By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Nearly six years after 9/11, Rudy Giuliani is still walking through the canyons of lower Manhattan, covered in soot, pointing north, and leading the nation out of danger's way. The Republican frontrunner is campaigning for president by evoking that visual at every campaign stop, and he apparently believes it's a picture worth thousands of nights in the White House.
Giuliani has been leading the Republican pack for seven months, and predictions that the party's evangelicals would turn on him have so far proven hollow. The religious right appears as gripped by the Giuliani story as the rest of the country.
Giuliani isn't shy about reminding audiences of those heady days. In fact he hyperventilates about them on the stump, making his credentials in the so-called war on terror the centerpiece of his campaign. His claims, meanwhile, have been met with a media deference so total that he's taken to complimenting "the good job it is doing covering the campaign." Opponents, too, haven't dared to question his terror credentials, as if doing so would be an unpatriotic bow to Osama bin Laden.
Here, then, is a less deferential look at the illusory cloud emanating from the former mayor's campaign . . .
1. 'I think the thing that distinguishes me on terrorism is, I have more experience dealing with it.' This pillar of the Giuliani campaignasserted by pundits as often as it is by the man himselfis based on the idea that Rudy uniquely understands the terror threat because of his background as a prosecutor and as New York's mayor. In a July appearance at a Maryland synagogue, Giuliani sketched out his counterterrorism biography, a resume that happens to be rooted in falsehood.
"As United States Attorney, I investigated the Leon Klinghoffer murder by Yasir Arafat," he told the Jewish audience, referring to the infamous 1985 slaying of a wheelchair-bound, 69-year-old New York businessman aboard the Achille Lauro, an Italian ship hijacked off the coast of Egypt by Palestinian extremists. "It's honestly the reason why I knew so much about Arafat," says Giuliani. "I knew, in detail, the Americans he murdered. I went over their cases."
On the contrary, Victoria Toensing, the deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department in Washington who filed a criminal complaint in the Lauro investigation, says that no one in Giuliani's office "was involved at all." Jay Fischer, the Klinghoffer family attorney who spearheaded a 12-year lawsuit against the PLO, says he "never had any contact" with Giuliani or his office. "It would boggle my mind if anyone in 1985, 1986, 1987, or thereafter conducted an investigation of this case and didn't call me," he adds. Fischer says he did have a private dinner with Giuliani in 1992: "It was the first time we talked, and we didn't even talk about the Klinghoffer case then."
The dinner was arranged by Arnold Burns, a close friend of Fischer and Giuliani who also represented the Klinghoffer family. Burns, who was also the finance chair of Giuliani's mayoral campaign, was the deputy U.S. attorney general in 1985 and oversaw the probe. "I know of nothing Rudy did in any shape or form on the Klinghoffer case," he says.
Though Giuliani told the Conservative Political Action conference in March that he "prosecuted a lot of crimea little bit of terrorism, but mostly organized crime," he actually worked only one major terrorism case as U.S. Attorney, indicting 10 arms dealers for selling $2.5 billion worth of anti-tank missiles, bombs, and fighter jets to Iran in 1986. The judge in the case ruled that a sale to Iran violated terrorist statutes because its government had been tied to 87 terrorist incidents. Giuliani has never mentioned the case, perhaps because he personally filed papers terminating it in his last month as U.S. Attorney: A critical witness had died, and a judge tossed out 46 of the 55 counts because of errors by Giuliani's office.
"Then, as mayor of New York," Giuliani's July speech continued, "I got elected right after the 1993 Islamic terrorist attack . . . I set up emergency plans for all the different possible attacks we could have. We had drills and exercises preparing us for sarin gas and anthrax, dirty bombs."
In fact, Giuliani was oblivious to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing throughout his mayoralty. A month after the attack, candidate Giuliani met for the first time with Bill Bratton, who would ultimately become his police commissioner. The lengthy taped meeting was one of several policy sessions he had with unofficial advisers. The bombing never came up; neither did terrorism. When Giuliani was elected a few months later, he immediately launched a search for a new police commissioner. Three members of the screening panel that Giuliani named to conduct the search, and four of the candidates interviewed for the job, said later that the bombing and terrorism were never mentionedeven when the new mayor got involved with the interviews himself. When Giuliani needed an emergency management director a couple of years later, two candidates for the job and the city official who spearheaded that search said that the bombing and future terrorist threats weren't on Giuliani's radar. The only time Giuliani invoked the 1993 bombing publicly was at his inauguration in 1994, when he referred to the way the building's occupants evacuated themselves as a metaphor for personal responsibility, ignoring the bombing itself as a terrorist harbinger.