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Giuliani Stuck
on Sept. 11

Word that a pair of California volunteers for former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani were soliciting donations of $9.11, as first reported by the Associated Press, has sparked another round of recriminations as Giuliani struggles to find the proper campaign use of a national tragedy.

"Exploiting the September 11th attacks for fundraising purposes is absolutely unconscionable, shameless and sickening," wrote Colleen Flanagan, a spokeswoman for Democratic candidate and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd.

An anti-Giuliani group, the International Association of Fire Fighters, which has also endorsed Dodd, piled on too: "It is nothing short of disrespectful to the legacy of the thousands of civilians and 343 brave firefighters who died at ground zero," said president Harold Schaitberger.

Never mind that the Giuliani campaign says it had nothing to do with the 9-11 fundraiser, which is one of hundreds of events organized by supporters for a national "house party" day on Wednesday.

"These are two volunteers who acted independently of and without the knowledge of the campaign," spokeswoman Maria Comella said. "Their decision to ask individuals for that amount was an unfortunate choice."

Giuliani's political adversaries -- Democrats, Republicans and interest groups -- are keenly aware of the tightrope that Giuliani must walk as he runs for president.

The former mayor's steady hand on September 11 is the source of his national fame and can be a powerful political advantage, as related in a recent New York Times story by Michael Powell which detailed Giuliani's actions that day.

But his frequent mentions of the attacks to bolster his terrorism credentials also provide fodder for examination of his record on the issue as a big-city mayor before 9-11. The Post's Alec MacGillis did just that this week.

Giuliani's aides insist that the mayor's campaign is about more than September 11. He frequently talks about his mayoral record of cleaning up New York City and reducing crime. And he stresses his tax cutting history.

But it's hard to find a speech where he doesn't mention the attacks and sometimes the references are strained.

In a talk to the National Rifle Association this week, he explained that the evolution of his gun rights views came about because of the September 11 attacks, though he never said what he thought could have been different on that day if there had been greater gun ownership.

In another speech in Iowa this month, he turned a question about funding for AIDS and HIV prevention around to a discussion about the federal-local relationship fighting terrorism in the wake of the attacks.

And his decision to have a small speaking role at the 6th anniversary memorial in New York City earned him scorn from some for politicizing the event -- even though his New York rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, was there too.

All of which raises the question: how much 9-11 is too much?

--Michael D. Shear

By Washington Post editors  |  September 25, 2007; 4:53 PM ET
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