a book about Giuliani (Rudy Giuliani: Emperor of the City), provides an interesting portrait of the former mayor of New York City before, during, and after the horrific 9/11 attacks. At the end, Kirtzman leaves readers with several questions: “Would his instinct for dividing politicians into friends and enemies plunge the White House into a Nixon-era bunker mentality? Or would his confrontational style usher in a refreshing era of Truman-style bluntness? Finally, has Giuliani's penchant for drama diminished, or would he careen in the White House from one tabloid-style controversy to the next?” Advising voters to consider such question, Kirtzman provides his own answer: “If the past is any guide, a Giuliani White House would be dominated by his outsize personality. The public had better figure out now whether that would be a good thing.”
Pollsters tell us that Giuliani appeals even to those Republicans who do not share his “liberal” positions, for example, on gay marriage and legalized abortion, because they look above all for a “strong leader” as their next president. There is no doubt that Americans have the television images of New York Cityon September 11, 2001 and the following days and weeks in mind, when they think of the then mayor. Giuliani deserved the praise he received. This is what I wrote a few months after 9/11 (in my book Mass- Mediated Terrorism, chapter 6):
no better model for crisis-managers than Rudy Giuliani who was the shining
light during New York's and America's darkest hours, days, and weeks
following the terror attacks on the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon. While President George W. Bush, obviously
ill advised by people around him during a trip, was slow in returning to
Washington and assuming the role of national crisis-manager, mayor Giuliani
impressed people in the New York
metropolitan area and Americans everywhere with his cool, competent, hands-on
leadership as he used the mass media skillfully to communicate with the public
on a regularly, initially on a near hourly basis. By showing that he and the
emergency response specialists wasted no time and effort to deal with the
crisis at hand, the mayor had a calming effect on a city and country shock.”
The praise for his role as crisis manager was well deserved then and is well deserved today. However, one should not lose sight of the fact that Mayor Giuliani did simply what we should expect from the top officials of governments on every level—certainly in the face of catastrophic crises. The public’s appreciation of Giuliani’s 9/11 performance strengthened, when Hurricane Katrina laid bare Washington’s incompetence in emergency response. What nobody seemed to remember were serious questions raised about the state of preparedness of New York City on 9/11—especially with respect to the compatibility of the communication systems that various parts of the city’s emergency response community used.
just as President Bush, his administration, and his supporters have taken
advantage of the 9/11attacks to further their political and indeed partisan agenda,
former Mayor Giuliani has also exploited 9/11 for his own advantage. Making use
of his 9/11 fame, the former mayor’s security-related business interests
blossomed and made him a wealthy man.
Will the memories and images of 9/11 be enough for Giuliani to capture the Republican nomination and, ultimately, the White House? It will depend on whether American voters want the next president to be as closely tied to 9/11 as the present one—or rather not. The point here is that Rudy Giuliani needs to be scrutinized like any other candidate for the highest office in the land—9/11 alone should not provide him with a free pass to the White House.