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Giuliani Swift Boated by Firefighters

Some New York City firefighters are trying to Swift Boat Rudy Giuliani, ABC News’ Rick Klein reports.

“America’s Mayor” is about to come under attack. The nation’s largest firefighters union is set to launch a video on Wednesday that seeks to tarnish former mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s reputation as a strong leader before and after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The 13-minute video — set for distribution to firefighters and the general public courtesy of the International Association of Fire Fighters — uses interviews with New York City firefighters and families of 9/11 victims to argue that Giuliani has exaggerated his record as mayor. “He’s running on his 9/11 leadership and it was lacking — and there was none,” Jim Riches, a deputy chief in the New York Fire Department and a father of one of the 9/11 victims, says on the video, according to a transcript obtained by ABC News. “I blame Giuliani. He was the leader that day. And he was the leader for the eight years leading up to that.”

The documentary-style video — titled “Rudy Giuliani: Urban Legend” — specifically criticizes Giuliani for failing to ensure that firefighters had working radios; placing the city emergency command center in the World Trade Center even after the 1993 terrorist attack at the Twin Towers; and Giuliani’s decision to abandon efforts to recover remains of dead firefighters as he sought a quick clean-up of Ground Zero.

While I fully agree that Giuliani has gotten far too much credit for his role in the aftermath of 9/11 (as well as some other things), this particular set of criticisms is rather absurd. Surely, it’s not the mayor’s responsibility to test firefighter equipment. And it’s certainly reasonable enough to try to get the nation’s largest city working again rather than delaying it to recover dead bodies.

The decision to keep the command center atop the Towers is more problematic, I think, although there may have been sound logistical reasons for doing so.

The Giuliani campaign has faced such criticism before and has dismissed it as politically motivated griping from a union that has aligned itself with Democrats in the past. But the firefighters’ union — which had a testy relationship with Giuliani throughout his eight years as mayor — is seeking to dramatize its argument with a video that will be available to its 280,000 members as well as the public at large.

Given how much the NYPD and NYFD were lionized after 9/11, with everyone wearing t-shirts emblazoned with their logos, this can’t help Giuliani’s campaign. My guess, though, is that he’ll manage to weather it with the same responses he’s used in the past. Indeed, he may be able to get a boost by capitalizing on a pretty strong anti-union sentiment that exists within the Republican base.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. jeff b says:

    Sometimes I can’t tell if you are joking or not. Giuliani is going to win by running on the anti-fire-department platform? Hilarious.

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  2. legion says:

    Um, since when is something highly critical of a candidate “Swift-Boating”? The only previous times I’ve ever heard that term used were highly pejorative, implying (even directly stating) that the criticisms are unfounded & manufactured purely for character assassination.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    criticisms are unfounded & manufactured purely for character assassination.

    I think that’s exactly what’s happening here.

    Perhaps the strong suit of John Kerry’s campaign was his “Vietnam hero” status. Some guys that he’d served with came out during the campaign and put out videos filled with half-truths and smears to damage that.

    Similarly, Giuliani is running, primarily, as a “tough guy mayor” who “rallied the city after 9/11.” Now, some political enemies also associated with 9/11 are blaming him for things for which it’s clearly idiotic to blame him in order to cast doubt on his “9/11 hero” status.

    In the case of the Swift Boaters, I thought they had a few legitimate points that were obscured by a sleazy, scorched earth approach. Likewise, I agree with these firefighters that Rudy is making too much of what he did after 9/11 or, at least, allowing others to do it for him. But the implication that he is somehow responsible for the deaths on 9/11 is outrageous, just as were the charges that Kerry didn’t deserve his medals.

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  4. Wayne says:

    The NYFD is taking chances with their image also. People may start thinking of them as just another political hack union who want to take down another Republican.

    Also some facts may finally be exposed in a piss fight. Anyone remember the fight that broke out between some in the NYFD and NYPD because Giuliani order a pull back in search operations due to health concerns. The NYFD condemn Rudy at the time then later brought lawsuits stating he didn’t do it early enough.

    Anytime someone starts thowing mud, they should be prepared to get some on themselve. Hopefully they act civil but I doubt it.

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  5. legion says:

    Ahhhh, I was under the impression that the ‘swift boat’ comparison was part of the original article, which didn’t seem to actually make any judgement on the legitimacy of the criticisms. I didn’t grasp at first that it was your take on the whole affair…

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  6. Triumph says:

    Giuilai will prevail–mostly because of his keen intellect and mastery of the complex problems facing the country.

