The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


Rudy Giuliani

Giuliani's Approach to Terrorism, as Mayor and Candidate

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, pictured at the Swiss Economic Forum in Thun, Switzerland, May 23, 2008. (Associated Press)

By Alec MacGillis
After John McCain's campaign brought out former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani this morning to criticize Barack Obama for praising the legal response to the 1993 World Trade Center and for generally taking a "softer approach" against terrorism, the Obama campaign responded by noting that Giuliani had at one point shared Obama's view that the prosecutions of the 1993 bombers had been a success. The guilty verdicts against the bombers, Giuliani declared in 1994, "demonstrates that New Yorkers won't meet violence with violence, but with a far greater weapon -- the law."

But the contradiction between Giuliani's words and actions as New York mayor and his attacks in recent years against Democrats who he says rely on a "law enforcement" mindset in battling terrorism goes well beyond that one 1994 quote. Throughout his unsuccessful campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, Giuliani charged that Democrats were retreating to their "denial" in the 1990s, when, he said, then-President Clinton gravely erred by treating terrorism as a law enforcement matter, not a war.

Yet throughout his career as a Department of Justice official and federal prosecutor -- as well as for most of his tenure as New York mayor, which began shortly after the 1993 bombing, and ended just after the far more destructive 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center -- Giuliani himself viewed terrorism as just one part of a broader crime-fighting agenda. Again and again, he expressed confidence that Islamic extremism could be contained through investigation by local and federal law enforcement, and prosecuted in the courts.

Giuliani did his best to downplay terrorist threats that arose while he was mayor to avoid needlessly scaring city residents, and resisted branding as terrorism smaller-scale acts of Islamic violence in the city. Running for Senate in 2000, he mentioned terrorism only in the context of calling for more spending on intelligence, making no mention of the need for a broader war on extremists. Even shortly after Sept. 11, he framed the attacks in the language of crime, describing the hijackers as "insane murderers" and calling for the restoration of the "rule of law."

Giuliani dismisses the notion of any contradiction between his pre-9-11 statements and actions and his more recent criticisms of Democrats, saying that the 2001 attacks changed everything and that the problem with Democrats is that they failed to learn the lessons of that catastrophe.

But in attacking Obama today, he may have been aware of his own earlier statements praising the prosecution of the 1993 suspects, because he stopped short of saying that the government should have taken a different approach in that case. Yesterday, McCain surrogates and advisers said that the government should have handled the 1993 suspects the same way it did Nazi saboteurs who washed ashore during World War II -- with a special military trial on charges of treason and execution. Giuliani demurred on that score today: "I'm not saying they shouldn't have been prosecuted. But it's the idea that it's the be all and end all that's the mistake."

The fact that McCain called on Giuliani to add weight to his case against Obama is notable given that, during the primary campaign, the Arizona senator dismissed the former mayor's authority on the subject of national security. In an interview on the campaign trail with the New York Times last fall, McCain said that while "the nation respects the mayor's leadership after 9/11," it is unclear that it "translates, necessarily, into foreign policy or national security expertise. I know of nothing in his background that indicates that he has any experience in it."

Posted at 12:50 PM ET on Jun 18, 2008  | Category:  Rudy Giuliani
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if the former third ranking member of the justice department was so smart, why did he run such a stupid primary campaign?

Posted by: jeff | June 18, 2008 11:31 PM

Hey Rudy - what'd you charge old McCain for those statements?

Posted by: JustWonderin' | June 18, 2008 10:23 PM

ObamOsama is at once again at odds with himself. His half whitey side is a negative since he looks like a whole black person. His Muslim side is inconvenient because he knows, and the Muslim world sees, by Muslim law if your born to a Muslim Father you are a Muslim. If he declares war against the Islamic Fascist then he declares war on himself. Making it a law enforcement issue allows him to side step the fact Islam is at war with the world. As for the two Islamic women he rejected from the stage. He's like a closeted homosexual, he cant be seen associating with gay people and OsamObama cant be seen associating with Muslims. But don't worry if he wins the presidency he will come out flaming with a Muslim prayer room in the White House.

Posted by: TypicalCracka | June 18, 2008 6:51 PM

This is so typical of Mr. Giuliani. He has become the worst type of panderer, he panders to the fear of Americans across the country. While many Americans were fooled by the initial press coverage Mr. Giuliani received in the beginning of his campaign, we New Yorkers were not. Prior to 9/11 Mr. Giuliani probably had the lowest public confidence in his career. After 9/11 he was placed in a national position that he never earned. Many New yorkers were angry about his face on the cover of Time magazine; it was a slap in our faces and an indicator of the lengths he would go for personal gain. His most recent statement is just more of the same, a complete contradiction but politically expedient. I think the Post would be best served investigating the activities at ground zero after 9/11 Mr. Giuliani and his cronies were involved in.

Posted by: Harvey | June 18, 2008 6:30 PM

verb noun 9-11

Posted by: Julian | June 18, 2008 5:42 PM

Giuliani disappoints me. He uses 9/11 as a political tool in an unrelenting way. The lives we lost aren't available for political commercials Rudy. They aren't the political property of your party. Democrats, Republicans, Independents all died that day. It's despicable that you try to claim their deaths as the province of republicans---and you do it so unrelentingly. Go home Rudy. And be quiet. You've become very offensive. I'm shocked that I used to think you might make a good president.

Posted by: karela | June 18, 2008 5:13 PM

so as a federal law enforcement official, Giuliani worked in federal law enforcement.... did you think that the SDNY has a carrier group?

Posted by: wtf | June 18, 2008 4:30 PM

sequoia, you are a repulsive loser and you should be ashamed of yourself.

