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Rudy, the company he keeps, and "The REAL Rudy: Command Center"

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Joan Brunwasser       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   7 comments

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Rudy, the company he keeps, and “The REAL Rudy: Command Center”

A man is known by the company he keeps.
~The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy

For Rudy Giuliani, GOP aspirant to the American presidency, this company apparently includes the Rev. Pat Robertson – who has been brought on board as an advisor – and former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik. Both of these men were recently featured in the news.

TV evangelist Pat Robertson appeared to jettison some of his fiercely held positions in order to endorse Rudy for president. It is unclear what transpired in smoky backrooms to seal this deal, leaving us a tad wary of their enthusiastic embrace. Robertson has, in the past, called for the assassination of Venezuela’s democratically elected president, Hugo Chavez, linked natural disasters with what he deems sinful behavior, and claimed that his amazing “age defying” milk shake allows him, with God’s help, to leg-press thousands of pounds. Does pragmatism trump principles every time, or is it just in politics? The powerful combination of Texas energy moguls and now a vocal spokesman for the Christian Right mightily echoes W’s fateful coalition, and we should be mindful of the similarity.

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For the time being, however, let’s examine Rudy’s relationship with Bernie Kerik. Rudy elevated Kerik from mayoral chauffeur to Corrections Commissioner, Police Commissioner, partner in Rudy’s security business, and finally, largely upon Rudy’s recommendation, to head the Department of Homeland Security. Now, that’s what I call upward mobility! Kerik is presently facing 16 counts of corruption and fraud, and it’s easy to envision what could easily have become another “heck of a job, Brownie/Bernie” moment. To borrow a poker term, Rudy would seem to be standing pat on Kerik for the time being.

Saturday’s New York Times editorial reads,
As recently as this week, Mr. Giuliani made the remarkable statement that any mistakes Mr. Kerik made were outweighed by his success in fighting crime — presumably not including the crimes Mr. Kerik himself was committing. Mr. Giuliani has since spoken more critically of him, but the public is entitled to know more.

Two important questions are precisely what are the mistakes the former mayor thinks he made in trusting Mr. Kerik, and how can voters be sure that he would not make them again as president, when the stakes for a disastrous appointment would be so much higher.

I couldn’t put it better myself. For those feeling Rudy is being unjustly attacked, see Brave New Films’ “The REAL Rudy: Radios” and my review of it
as well as the first of the four-part series “The REAL Rudy: Command Center” which I watched more recently.

“The REAL Rudy: Command Center” focuses on the decision, deemed a “colossal mistake,” to locate the Emergency Response Command Center in the World Trade Center-the very complex that had been attacked just a few years before.

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This short documentary contends that the ubiquitous photo ops that have cemented the image of Rudy as 9/11 hero in the American psyche are based on a basic misreading of the situation. Rudy went against the advice of his minions, including the chief of police, and located the command center in Lower Manhattan instead of a safer area like Brooklyn. Consequently, he was seen as an “on the scene tough guy” says Rosaleen Tallon, sister of a fallen firefighter, because there was no place else for him to be. This opinion is echoed by others in the film. Poor planning meant that his command center was located smack in the middle of Ground Zero, caught fire, and was then vaporized, leaving Rudy stranded.

Rudy gallantly laid the responsibility for this fateful decision of where to locate the command center upon Jerry Hauer, Director of Emergency Management from 1996-2000. Rudy went on to claim that there were backup centers in Brooklyn, as well as a virtual command center – both total fabrications. As Hauer puts it, “He pulls words and ideas out of the air. But they’re simply not true.” The truth is that Rudy wanted the command center within walking distance from City Hall to maximize his press coverage, and he was not interested in hearing about reasons why this might be a big mistake. Even when caught in his lies by Chris Wallace in an interview on Fox News Sunday last May, Rudy laughed and unabashedly continued to repeat falsehoods. He never backed down, despite being confronted with documents that proved to the contrary.

The film goes on to describe one possible motive for locating the command center on the vacant 23rd floor of building 7 of the WTC complex. The City of New York signed a lucrative $14 million/20-year contract with landlord Larry Silverstein in 1999. One month after the command center opened for business, Silverstein held a fundraising bash for Giuliani that netted $100,000. Quid pro quo, or merely a coincidence?

The repercussions of the firefighters’ sub-par, city-supplied radios has already been discussed and documented in “The REAL Rudy: Radios.” According to Andy Ansbro, a firefighter and former member of the NYPD, the faulty logic locating the Command Center in the World Trade Center complex contributed to perhaps half of the emergency responders’ fatalities.

Giuliani has never accepted any responsibility for his poor judgment. Accountability has become a rare virtue these days. Instead, he continues to tout his leadership in that crisis as evidence of his worthiness for the White House. “There's only three things he mentions in a sentence – a noun, a verb, and 9/11,” says Sen. Joe Biden at the Democratic Presidential Debate, garnering a big laugh from the audience. The fallen firefighters’ relatives have been scrambling to get someone to look into the radio issue. At least partly due to the 20,000 signatures that accompanied “The REAL Rudy: Radios,” New York City Councilman Eric Gioia has now pledged a full investigation – a very positive development.

In the meantime, it is no surprise that Hauer is no longer employed as Director of Emergency Management. As he puts it, “If you were not with [Rudy] 100% and didn’t support him 100%, they would basically cut your throat.” That fact, in addition to Rudy’s inability to follow his own experts’ advice, does not make for a dream employer.

Giuliani and Co. prefer to surround themselves with the intensely loyal, and Kerik is a case in point. New York Times columnist Gail Collins in “Rudy and Bernie: B.F.F.s [best friends forever]” click here draws a terrifying parallel between the leadership style of Rudy and the current president.

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The past seven years have given us some helpful hints on what we want to avoid in the next president. I’m starting to make a list.

Quality to avoid No. 1: Loyalty.

Whenever you read that a candidate “values loyalty above all else” — run for the hills. Loyalty is a terribly important consideration if you’re choosing a pet, but not a cabinet member.

How about if this time we try for a president who would recruit gifted people who can accomplish great things, as opposed to a room full of dopes who will never write tell-all memoirs?...People can screw up, or fail to achieve their missions, knowing the guy at the top will protect them as long as they put his well-being ahead of anything else. When disaster strikes, the whole world may be falling apart, but they will all be clumped together, walking north [away from the WTC].

I hope that people will keep all this in mind as they consider their options for filling the upcoming vacancy at the White House. While for most people, the Big Apple is a far-away and foreign place, New Yorkers know Rudy. They have taken his measure and found him wanting. He’s barely tolerated there, and is definitely not considered a hero. He wasn’t popular prior to 9/11, and nothing that happened afterwards changed his fellow New Yorkers’ minds. Shouldn’t we know what they know in order to decide for ourselves?

It would be nice if the press stepped up to the plate, but we can’t depend on them to do a thorough or impartial job. Rudy has hardly gotten a good vetting. He has wrapped himself in the mantle of 9/11 and is begging to be judged by his performance. In this instance, we should give the man what he wants. Here’s more from the Chris Wallace Fox Sunday News interview in May:,2933,271917,00.html "And I think what they'll find is that I can perform under pressure and that I can perform irrespective of the fact that I do make mistakes in my personal life. I hope I've learned from them. I really believe I have."

The Giuliani for President campaign is gathering steam. This is a critical moment to pause and evaluate the man. How he stacks up in the public eye may very well determine who will occupy the White House in January ‘09. See how Pat Robertson shucked his long-standing, loudly proclaimed views on abortion and gay rights in order to embrace Rudy and his run? If nothing else, this illustrates the precarious times we’re living in.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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