Giuliani's First Responders
If there's a group of people that former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani needs behind him as he runs for president, it's first-responders.
Giuliani's campaign is rooted in his leadership on Sept. 11, and particularly in the bond between the mayor and the police and fire officers who responded to the attacks. If that story unravels, Giuliani's campaign loses one of its best narratives.
That is the motivation behind today's announcement of a national first responders coalition, headed by Howard Safir, the former fire and police commissioner in New York. The coalition will be announced later today.
In an interview, Safir said Giuliani is the choice of firefighters and police officers because he understands the issues they face better than most politicians. "He gets it. He understands what's needed out there," Safir said. "I've never worked with a non-police officer who better understands both tactical and non-tactical situations."
The challenge for Giuliani is that not all first responders feel that way. The International Association of Firefighters has been waging an increasingly hostile campaign against Giuliani, accusing him of grandstanding during the attacks and of abandoning the responders.
Their charges are laid out in a website, rudy-urbanlegend.com. The Giuliani campaign accuses the firefighters of being a Democratic group motivated by partisan politics. The unveiling of his first responders coalition is intended to burnish his Sept. 11 credentials even as the sixth anniversary of the attacks approach.
New York's current mayor, Michael Bloomberg, announced this week that Giuliani will be speaking -- though not reading the names of the dead -- at the 9/11 memorial next month.
Safir, who was Giuliani's longest-serving police commissioner, rejects out of hand the allegations by the firefighters association. "If they didn't have a political agenda, it's something I could deal with," he said. "The ordinary firefighters -- they love Rudy Giuliani."
--Michael D. Shear
Washington Post editors
August 29, 2007; 11:45 AM ET
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