9/11 Counter-Narrative Threatens Giuliani's Candidacy

Rick Moran
Most Americans are familiar with the heroic narrative involving New York city mayor Rudy Guiliani and his actions on 9/11. As the horror unfolded on that tragic day, Rudy was everywhere; walking the streets covered in dust and ash from the fallen towers, before the cameras trying to both assure the citizens of New York while hammering home the fact that casualties from the attack would be “more than we can bear.” His presence – both commanding and calming at the same time – established a public personae of a no-nonsense, take charge guy with compassion and empathy for the victims and a cool, unflappable style that assured Americans far beyond the borders of New York city.

That’s because, for all intents and purposes, Rudy Guiliani was the face of the United States government for those first few hours in the aftermath of the attacks. While the President was being shuttled around by the Secret Service to secure locations across the country, the calm visage of the New York Mayor appearing on television before the press or walking the devastated streets of his beloved city was the only connection the American people watching at home had with someone in charge.

This part of the narrative is what Guiliani and his handlers will want the American people to see and remember now that the former mayor is running for President of the United States. No one can take this away from Guiliani. By any standard, he performed magnificently in his role as the voice of sanity and reason when everything around him seemed insane and unreal.

But there’s more to the story, of course. And beyond what Guiliani did or didn’t do before and after 9/11 is the question regarding the propriety of using the attacks as a launching pad for a Presidential campaign. Would Guiliani, a high profile mayor of the largest city in the country, even be considered presidential material if not for his actions on that awful day? And if so, shouldn't the totality of his actions both before and after the event be fair game for opponents to criticize?

This is the idea behind a group of 9/11 family members and firefighters who are planning on forming a 527 Committee to run ads against the former mayor in early primary states:

A group of 9/11 firefighters and victims' family members with eyes on derailing Republican Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign is close to a decision on forming an entity that would run issue ads in key early nominating states.

"TV made him a hero, and we'll use TV to take him down," New York Fire Chief Jim Riches told ABC News.

A decision about the formation of an outside entity will happen sometime within the next few weeks after the group finalizes its plans at a meeting scheduled for after Thanksgiving. So far, though, under Riches' leadership, the group has sought legal guidance and help from political consultants.

If the group decides to move forward, it would set up a 527 committee -- or something similar to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which in 2004 helped sink Democratic Sen. John Kerry's White House bid
How does their narrative differ from Giuliani's?
Riches, who lost his firefighter son Jimmy in the World Trade Center's north tower, said, "We don't want him running on 9/11 or the bodies of all these dead people or my dead son saying that he did a great job that day."

He and other members of the anti-Giuliani group claim 9/11 first responders were given bad radios and that that prevented them from hearing evacuation orders when the World Trade Center buildings were about to collapse. They also contend Giuliani rushed cleanup work and misled people about air quality at Ground Zero, where recovery workers, including Riches, say they contracted illnesses.
Would such charges get any traction at all? The 9/11 Commission took Giuliani to task for the radio issue and Hillary Clinton has been quite vocal about issues relating to air quality at ground zero in the weeks and months following the attacks.

This is the great trap Giuliani has set for himself by using 9/11 not as a centerpiece but a backdrop to his campaign. He rarely mentions 9/11 but when he talks about the War on Terror, the connection is made by the audience to that awful day. And now, a group that has issues with Giuliani over his performance as a result of the attacks will try and displace the Giuliani narrative with a counter-narrative that is not very flattering and, in fact, heavily criticizes the former mayor.

Guiliani's response is telling:

Asked to comment for this story, the Giuliani campaign referred ABC News to a statement from Lee Ielpi, another firefighter whose son died on Sept. 11. "I understand the emotion surrounding Sept. 11, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that it was the terrorists who attacked New York City," the statement said. "On that day and the days following, New Yorkers and the rest of the country were fortunate to have the steady and strong leadership of Mayor Rudy Giuliani."
Indeed, Giuliani has his own organized group of 9/11 family members and firefighters who will attest to the accuracy of his own narrative of events. In that respect, the American people may be treated to the unseemly sight of 9/11 surivivors and other family members taking sides in a political debate with the potential for 9/11 itself to be turned into more of a political football than it already has become.

This drama will play out over the next year both during the nomination fight and, if Giuliani gets the GOP nod, it will certainly become one of the major lines of attack for the Democrats during the general election contest.

