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Friday, October 19, 2007

Democrats for Rudy?

I'm going to start this post with an admission; I was wrong about Rudy Giuliani. Back in February of this year, I wrote, "Rudy Giuliani doesn't stand a snowball's chance of getting the GOP nomination."

It's not the first bad call I've made and not the last, I'm sure. I'm learning to stay out of the prediction business. In my defense, my reasoning was sound -- just about everyone on the right thought he was a horrible, horrible candidate at that time. A lot of them still do. But people are getting caught up in early polling and, since Rudy's doing well, are deciding that it's time to be pragmatists. This includes many on the Evangelical right -- who I thought would sink Giuliani's chances for sure. Seriously, anyone making a February prediction that religious conservatives would become pragmatic would've been taking an extremely wild guess. That's not their history.

So, in our moment in time, Giuliani looks like the nominee. The first primary vote hasn't even been cast yet, so things could shake out very differently very easily. But Rudy's out front at the moment.

So let's look at Giuliani.

Rudy has one major problem -- his entire campaign is about 9/11 and his reputation for leadership during that event is BS. Take that away and the Giuliani campaign isn't about anything at all. Photos of "America's Mayor" walking the streets that day weren't taken because Rudy needed to get out and lead the people, he was out on the street because an incredibly boneheaded decision left him with no place else to go. Most people don't know that the World Trade Center was referred to as "Ground Zero" before 9/11, because history showed that the complex was the most likely target of a terrorist attack. Despite this, Giuliani insisted that his "command bunker" be built in 7 World Trade -- because it was convenient for him. Rudy and staff were out on the street, looking for a place to set up an impromptu command center.

Like I say, boneheaded.

Giuliani also knew that the radios that police and firefighters used were useless in the towers. This was a problem that had been identified in the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Newsday reported in 2006 that Giuliani had equipped first responders with "incompatible radios from a politically wired vendor." The radios, useless as they were, stayed. A spokesperson for New York's Uniformed Fire Officers' Association says, "He had eight years to solve that problem."

He didn't solve it. It was much more important that his buddy the vendor get the sales.

This isn't the only reason that firefighters aren't Rudy's friends. When recovery efforts were taking too long, Giuliani switched the purpose of the work at ground zero from finding bodies to cleaning up. As a result, many remains would be scooped up, put into dump trucks, and hauled to a landfill. Hardly a dignified burial. Rudy put this as a safety issue, but firefighters -- not without cause -- considered themselves both safety experts and uniquely qualified to deal with the dangers. Giuliani was unmoved. Firefighters were outraged and, in an incident that most people don't seem to remember, pretty much rioted.

The Guardian, November 2001:

Hundreds of firefighters had gathered with their unions at the site where 343 firefighters and 23 police officers died, carrying banners saying: "Mayor Giuliani, let us bring our brothers home."

The firefighters had worked virtually non-stop at the scene since the towers collapsed. But a few days ago, Mr Giuliani said he wanted no more than 24 firefighters and 24 police officers at Ground Zero at any one time. Spotters would be used to look for bodies.

The firefighters said the cutting back would turn Ground Zero into a "full-time construction scoop-and-dump operation". Michael Carter, vice president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said: "That site, besides containing roughly 250 firefighter bodies, also contains many civilian bodies."

Recovery efforts were still being successful and were far from over -- teams pulled 12 bodies of first responders from the rubble that very week. The group marched to ground zero, where they overturned barricades and clashed with police.

In response, Rudy held a press conference and totally miscast the issue, claiming the firefighters were the ones lying about the facts. "...we would love to recover [the remains], but none of us standing here can possibly justify seeing a human being die in this effort if it isn't handled with great discipline and great responsibility. And that's the spirit with which this is being done," he said.

"And I feel really, really bad that there are certain people who tried to mischaracterize that. And I feel bad about that. But the part that I will not tolerate are people violating the law. Whether you're the mayor, a policeman, a fireman or a regular citizen, you don't get to violate the law. You don't get to punch New York City police officers. For that, you go to jail..."

And firefighters did go to jail. Guardian reported that "senior firemen, including a captain, a retired captain, a fire marshall and a lieutenant" were arrested, along with three union leaders.

There's plenty of other problems with Rudy phony history. His claim that he was responsible for a decrease in crime in NYC is one -- crime went down nationwide as the economy surged. In fact, Giuliani's record here actually sucks compared to other cities. According to Johann Hari, writing in Independent, "San Francisco chose to lavish cash not on chasing petty crime but on programmes to divert juvenile delinquents into job training, drug treatment and counselling. The result? Their crime rate fell by 33 per cent, compared to 26 per cent in NYC during the same period."

Rudy's "tough on crime" stance didn't actually work. In fact, comparatively speaking, it sucked at reducing crime.

All of this would be brought up by any Democratic opponent. Comparing polls at this point between presumptive nominees is pretty much meaningless. A primary campaign and a general election campaign are two different things. The other Republican candidates are treating Giuliani with kid gloves right now, so far honoring Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment -- "Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican." A dem opponent won't be so easy on him.

Nor will a possible third party candidate rising in response to Giuliani. As I said earlier, people are treating a Giuliani nomination with pragmatism, including "many on the Evangelical right." The key word here is "many." Not everyone plans to take a Giuliani nomination lying down.

Salon reported yesterday, "Key conservative and religious leaders will continue discussing a mass defection from the Republican Party in a private meeting at a Washington hotel Saturday afternoon, just hours after the pro-choice presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani speaks before thousands of pro-life voters." A third party candidate would sink the GOP's chances in '08.

And GOP insiders are taking the possibility very seriously. Political op Bobby Eberle blogs at, "We should be out there working and campaigning hard for the candidate that most reflects our values. These candidates will battle it out in state primaries and caucuses. When the dust settles, one will emerge as the Republican nominee. I will support that nominee. Supporting a third party candidate in 2008 will ensure that Clinton wins. The country can not afford the damage that will be done if the Democrats hold the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives."

Whether or not he's right that Clinton will be the nominee, he's right otherwise. A third party conservative would screw the party.

FOX News:

When a third party Christian Conservative is considered in the race for the White House, the candidate captures one of four Republican votes and a small minority of the overall vote. That significantly decreases support for Republican Rudy Giuliani and increases Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton's lead to double digits, according to a FOX News poll released Wednesday.

Add to this that Republicans are already less than excited about candidates and you can pretty safely predict that a lot of them will stay home on election day, regardless of who the nominee is.

All in all, a Giuliani nomination could be the best thing that's happened for Democrats in a long, long time.


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Anonymous said...

I hope you're right. The thing is, he's very good at going on the offense to get what he wants. I hope Hillary is too, 'cause she could get him on a lot of stuff.

Tim Roth said...

Good article. I would add that there is another serious problem with Rudy Giuliani and his 9/11 theme in that it conjures up emotions of fear. While 9/11 was definitely tragic, we can't dwell on the horror of that day because fear is a dangerous emotion. As Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."