Commentary Magazine


Ripley’s Game

A front runner in a presidential campaign, such as Rudy Giuliani, has to expect robust attacks. Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney have criticized strongly his record on immigration and gun control. These are issues that create problems for Giuliani, but as long as his 9/11 reputation is secure, their effect will be limited. That’s why the recent assaults on his 9/11 record are potentially more significant. So far, however, it’s Giuliani’s good luck to have been subjected largely to inept criticism of his role at Ground Zero. Last month a video, made by the International Firefighters Association, which is tied to the Democratic Party, denounced him for failing to respond effectively to the 1993 World Trade Center Attack. Giuliani didn’t take office till January 1994.

Now comes a piece from Time magazine, written in the spirit of the Nexis word-game school of journalism. In her piece, reporter Amanda Ripley says that “an analysis of 80 of Giuliani’s major speeches from 1993 to 2001 shows that he mentioned the danger of terrorism only once, in a brief reference to emergency preparedness.” Her argument is that Giuliani has overstated his experience with and interest in terrorism.

But if Ripley had dug a little deeper, she would have discovered that pride of place in Giuliani’s 1993 inaugural speech went to the first World Trade Center attack. Her article goes on to quote former New York Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Jerry Hauer saying “We never talked about Islamic terrorism.” Hauer continued, “We talked about chemical terrorism, biological terrorism. We did talk about car bombs every now and then.” (Does Ripley think that Giuliani was preparing for attacks from Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers? Or ETA, the Basque separatist group?)

Her article also makes no mention of the controversy surrounding the command center Giuliani created in 1998 to deal with potential terror attacks. (Unfortunately, he made the mistake of placing it in 7 World Trade alongside the FBI, CIA, and FEMA offices, and it was destroyed on 9/11.) At the time, the criticism in the New York press was fierce: the conventional wisdom was that no terror danger existed outside Giuliani’s paranoia. The command center was called “Rudy’s Nuclear Palace” and “the nut shell.” Michael Daly of the Daily News compared it to Saddam Hussein’s underground shelters.

This is, no doubt, not the last of these sorts of attacks; Giuliani did make mistakes in his security policy, and he’ll pay a political price for them. But he can only hope that future hit-pieces similarly will be inept.