Giuliani biographer Jack Newfield looks back on his years as mayor and examines how 9/11 helped resurrect his political career. [includes rush transcript]
It was the kick-off of the Republican National Convention. The theme of the opening night was that Americans owe it to the victims of the September 11th attacks to reelect George W Bush to another four-year term to continue his so-called war on terror. Speakers at the podium defended Bush"s invasion and occupation of Iraq and portrayed his rival John Kerry as soft on terror. An Iraqi woman, Zainab al-Suwaig, addressed the convention wearing a hijab on her head and defended the Iraq war. A woman whose husband was killed on September 11 praised Bush for his leadership following the attacks, as did former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who headed the police during 9-11. House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert castigated John Kerry for flip-flopping on the war. John McCain quoted Franklin Delano Roosevelt, spoke of his "Democratic friends" and portrayed the Republicans as multilateralists. But the star of the night was New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In the months preceeding the convention, the Democrats have accused the Republicans of timing and locating their convention to tap into the emotions surrounding the anniversary of 9-11. While the Republicans have dismissed these accusations, 9-11 was very much the theme of Rudy Giuliani"s speech.
- Jack Newfield, author of the book "The Full Rudy: The Man, The Myth, The Mania" and longtime New York journalist. In April he published a piece in The Nation titled "Bush To City: Drop Dead."
RUDOLPH GULIANI: Before September 11, we were living with an unrealistic view of our world, much like observing Europe appease Hitler or trying to accommodate the Soviet Union through the use of mutually assured destruction. President Bush decided that we could no longer just be on defense against global terrorism we must also be on offense. On September 20 — on September 20, 2001, President Bush stood before a joint session of congress, a still grieving and shocked nation, and a confused world, and he changed the direction of our ship of state. He dedicated America under his leadership to destroying global terrorism. The president — the president announced the Bush doctrine when he said, "a war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it doesn’t end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." Since September 11, President Bush has remained rock solid. It doesn’t matter to him how he’s demonized. It doesn’t matter to him what the media does to ridicule him or misinterpret him, or defeat him. They ridiculed Winston Churchill. They belittled Ronald Reagan, but like President Bush, they were optimists. Leaders need to be optimists. Their vision is beyond the present, and it’s set on a future of real peace and security. Some call it stubbornness. I call it principled leadership. President Bush has the courage of his convictions. In choosing a president, we really don’t choose just a republican or democrat. A conservative or a liberal. We choose a leader. And in times of war and danger, as we’re now in, Americans should put leadership at the core of their decision. There are many qualities that make a great leader, but having strong beliefs, being able to stick with them through popular and unpopular times is the most important characteristic of a great leader. One of my heroes, Winston Churchill saw the dangers of Hitler while his opponents characterized him as a war mongering gadfly. Another one of my heroes, Ronald Reagan, saw and described the Soviet Union as the evil empire while world opinion accepted it as inevitable and even belittled Ronald Reagan’s intelligence. President Bush sees world terrorism for the evil that it is.
AMY GOODMAN: That is former mayor, Rudolph Giuliani speaking in the opening of the Republican National Convention last night in New York at Madison Square Garden. This is Democracy Now!. As we turn now to Jack Newfield, long-time New York reporter and author of the book, The Full Rudy: The Man, the Myth, the Mania. Welcome to Democracy Now!.
JACK NEWFIELD: Pleased to be here.
AMY GOODMAN: Your response to Rudolph Giuliani’s address last night?
JACK NEWFIELD: I felt I was watching a bait and switch operation at a masquerade ball. The Republican Party has moved so far to an extremist right position, they needed Giuliani to make it look moderate and mainstream. And this is — made me a little dizzy. It gave me vertigo to see such a distortion of reality, because those of us who lived here under Rudy Giuliani, we saw him trash the first amendment by refusing — trying to de-fund a museum for hanging a picture. He didn’t approve of it. We saw him scapegoat the homeless and we saw him racially divide the city. He is not really a moderate except on social issues like abortion rights, gay rights, immigrants and gun control. He is basically a right winger on most issues, but the Republican Party needed the illusion of his moderation tied to the bogus notion that he was the hero of 9/11, when all he did was do his job. He didn’t pull anybody out of the rubble. He didn’t climb up the stairs and carry anybody down on his back like a firefighter. He didn’t dig for bodies in the wreckage like a lot of construction workers and volunteers did. He just did his job. On September 10, 2001, he had a 40% approval rating. He was being laughed out of town. He was flaunting his adultery with his soon to be third wife, and suddenly, because he stood in front of a camera for a week after the atrocity of 9/11, he re-invented himself.
