Discussing former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's performance before, during, and after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with author Wayne Barrett, Norah O'Donnell asked Barrett: "[Y]ou can't honestly say he [Giuliani] could have predicted that that area [the World Trade Center complex] would have been attacked?" In response, Barrett pointed out that the World Trade Center complex “was at the top of the vulnerability list that [Giuliani's] own police department prepared.”
During the September 1 edition of MSNBC News Live, anchor and MSNBC chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell -- discussing former New York City Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani's performance before, during, and after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- asked Village Voice senior editor Wayne Barrett, "[Y]ou can't honestly say he [Giuliani] could have predicted that that area [the World Trade Center (WTC) complex] would have been attacked?" In response, Barrett, who was on to discuss his new book (written with CBSNews.com senior producer Dan Collins), Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11 (HarperCollins, August 2006), told O'Donnell that the WTC complex “was at the top of the vulnerability list that [Giuliani's] own police department prepared. His own police commissioner, Howard Safir at the time, went to a meeting of the top officials of the Giuliani administration and called it ground zero. He did that in 1997 and '98 because it had already been attacked.”
The attack Barrett alluded to is the 1993 WTC bombing by Ramzi Yousef and several other terrorists. The final report of the 9-11 commission similarly noted that the New York City Office of Emergency Management's “headquarters was located at 7 WTC. Some questioned locating it both so close to a previous terrorist target and on the 23rd floor of a building (difficult to access should elevators become inoperable). There was no backup site.”
Later in the interview, O'Donnell asserted that “Giuliani is widely popular across the United States, as you know, he is known as 'America's Mayor' ” and asked Barrett to “name two qualities or reasons why you think Giuliani on the national stage can or can't be president?”
From the 11 a.m. ET September 1 edition of MSNBC News Live:
O'DONNELL: Just 10 days from now, Americans will mark the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. On that day, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani took his place in the minds of many Americans as a hero. He was called “America's Mayor.” But was he really? The new book Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11, asked that very question. With me now is one of the book's authors, Wayne Barrett. Thanks for joining us, Wayne.
BARRETT: Glad to be here.
O'DONNELL: According to your book, you say that Rudy Giuliani failed both in his seven and a half years leading up to 9-11 and in the aftermath of the tragedy. How so?
BARRETT: Well, we even say he failed on that day. He made some critical misjudgments on that day, but the seven-and-a-half-year lead-up to it is really the most potent part of the book. We examine all of the failings in terms of the fire radios, we examine the location of the bunker, the decision to put it in the World Trade Center complex, and how that affected the response that day, and we examine the command and control protocols that were really turned to shreds that day when the mayor himself went to the command post that the fire chiefs had set up on West Street and brought all the police chiefs with them, and then left with all the police chiefs, effectively dividing the command on that day, when unified command and his own protocols called for them to be in the same command post. So we kind of examine, over the course of those seven and a half years, the considerable evidence that the Giuliani administration was basically asleep at the switch in terms of a terrorist attack on the city, even though the city had been attacked while Rudy Giuliani was running for mayor in 1993.
O'DONNELL: I understand that you criticize Mayor Giuliani for having the command center in the World Trade Center complex, which he had received some criticism for at the time because many people thought it was expensive, etc. But you can't honestly say he could have predicted that that area would have been attacked?
BARRETT: Well, it was at the top of the vulnerability list that his own police department prepared. His own police commissioner, Howard Safir at the time, went to a meeting of the top officials of the Giuliani administration and called it ground zero. He did that in 1997 and '98 because it had already been attacked. And he -- you know, there was tremendous resistance within the police department. Lou Anemone, the highest-ranking police officer at the time, uniformed police officer at the time, resisted it tremendously with the mayor. The great deal of advice that he got -- but he insisted it had to be within walking distance of City Hall. His own head of the emergency management office that he set up wanted it in downtown Brooklyn at the MetroTech Center, which it's just a block from now. That's where [current New York City] Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg [R] put it.
O'DONNELL: Wayne, I understand your book is, of course, very critical, it is coming out at a time timed to the 9-11 anniversary. However, Giuliani is widely popular across the United States, as you know, he is known as “America's Mayor,” and in fact, in some polls, he is at the top of the list as a Republican candidate in 2008. In your opinion, name two qualities or reasons why you think Giuliani on the national stage can or can't be president?
BARRETT: Well, look, we say in the book he said all the right things. We think he hit precisely the right chords that day. We think he hit precisely the right chords at the funerals that followed. He certainly carried himself magnificently. What we're saying is, that he was not the prophet of terrorism that he portrays himself as, that he prepared the city badly, and that he dealt with the aftermath at Ground Zero, where thousands of firefighters and construction workers now are haunted by the respiratory consequences of Ground Zero -- he handled the aftermath and he handled the preparation badly. So that he does have a reputation, a deserved reputation from the powerful visuals of that day as someone who led us in a remarkable way, but he prepared us badly and he dealt with the aftermath badly.
O'DONNELL: All right, Wayne Barrett, thank you very much for joining us.
BARRETT: Thank you.