    In an address today in New Hampshire, he made a brilliant analogy to explain the problem with access to health care in the US:

    “Look what happens with televisions. At first they are really expensive and they have some flaws, but eventually they come down in price, more people can afford them, and they are of higher quality. That is how markets work.”

    http://www.boston.com/news/local/politics/primarysource/2007/07/rudy_calls_hims.html

    This approach will undoubtedly insure that health outcomes will improve throughout the country. Health care is just like televisions.

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  7. jpe says:

    Firefighters have been criticizing Rudy for quite a while now.

    At any rate, isn’t it actually the mayor’s responsibility to ensure that police and firefighters have working equipment? Seems like it would be.

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  8. Tano says:

    “But the implication that he is somehow responsible for the deaths on 9/11 is outrageous, just as were the charges that Kerry didn’t deserve his medals.”

    huh?
    Did I miss something here?
    Where do the firefighters claim that Rudy is responsible for the deaths on 9/11?

    Could you explain how this is something other than a gross mischaracterization, James?

    Although I do agree with the underlying sense that IF that is what they were charging, then it would be on the same level as the Swiftboaters.

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  9. cian says:

    Add this to the list of highly, to say the least, unstable advisors surrounding his bid, his totally out of touch take on both Iraq and the wider war on terror, his alignment with the Christian right (a group notoriously difficult to shake off once engaged with) and, worst of all perhaps, extremely dodgy dress sense, appealing to the a republican base shrinking with every passing day wont get him far should he win through to the main event.

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  10. davod says:

    It is my understanding that the hierarchy of one of the firefighters unions is against Giuliani.

    As far as the Swift Boat allegations are concerned. Kerry brought them on himself.

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  11. JBJB says:

    Are “firefighters” really against Rudy, or just some unionists thugs with a grudge?

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  12. legion says:

    I can’t pull a cite off the top of my head (no coffee yet…. ugh) but I seem to recall a lot of finger-pointing about PD/FD/EMS radio systems not being compatible on 9-11, and that having been a long-standing problem higher-ups, possibly including Giuliani, ignored. Again, this is from my rusty memory, but I believe that, along with other inter-service rivalries, was blamed for poor coordination among rescue workers & getting people in & out of the towers before they fell. I really don’t know how much Rudy had to do with it, but it’s left a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of NYC uniform types ever since.

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  13. carpeicthus says:

    The difference is that the firefighter’s criticisms are factually true, not based on slanderous insinuation. Whether you feel as much importance should be placed on it as they do, or whether it was understandable that Giuliani made the decisions, is a different matter. If the Swift Boaters had just made a campaign portraying Kerry’s activism in a bad light that would have been one thing, but they spent most of their time with baseless smears and false insinuations.

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  14. spencer says:

    This approach will undoubtedly insure that health outcomes will improve throughout the country. Health care is just like televisions.

    Does this mean we do not have to worry about how to finance Medicare?

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  15. Grewgills says:

    Surely, it’s not the mayor’s responsibility to test firefighter equipment.

    The argument made is that the no bid contract that purchased the defective equipment 7 years after the report that it was needed was his responsibility.

    And it’s certainly reasonable enough to try to get the nation’s largest city working again rather than delaying it to recover dead bodies.

    The argument they made here is about timing. The order to leave the pile came about 1 hour after $200 million in gold was removed from the pile.

    The decision to keep the command center atop the Towers is more problematic, I think, although there may have been sound logistical reasons for doing so.

    He was advised to put the OEM in Brooklyn prior to the attack for among other reasons the building was not as visible a target. That is where it is now.

    As far as I know all of these claims are factually correct. You may or may not feel they are fair comment, but does anyone have evidence that they are factually in error?
    Rudy is running almost exclusively on his 9/11 reputation, yet the decisions he made prior to and after the attack are questionable at the least.

    The video is up here. Rudy urban legend

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  16. [...] the video has been attacked by the right wing as another form of “Swift Boating.” But as the Carpetbagger noted, “The [...]

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  17. sguillory says:

    The video is making the claim that Rudy is indirectly responsible for the deaths of the firemen who died when the second tower collapsed. The order to evacuate had been given, but because the radios the firemen had didn’t work, none of them responded, presumably because they never heard the order.

    All the policemen in the second tower did receive the order, and not one policemen died when the second tower toppled.

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  18. James Joyner says:

    Rudy is indirectly responsible for the deaths of the firemen who died when the second tower collapsed . . . because the radios the firemen had didn’t work

    But the policemen had working radios. Did Rudy like the cops more than he liked the firefighters? Was he the guy in charge of buying radios?

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