Twin Twisters

Pataki and Giuliani rewrite 9-11 history to bolster Bush, prepare for their 2008 race

Even The New York Times was provoked by Giuliani's claim that on September 11, he grabbed his then police commissioner, Bernie Kerik, and said, "Thank God George Bush is our president." The Times speculated that the anecdote "seemed almost too scripted, too on-message to be true," but then suggested it might be, since Giuliani recounted it first on Meet the Press way back in December 2001. Actually, that first use of the anecdote was also a perfect occasion for an on-message script: He was sitting next to Laura Bush, addressed the comment to her, and concluded that it meant "there was some divine guidance in the president being elected."

Giuliani has told this curious tale—which does not appear in the detailed accounts he gave Time magazine, Tim Russert, and the 9-11 Commission—differently several times. The Orlando Sentinel quoted him on June 26, 2003, as telling a Bush fundraising luncheon in Florida that he thanked God for Bush "as the second tower was struck." However, he told a Virginia Republican gathering a month earlier that when the White House granted his request for military jets to patrol NY's skies, he "turned to the city's police chief" and gave Kerik the Word. That happened 50 minutes later, when he and trusty Bernie, who was his campaign driver in 1993 and is now an employee of Giuliani Partners, were in a Barclay Street office building. He said the same thing to Larry King after his convention speech, claiming he "had just talked to the White House" when he grabbed Kerik. In the speech, however, he said it was after they fled from the Barclay building, which would've been 15 or 20 minutes later.

Whether the quote is hype or truth, it's bizarre. Giuliani didn't attend the 1996 Republican convention, saying he wouldn't waste his time on it, and he ran for re-election in 1997 as a nonpartisan mayor who claimed he didn't see much difference between Clinton and Bob Dole. His endorsement of Mario Cuomo in 1994 remains the undercurrent to the enmity between Pataki and him that may well again be a staple of NY politics between now and 2008. Yet here he is, at the worst moment of his own and his city's life, merging God and party, two loyalties he's long disdained. The 9-11 Commission, by the way, recounts the disaster that air cover was that day, misdirected and useless up and down the East Coast.

Giuliani and Pataki clearly plan to run for president on the strength of 9-11. It has already made Giuliani a multimillionaire. Pataki turned the July 4 Freedom Tower groundbreaking into his own day in the GZ sun, minus, even, Giuliani. They will twist every meaningful fact about it to suit political agendas. They will join the conspiracy to forget bin Laden. They will continue their silence about the scandalous Bush attempts to stonewall the 9-11 Commission. And they will do it all, by their own pious accounts, in honor of those who died.

Research assistance: Nathan Deuel, Deborah S. Esquenazi, and Ben Reiter

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