Swiftboating Rudy Giuliani
The Giuliani campaign plan caper has touched off a storm of talk not only about incompetence and dirty tricks, but about the very dangerous list of Rudy's weaknesses enumerated in the document. Joyce Purnick had a nice piece at the Times contrasting the internal memo to the campaign website. Funny how the latter doesn't mention ex-wives, ex-police commissioners, racial firestorms, "liberal" social views, authoritarian tendencies, etc.
But what Purnick doesn't mention - because the memo doesn't acknowledge it either - is the most damaging possibility of all: that Giuliani could be attacked for his 9/11 performance.
By now we're all familiar with how the Swiftboat ads slandering John Kerry worked according to a central principle of Rovian politics: attack your opponent on his strengths. In part because this is where he is least prepared to defend, and in part because, if successful, such an attack generates a devastating reversal in political momentum, and everything else can come crashing down around it.
And the fact is that Giuliani, by all rights, should be even more vulnerable to such tactics than was Kerry. Not just because of his arrogance, but because of the record. Kerry really did serve honorably, despite the dirt flung at him. By contrast, there are serious and unanswered questions that could explode Giuliani's 9/11 myth. These are not 9/11 conspiracy theories, they're simple factual questions about his competence and judgment before, on, and after that day. Here are a few of them:
Why did Giuliani maintain his Office of Emergency Management headquarters in the
basement 23rd floor [see comments] of a site that was known to be one of the top terrorist targets in New York? Why was there no redundancy in case the OEM headquarters were put out of commission (as they were on 9/11)?
Why, as Wayne Barrett has asked, did Mayor Giuliani fail to accomplish his single most important duty on 9/11: ensuring coordination between the Police and Fire Departments? Why did Giuliani physically lead his police commanders away from the fire command post - when keeping them together could have saved hundreds of lives?
Also, as Barrett has asked, why did Giuliani's police commissioner, who should have been helping to coordinate the rescue effort, instead spend the day acting as Giuliani's personal bodyguard? Why did Giuliani appoint unqualified lackeys to top commissioner posts over more experienced veterans?
Why should Giuliani's media-saturated march uptown be considered a triumph of leadership when in fact it mainly involved dragging top emergency management personnel around as a personal entourage?
Why did the Giuliani administration fail to ensure that New York firefighters were equipped with adequate radios? Was it administrative corruption or incompetence in the purchasing process that led to the acquisition of faulty Motorola radios, which then had to be removed from service and replaced with old radios known to be inadequate in high-rise fires?
Also, considering that the inability of the NYPD to notify the FDNY of the need to evacuate WTC 1 may have cost the lives of scores of firefighters, and that the Mayor had failed to ensure coordination of command between the two departments, why did Giuliani then testify before the 9/11 Commission that there was "no technology" that would have allowed compatibility between Police and Fire radios - when in fact his own emergency management coordinator, Jerome Hauer, testified that the only barrier to compatibility had been "political problems"? Shouldn't it have been the Mayor's responsibility to resolve those political problems?
And finally, why should Americans trust a leader who used a horrifying tragedy and the accompanying state of emergency to try to illegally extend his own term in office? Isn't that the very definition of tyranny? Should we trust such a man with all the power of the national state?
What do you think? Is Giuliani vulnerable to attack on his 9/11 performance, or is his hero myth too dear to the hearts of Americans to crumble under such a challenge?