The International Association of Fire Fighter’s video against Rudy is out. I watched it, trying to see if there were any legitimate gripes among the attacks.
They are few and far between, and the overall tone of the video makes the Swift Boat Vets for Truth ads look like C-SPAN. The video opens with Harold Schaitburger – a man credited with saving John Kerry’s campaign – declaring the video ”part of an ongoing political education process,” and that “we’re not going to tell you how to vote.” Riiiiight.
Schaitburger begins, “One candidate is running on what he perceives as his 9/11 credentials.”
Right. Rudy’s credentials are only a matter of his own perception. Yeah, the former mayor’s the only guy in the country who thinks he showed any leadership or grit under fire that day. Oh, and Time magazine, when they named him Man of the Year:
With the President out of sight for most of that day, Giuliani became the voice of America. Every time he spoke, millions of people felt a little better. His words were full of grief and iron, inspiring New York to inspire the nation…
When the day of infamy came, Giuliani seized it as if he had been waiting for it all his life, taking on half a dozen critical roles and performing each masterfully. Improvising on the fly, he became America’s homeland-security boss, giving calm, informative briefings about the attacks and the extraordinary response. He was the gutsy decision maker, balancing security against symbolism, overruling those who wanted to keep the city buttoned up tight, pushing key institutions–from the New York Stock Exchange to Major League Baseball–to reopen and prove that New Yorkers were getting on with life. He was the crisis manager, bringing together scores of major players from city, state and federal governments for marathon daily meetings that got everyone working together. And he was the consoler in chief, strong enough to let his voice brim with pain, compassion and love. When he said “the number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear,” he showed a side of himself most people had never seen.
(Really, you remember those details, those moments, and you don’t even want to hear the rest of the attack video. Shaitburger’s asking, “Who ya gonna believe, me, or your lying eyes (and memories)?”)
But yeah, Rudy is only perceived as a great leader by himself. And Democrats like Andrew Cuomo.
And Chelsea Clinton, who declared “I thanked God that my mother was a senator representing New York, and that Rudy Giuliani was our mayor.” (Interview with Talk magazine, December 2001.)
And the Queen of England.
I have great respect for the firefighters of New York, no matter what their views on politics or Rudy are, but I’m not persuaded by, “He’s running on his 9/11 leadership, and there was lacking, and there was none” and “Whenevah I hear him talk, I just wanna scream out to the world, ‘God, he’s so full of it.’”
They charge that “Rudy Giuliani’s urban legend begins on February 26, 1993, when al-Qaeda terrorists bomb the World Trade Center.” Of course, while their careful phrasing suggests that Rudy was AWOL that day, they neglect to mention that the mayor of New York City in 1993 was David Dinkins.
They charge that the radios should have been changed quicker, and that the new ones put in March 2001 didn’t work. Is testing new radio systems part of the mayor’s job?
Giuliani’s campaign points out that whatever the flaws in management of the radio system, his administration upgraded just about every other form of protective equipment. As mayor, he “directed the FDNY to purchase and outfit every firefighter with new, state-of the-art protective bunker gear. By the end of his first year in office, the City had distributed 11,300 sets of bunker gear at a cost of approximately $10 million. The new bunker gear resulted in a decrease of burn injuries by nearly 60% between 1994 and 1996.”
His administration “purchased thermal-imaging cameras for all FDNY Ladder Companies, allowing firefighters to see into smoke-filled spaces, locate victims more quickly, and detect hidden pockets of fires in walls and ceilings.”
In 1998, FDNY purchased Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) alarms for all firefighters to assist in the search and rescue of immobile/unconscious firefighters. The PASS alarms are integrated with the self-contained breathing apparatus, activating the alarm any time the air pack was in use so that firefighters no longer had to worry about activating their PASS in the middle of a fire response.
These actions are not the mark of a neglectful administration. Could the management of the upgrading of the radio system be better? Perhaps. But the IAFF, coming up empty on critiques for other vital lifesaving equipment, focuses in on the radio system, without giving credit for any other decision the mayor made. It’s a fundamentally unfair attack, and a revealing one, demonstrating that the pledge to “help [members] make an informed decision” is bunk.
They contrast the problems with the fire radios with the success of police radios; but why is Rudy himself to blame for the problems with the FDNY, but not credited for what worked with NYPD?
One firefighter says, very dramatically, “He gave us nothing, when we needed a life-saving radio.” But the record on the bunker gear, the thermal imaging cameras, and the PASS alarms demonstrate that the charge is manipulative hyperbole.
They go after Rudy for putting the command center – which the New York Times endlessly derided as “Rudy’s bunker,” the mark of a paranoid man obsessed with a mythical threat of terrorism – in the World Trade Center, which they call the number one terrorist target in New York. (That’s easy to say in hindsight. Remember, we had an angry Palestinian shooting up the Empire State Building observation deck in 1997.) Besides that, it was in World Trade Center number 7, not the towers themselves. Why not have your entire crisis management team near the site they’re most likely to need to work? Who the hell ever imagined the towers collapsing onto lower Manhattan?
Then the attacks get really out of line. They say Rudy was “running” through the streets and “running away from the scene” - I have yet to see any footage of Rudy running, and as for “leaving the scene”, didn’t a building just come down on top of the building he was in? - and “talking to the media.” There are a million cameras in his face, and New Yorkers wanted – no, needed – to know what they should do in the crisis. What the heck was he supposed to do?
At this point, the union members are just grasping for what they can find, throwing it against the wall and seeing what sticking.
There’s a strange interlude where the firefighters criticize the removal of gold in the wreckage from Bank of Nova Scotia. One firefighter charges, “He said, ‘don’t worry, firefighters will believe whatever I tell them. It’s about your safety.’ We knew it wasn’t, we knew it was a lie.” Having not found the villainous comments they would like to spotlight, IAFF members resort to putting the words in Rudy’s mouth.
They refer to the cleanup as Rudy’s “scoop and dump” operation, and claim that the cleanup did not take into account the firefighters’ desire to recover the remains of every firefighter. I can imagine that if you lost a friend, family member and loved one on that day, that decision must be supremely difficult to accept. But we’re talking about 1.2 million tons of wreckage. If America had resolved to go through every piece, looking for human remains, we would probably still have a pile of rubble in lower Manhattan, six years later. (Although considering the ludicrous delays in building anything on the site that we’ve seen, maybe we could have spared the time.) Giuliani relented, and some found remains that might not have been found if the mayor’s original decision has stood. But I don’t think it’s fair to characterize Giuliani’s effort to balance competing interests as “an appalling lack of respect,” as the figures in this video call it.
Every Rudy decision is looked at with the benefit of hindsight and the least sympathetic interpretation possible. It’s a hit piece, and whatever legitimate gripes firefighters may have with Rudy are subsumed by a nasty, sneering contempt.