Perhaps it is unavoidable considering the times and how far our political discourse has descended over the last 7 years.
Most Americans are familiar with the heroic narrative involving New York city mayor Rudy Guiliani and his actions on 9/11. As the horror unfolded on that tragic day, Rudy was everywhere; walking the streets covered in dust and ash from the fallen towers, before the cameras trying to both assure the citizens of New York while hammering home the fact that casualties from the attack would be “more than we can bear.” His presence – both commanding and calming at the same time – established a public personae of a no-nonsense, take charge guy with compassion and empathy for the victims and a cool, unflappable style that assured Americans far beyond the borders of New York city.

That’s because, for all intents and purposes, Rudy Guiliani was the face of the United States government for those first few hours in the aftermath of the attacks. While the President was being shuttled around by the Secret Service to secure locations across the country, the calm visage of the New York Mayor appearing on television before the press or walking the devastated streets of his beloved city was the only connection the American people watching at home had with someone in charge.

This part of the narrative is what Guiliani and his handlers will want the American people to see and remember now that the former mayor is running for President of the United States. No one can take this away from Guiliani. By any standard, he performed magnificently in his role as the voice of sanity and reason when everything around him seemed insane and unreal.

But there’s more to the story, of course. And beyond what Guiliani did or didn’t do before and after 9/11 is the question regarding the propriety of using the attacks as a launching pad for a Presidential campaign. Would Guiliani, a high profile mayor of the largest city in the country, even be considered presidential material if not for his actions on that awful day? And if so, shouldn't the totality of his actions both before and after the event be fair game for opponents to criticize?

This is the idea behind a group of 9/11 family members and firefighters who are planning on forming a 527 Committee to run ads against the former mayor in early primary states:

A group of 9/11 firefighters and victims' family members with eyes on derailing Republican Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign is close to a decision on forming an entity that would run issue ads in key early nominating states.

"TV made him a hero, and we'll use TV to take him down," New York Fire Chief Jim Riches told ABC News.

A decision about the formation of an outside entity will happen sometime within the next few weeks after the group finalizes its plans at a meeting scheduled for after Thanksgiving. So far, though, under Riches' leadership, the group has sought legal guidance and help from political consultants.

If the group decides to move forward, it would set up a 527 committee -- or something similar to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which in 2004 helped sink Democratic Sen. John Kerry's White House bid
How does their narrative differ from Giuliani's?
Riches, who lost his firefighter son Jimmy in the World Trade Center's north tower, said, "We don't want him running on 9/11 or the bodies of all these dead people or my dead son saying that he did a great job that day."

He and other members of the anti-Giuliani group claim 9/11 first responders were given bad radios and that that prevented them from hearing evacuation orders when the World Trade Center buildings were about to collapse. They also contend Giuliani rushed cleanup work and misled people about air quality at Ground Zero, where recovery workers, including Riches, say they contracted illnesses.
Would such charges get any traction at all? The 9/11 Commission took Giuliani to task for the radio issue and Hillary Clinton has been quite vocal about issues relating to air quality at ground zero in the weeks and months following the attacks.

This is the great trap Giuliani has set for himself by using 9/11 not as a centerpiece but a backdrop to his campaign. He rarely mentions 9/11 but when he talks about the War on Terror, the connection is made by the audience to that awful day. And now, a group that has issues with Giuliani over his performance as a result of the attacks will try and displace the Giuliani narrative with a counter-narrative that is not very flattering and, in fact, heavily criticizes the former mayor.

Guiliani's response is telling:

Asked to comment for this story, the Giuliani campaign referred ABC News to a statement from Lee Ielpi, another firefighter whose son died on Sept. 11. "I understand the emotion surrounding Sept. 11, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that it was the terrorists who attacked New York City," the statement said. "On that day and the days following, New Yorkers and the rest of the country were fortunate to have the steady and strong leadership of Mayor Rudy Giuliani."
Indeed, Giuliani has his own organized group of 9/11 family members and firefighters who will attest to the accuracy of his own narrative of events. In that respect, the American people may be treated to the unseemly sight of 9/11 surivivors and other family members taking sides in a political debate with the potential for 9/11 itself to be turned into more of a political football than it already has become.

This drama will play out over the next year both during the nomination fight and, if Giuliani gets the GOP nod, it will certainly become one of the major lines of attack for the Democrats during the general election contest.

Perhaps it is unavoidable considering the times and how far our political discourse has descended over the last 7 years.