Wash. Post asserted as fact that critics are unable to attack Giuliani "on national security"

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

A May 9 Washington Post article asserted that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's (R) "critics" have been "[u]nable to attack Giuliani on national security." In fact, Media Matters for America has documented numerous criticisms of Giuliani's national security record by Village Voice senior editor Wayne Barrett and CBSNews.com senior producer Dan Collins in their book Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11 (HarperCollins, 2006), by HBO host Bill Maher, and seemingly by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). The Post article also stated that "McCain, who has clashed with conservatives on other issues, is hoping that his consistent antiabortion credentials will help him win over party activists." In fact, McCain has made inconsistent statements on the issue of abortion, leading some conservatives to accuse him of waffling.

Giuliani and national security

Just prior to claiming that Giuliani's "critics" were "[u]nable to attack Giuliani on national security," the Post article referred to Giuliani as "the man known since Sept. 11, 2001, as 'America's Mayor.' " As Media Matters has noted, media figures have repeatedly touted Giuliani's reputation as "America's mayor" and the "hero of 9-11" despite the controversies that have marked his political career, including his handling of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

In Grand Illusion, Barrett and Collins cited several of what they presented as Giuliani's terrorism-related failures before, during, and after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, including his decision to put his terrorism command center in the 7 World Trade Center building, which collapsed on 9-11.

As Media Matters noted, on the May 1 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Maher said that "[a]ll of the experts told him [Giuliani] to move the command-and-control center out of the World Trade Center. He put it in the World Trade Center." Maher added: "He's not a terrorism fighter. He has no credentials in this."

As Media Matters noted, Barrett and Collins wrote that "the lack of interoperable radios" between the New York fire and police departments "became ... a focus of fury." (Page 343). On 9-11, the New York fire department was using outdated VHF radios that were incompatible with the police department's UHF radios.

A March 14 New York Times article reported that Harold A. Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said, "The whole issue of the radios is unforgivable. ... Everyone knew they needed a better system, and he [Giuliani] didn't get it done."

Similarly, in an April 25 speech, McCain appeared to attack Giuliani's record on emergency preparedness, as Media Matters Senior Fellow Duncan Black noted and Media Matters documented. New York Times reporters Adam Nagourney and Michael Cooper wrote: "McCain sought to undercut what had been the former mayor's biggest political claim to fame -- his stewardship of New York City after the attacks of Sept. 11 -- by noting the problems with firefighters' radios on the day of the attack."

An April 26 Los Angeles Times article reported that McCain had "alluded to accusations by Giuliani critics," but the article also reported that "McCain ... denied later that he was specifically referring to Giuliani."

From McCain's speech:

McCAIN: We must also prepare, far better than we have, to respond quickly and effectively to another terrorist attack or natural calamity. When Americans confront a catastrophe, natural or man-made, they have a right to expect basic competence from their government. They won't accept that firemen and policemen are unable to communicate with each other in an emergency because they don't have the same radio frequency.


That's not good enough for America. And when I'm President, it won't be good enough for me.

McCain and abortion

The Post article also falsely asserted that McCain has taken a "consistent" position against abortion rights and that McCain "has clashed with conservatives on other issues," suggesting that he has not "clashed" with conservatives on abortion. In fact, in 1999, the San Francisco Chronicle reported an instance in which McCain's vacillation on Roe v. Wade drew criticism from fellow Republicans and conservatives.

As Media Matters documented, on August 25, 1999, the Chronicle reported that McCain had told its editorial board:

"I'd love to see a point where it is irrelevant and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. ... But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe vs. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to (undergo) illegal and dangerous operations."

Several days later, he issued what the Chronicle called a "clarification," reportedly saying: "I have always believed in the importance of the repeal of Roe vs. Wade, and as president, I would work toward its repeal." McCain added:

"If Roe v. Wade were repealed tomorrow, it would force thousands of young women to undergo dangerous and illegal operations. I will continue to work with both pro-life and pro-choice Americans so that we can eliminate the need for abortions to be performed in this country."

The Chronicle further noted the criticism surrounding McCain's remarks:

Those statements kicked up severe criticism from some Republicans that McCain, considered a plain-spoken maverick, appeared to be trying to please both sides on an issue that has been at the top of the political radar in California in recent elections. "It's very hard to finesse the issue of abortion, and Senator McCain is finding that," said Jeff Bell, senior political consultant for rival GOP presidential candidate Gary Bauer. "He's got a problem. He has a down-the-line pro-life voting record in (Congress). ... To say you're going to work with both sides is easier said than done."

Bauer called McCain's statements "unintelligible," and a spokeswoman for the Steve Forbes campaign accused the Arizona senator of "stuttering and stammering" on the issue.

Columnist George Will was even more blistering: "How can McCain square what he told The Chronicle with the answer 'yes' that he gave last year in response to the question, Do you support the complete reversal of Roe vs. Wade?' Or with this, from February 25 and July 22, 1998: 'I am a lifelong, ardent supporter of unborn children's right to life.' "

From the May 9 Washington Post article:

Mitt Romney, who embraced a pro-abortion-rights position as governor of Massachusetts, has professed a change of conscience on the issue and now says he opposes abortion. McCain, who has clashed with conservatives on other issues, is hoping that his consistent antiabortion credentials will help him win over party activists.


Mike DuHaime, Giuliani's campaign manager, stressed the importance of issues such as the economy, taxes and terrorism. "Most Republican voters are going to judge all these candidates as a whole, not on one issue," he said.

Republican strategists said Giuliani's problems were exacerbated by his debate performance, which highlighted the vulnerabilities in the candidacy of the man known since Sept. 11, 2001, as "America's Mayor." Unable to attack Giuliani on national security, his critics had been waiting for an opening.

In Thursday's debate, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Giuliani responded to a question first by saying that it would be "okay" if Roe v. Wade were overturned. Then he said it would be okay if it were upheld, before winding his way back to a defense of his long-held abortion-rights position.

The Washington Post
Rudy Giuliani, 2008 Elections
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