There is no doubt that, on 9/11, while thousands were dead and dying, while smoke and ash, unimaginable debris, filled the air and the streets of New York, only one duly elected leader was visible to a stunned and grieving nation.
Our president, after hearing we were under attack, looked like nothing so much as a deer caught in headlights. His first responsibility as Commander-in-Chief was to finish reading My Pet Goat. Then he spent hours on Air Force One flying from place to place, out of touch. Vice President Cheney was hurried off to “an undisclosed location.” Neither had a word to say to us.
We were left with Rudy Giuliani, ramrod straight and serious, all about the business of leadership. We saw it firsthand: This mayor was in his city, right in the thick of it all. It was heroic. This was leadership at its finest.
Except for one minor detail. There was a reason America’s Mayor was seen wandering the streets of New York all day with a hankie over his nose. He wasn’t intenionally visible to provide leadership to a nation badly in need of it. He wasn’t leading a thing. Giuliani was in the streets because he had nowhere else to go.
After the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, on February 26, 1993, against the advice of his emergency preparedness experts, against the advice of public safety officials, Mayor Rudy Giuliani insisted the brand-spanking new, very expensive NYC Emergency Command Center be placed inside one of the WTC Towers. Experts argued for a site in Brooklyn, a bunker distant from the WTC which had already been a terrorist target. America’s Mayor chose to do otherwise–with catastrophic consequences.
America’s Firefighters’ Union members and FDNY, it appears, are no great fans of Giuliani’s. Under Rudy’s leadership the city was lethally hindered in the aftermath of the strike against the Towers by faulty communications equipment provided first responders. Again, there were tragic consequences.
Since leaving office Giuliani has offered himself up as the “Terrorism Expert,” founding his own consulting firm. Giuliani Partners sells expertise and solutions for a post-9/11 America. Rudy is well paid to speak publicly, to inspire through leadership, to share his success story in protecting New York. Sources say he’s made $16 million in the last 16 months. A million dollars a month for expert advice, for the example of leadership in crisis. There is money to be made from disaster.
Now he runs for president. “The terrorists are everywhere!” he cries. “They mean to kill us all!” He supports Dubyah’s War because he agrees “It’s better to fight them over there than to fight them here!” But they’re still here, they’re still coming and we are in terrible jeopardy without the right leader in the Oval Office. So he postures and threatens, sells himself as the expert in defending America against terrorism. He was there. He alone has the proven record, the undeniable skills for leadership. He has the wisdom. He has the foresight.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani had the foresight to put the Command Center in the worst possible place at the worst possible time. He had the wisdom to ignore requests from public safety officials for new communications equipment that would work in time of crisis.
But he would have us all forget the facts. Like a tasty new offering at IHOP, he’s garnished his image to a fare-thee-well. Rudy-Tootie, Fresh and Fruity. It’s one dish I’m not buying.