Friday, February 09, 2007


Scrutiny for Giuliani's record on terrorism response

Jonathan Alter expresses some concern over Rudy Giuliani's temperment. Alter, who covered and praised Giuliani in the wake of the terror attacks on 9/11, worries that Giuliani's petulence, self-regard, and thin skin wouldn't serve him well as president.

That makes sense. Stubbornness and unwarranted self-regard may not be the best attributes in a president.

Another issue, though, that has really not been discussed in mainstream news outlets, is questions about Giuliani's record in the area of terrorism response.

Now, I knew some people in NYC who had really disliked Giuliani, and who came, in the hours and months after the attack, to respect and admire his dignified presence. He handled the situation he faced maybe as well as any political leader has faced any situation in our country's history.

Those responsibilities at the time were largely stagecraft, not policy decisionmaking.

Policy decisions that Rudy had made-- involving, particularly, the location of the city's terrorism response center-- may be valid targets of criticism. Some scattered news outlets have raised questions about Giuliani's decisions-- particularly his decision to locate the terrorism response center in a building that had been a target for terrorists and the flaws in communications systems that provoked an irate, but relatively obscure, response in a book penned by a former NYC firefighter.

Now, it might turn out that the location of the terrorism response center, and the poorly operative communications systems, were not at all the fault of Giuliani. It had never seemed, to me, to be a great use of time or energy to have a huge public discussion about the pros and cons of Giuliani's decisions and leadership. But now he's not just helping NYC get back on its feet, he's running for president, counting in part on the good will that we have for the way he handled himself after the attacks.

There has to be reexamination of his record, and accountability for mistakes he may have made in setting up NYC terrorism and emergency response before the attacks happened.

I'm just not sure that his overall performance-- even on the terrorism issue-- is one that would make us want to make him president. Certainly he's a person with some great skills, and it's great for everyone if he is able to be an effective public figure. But as president? It's just not clear to me that that's where he's best utilized.

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