Posted by: |
I think that sequoia was on target, LISA. You post a misleading statement, add some racist embellishments and what? You expect flowers, LISA? Sometimes being called out is the only thing you trolls understand, LISA.

Posted by: 2008 | June 18, 2008 4:11 PM

sequoia, you are a repulsive loser and you should be ashamed of yourself.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 18, 2008 3:36 PM

Great post. Independents, thoughtful Republicans and Democrats of all stripes should watch this charade play out very carefully. In an attempt to shore up his conservative base, Sen. McCain is rushing to the right with dizzying speed. Now the 1993 WTC bombers shouldn't have been (succesfully) prosecuted in Federal court, but they should have been treated like Nazi war criminals. People need to pay close attention. We have lost so much of our civil liberty during the past eight years it is astonishing to me that Sen. McCain can only cheer from the sidelines, "yeah, me too ... only more!" Sen. Obama's background as a Constitutional scholar and respecter of the rule of law is one of the most crucial distingctions between them.

Posted by: omyobama | June 18, 2008 3:27 PM

A noun a verb and 9/11

Posted by: MarkD | June 18, 2008 3:04 PM

Lisa lied: "Obama threw two women off his stage today because they were wearing headscarves."

Wrong TWAT. Obama volunteers made that unfortunate judgement and his campaign has apologized.

So try again, LIAR. How are all those lies against Obama working out? Obama is going to crush McSame because all he has are lies and Bush's failed presidency to run on.

Ha Ha.

Posted by: sequoia | June 18, 2008 2:48 PM

Don't get me wrong, I think Giuliani and his notions of how to "fight terrorism" are harmful to American liberties AND security. That still doesn't excuse Mr MacGillis performing unprofessionally. I don't condone it when he gets cute with my guy, it'd be hypocritical for me to cheer him on now.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 18, 2008 2:41 PM

Alec: Nice post! I have been really quite impressed with the intelligent, thoughtful balance in the blog. Most importantly, this goes beyond simple he said she said, and simple gotcha journalism. You point out the relevant inconsistencies without dredging up the irrelevant. A really good job.

Posted by: Cornfields | June 18, 2008 2:19 PM

Obama threw two women off his stage today because they were wearing headscarves.

Obama discriminates based on what a person looks like. Get it, Sweetie? Get it, Whitey?

Posted by: Lisa | June 18, 2008 2:05 PM

As McCain paddles furiously to the Right, the voters are drifting steadily to Obama. Only 216 days until Inauguration Day, 2009.
Watch the hysterical right-wing frenzy as the unthinkable happens. They've been so wrong for so long!

Posted by: thebob.bob | June 18, 2008 1:55 PM

Giuliani is a joke, and the fact that McCain is bringing him out as some sort of authority on national security shows how intellectually bankrupt his campaign.
Obama represents the future. McCain will get clobbered in November.

Posted by: John | June 18, 2008 1:35 PM

Has America been attacked since 9/11?

We "made a mistake in Iraq" yet America has NOT been attacked since 9/11?!?!? WTF?!?!? That makes the "invasion" of Iraq the most succesful "blunder" for America's national security in the World's History.

Obama is a Black Nazi, look at his New Nat. Security council. See any other than Black?

If the G.O.P. failed since 9/11 in the war on terror then why have we NOT been attacked since?!?!? If Megabam (Obama) has information to bring Osama Bin Laden to capture he had better start cooperating with the U.S. to bring our country's #1 Enemy to Justice!

20 Years x 52 Sundays = 1,040 Black Nazi Sermons!


Posted by: Not a Pawn to Megabam (Obama) and the Obamacons | June 18, 2008 1:32 PM

Is that why this idiot's campaign sucked just like his pathetic mayoral positions...He better worry about that crazy a$$ wife that he left his family God, does any of the Republicans have any loyalties to their wives and wonder they are so afraid of Mrs. Michelle's because she represents the strong, educated, articulate woman that the Republicans definitely don't want to see in the women that they continue to jerk around. Hey , just take Mrs. Cindy McCain as an example, no not the 1st Mrs. McCain that was thrown under the bus but the drug addicted Mrs. McCain who allows her decrepit old geezer of a husband to call her all kinds of disgusting and demeaning names...but then again, maybe she deserves what she gets for stealing this man from his family. What goes around often finds it self coming back around.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 18, 2008 1:27 PM

Polls today find Obama leading in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and Maine... and almost in ALASKA! Full roundup:

Posted by: Dan | June 18, 2008 1:18 PM

If Giuliani was worth his salt on terrorism, he would not have established the city's emergency response HQ at the World Trade Center after it was already bombed once. He would have established it in the proverbial remote location -- even in another borough. He wanted it near City Hall so he could dramatically run there in an emergency (and be seen doing so). He did not provide interoperativity between the FDNY and the PDNY so that policemen got the order to evacuate after 2 WTC collapsed but firefighters did not. How many first responders died because he lied about the air around the pile and didn't demand respirators for everyone working?

Giuliani has zero credibility. He wrapped himself in the dead of 9/11 and used their dust shamelessly. He installed Kerik and urged Bush to appoint him even though Kerik used an apartment reserved for exhausted firefighters to sleep with his publisher bimbo. Giuliani is a slick of pond scum on the subject of terrorism and should keep his trap shut as much as possible.

Posted by: Karen | June 18, 2008 1:03 PM

So, this is what it looks like when Post reporters put their thumbs on the scale for my side.
Thanks, but no thanks. I'd prefer you stick to reporting and leave the BS gotcha stuff to the gasbags on TV.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 18, 2008 12:58 PM

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