Rudy Giuliani’s Record on Terrorism

  • Share
  • Read Later

In the new issue of dead-tree TIME, my Washington Bureau colleague Amanda Ripley takes an in-depth look at GOP frontrunner Rudy Giuliani’s chief selling point in his 2008 campaign for the White House, and finds that it isn’t entirely what it’s advertised to be. She writes in part:

This much is indisputable: Giuliani knows what it means to be a victim of terrorism, to lose old friends in an avalanche of violence and spit the dust of a skyscraper out of his mouth in a new, blackened world. He understands the urgency of speaking to the American people after an attack—and not circling above the ruins in Air Force One. He knows how to grieve and go to work at the same time.

But before 9/11, Giuliani spent eight years presiding over a city that was a known terrorist target. A TIME investigation into what he did—and didn’t do—to prepare for a major catastrophe is revealing. In addition to extraordinary grace under fire, Giuliani developed an intimate knowledge of emergency management and an affinity for quantifiable results. On 9/11, he earned the trust of most Americans; one year later, 78% of those surveyed by the Marist Institute had a favorable impression of Giuliani. This magazine also named Giuliani its Person of the Year in 2001. Assuming he can keep it, trust is a priceless resource in psychological warfare.

The evidence also shows great, gaping weaknesses. Giuliani’s penchant for secrecy, his tendency to value loyalty over merit and his hyperbolic rhetoric are exactly the kinds of instincts that counterterrorism experts say the U.S. can least afford right now.

Giuliani’s limitations are in fact remarkably similar to those of another man who has led the nation into a war without end. Some of the Bush Administration’s policies, like improved intelligence sharing between countries and our own agencies, have made the U.S. better at fighting terrorism. But others, from the war in Iraq to the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, have actually made the task much more difficult. The challenge for the next President will be focusing on and adapting the good tools and jettisoning the bad. Whether you conclude Giuliani can win this war depends ultimately on whether you think we are winning now.