Wayne Barrett has done the political world a great service with a devastating piece in the Village Voice on Rudy Giuliani and the “five big lies” surrounding the former mayor’s claim to fame: his performance on 9/11. The entire piece — which, if read, should effectively end Giuliani’s presidential ambitions — is important, but there’s one part of the story that’s particularly worth highlighting.
It’s Lie #3: Giuliani doesn’t deserve the blame for putting the city’s emergency-command center in the World Trade Center, an obvious, and once-attacked, terrorist target. The former mayor was warned, in writing, about the inherent flaws in the choosing the site, and was offered a better and more effective alternative, but Giuliani moved forward anyway. As Barrett explained, “The 1997 decision had dire consequences on 9/11, when the city had to mobilize a response without any operational center.”
So, why is it, exactly, that Giuliani picked the WTC site? The mayor personally established a specific standard: he had to be able to walk to the command center from his office. (“I’ve never seen in my life ‘walking distance’ as some kind of a standard for crisis management,” said Lou Anemone, the highest-ranking uniformed officer in the NYPD. “But you don’t want to confuse Giuliani with the facts.”)
There is, however, an explanation for the walking-distance standard.
The 7 WTC site was the brainchild of Bill Diamond, a prominent Manhattan Republican that Giuliani had installed at the city agency handling rentals. When Diamond held a similar post in the Reagan administration a few years earlier, his office had selected the same building to house nine federal agencies. Diamond’s GOP-wired broker steered Hauer to the building, which was owned by a major Giuliani donor and fundraiser. When Hauer signed onto it, he was locked in by the limitations Giuliani had imposed on the search and the sites Diamond offered him. The mayor was so personally focused on the siting and construction of the bunker that the city administrator who oversaw it testified in a subsequent lawsuit that “very senior officials,” specifically including Giuliani, “were involved,” which he said was a major difference between this and other projects.
Giuliani’s office had a humidor for cigars and mementos from City Hall, including a fire horn, police hats and fire hats, as well as monogrammed towels in his bathroom. His suite was bulletproofed and he visited it often, even on weekends, bringing his girlfriend Judi Nathan there long before the relationship surfaced. He had his own elevator.
For the city, this meant that on 9/11, the NYC make-shift command center didn’t exist until seven hours after the attack. As for Giuliani’s poor judgment, the most rational conclusion is that he put his center in the wrong place because he was creating a “convenient love nest.”
Kevin Drum wonders how the GOP base is going to respond to news like this.
Right now, they’re probably not aware of the whole story, and simply perceive Giuliani as someone who held some impressive press conferences on 9/11. But it’s only a matter of time. Giuliani’s decisions should be a national scandal that not only force him from the presidential race, but may even shame him permanently.
Inevitably, this is going to become a part of this campaign, and when it does, it’s going to be ugly.