AMY GOODMAN: As I left the convention last night, after Rudolph Giuliani’s speech, I was walking up to Times Square along 8th avenue and I passed the Wakamba Lounge. That was —
JACK NEWFIELD: I went into that lounge two days after Patrick Durisman was killed in front of it.
AMY GOODMAN: That was March, 2000.
JACK NEWFIELD: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Yes there is history before 2001. Specifically, can you explain who Patrick Durisman was and the role that Rudolph Giuliani played in his death?
JACK NEWFIELD: I think Patrick Durisman’s death by the police and Giuliani’s reaction to it was the absolute low of his eight years of mayor. Patrick Durisman was an unarmed New Yorker of color. Undercover cops profiled him as maybe someone who was selling drugs. They went up to him and tried to buy drugs from him. He was insulted.
AMY GOODMAN: He was a security guard.
JACK NEWFIELD: He was a security guard who was hostile to drugs. There was a fight, and he was killed by plain clothes police officers, and this was just, I think, a few weeks after the police officers who killed Amadu Dialo were acquitted in a trial held in Albany because the defense lawyers were able to maneuver it out of the Bronx where a jury would have been 80% or 85% black and Latino, so they got an ignorant jury in Albany and acquitted him. I think tensions were high over the acquittal of these four cops who killed Durisman when this happened. Giuliani, instead of waiting a few days to find out what actually happened, what the facts are —
AMY GOODMAN: He actually warned New Yorkers not to come to a conclusion right away.
JACK NEWFIELD: For about 12 hours. Then he, himself, leaped to a conclusion, and illegally released Patrick Durisman’s juvenile arrest record, said he had marijuana in his system, by leaking illegally an autopsy report, which is what got me the next day — Jimmy Breslin and I went to the Wakamba Lounge together just to get a sense of it. And it’s a pothead’s bar. You can smell pot all over the place. He probably — the marijuana that he allegedly had in his system was probably secondhand smoke. Half of the people at the bar seemed to be smoking pot. He had come out of it. And it hit me, this is second hand marijuana smoke. There’s Giuliani violating his own promise of, you know, no rush to judgment, and patient analysis of the facts, trashing this dead man who cannot defend himself.
AMY GOODMAN: Dominic Carter of New York 1 now challenged the mayor saying that Patrick Durisman was no altar boy, because in fact Patrick Durisman was an altar boy.
JACK NEWFIELD: Yes. And went to Bishop Lockland high school.
AMY GOODMAN: This elite Catholic high school-
JACK NEWFIELD: —that Giuliani himself had gone to. Giuliani got everything wrong and was unfair and stomped on a dead guy killed by his police department for no good reason. He was killed for saying no to drugs.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Jack Newfield, he is a long-time New York reporter, and has written a book, The Full Rudy: The Man, the Myth, the Mania. As people were streaming out of Madison Square Garden, and I was asking them what was the highlight of the night. One after another said, America’s mayor, America’s mayor. What about New York City and how it fared under Rudolph Giuliani, as you continue to talk more specifically about what happened here?
JACK NEWFIELD: I think you have got to remember when Giuliani ran for mayor in 1989 for the first time as a liberal. He lost to David Dinkins. Then he ran in 1983 as someone who was more conservative and got elected. His first term was okay. Then he became a raving anti-black extremist in the second term, bashing the homeless, cutting services to the poor, racially dividing the city. I felt the racial atmosphere in the city began to get better the minute Giuliani left city hall.
AMY GOODMAN: You wrote a piece a few months ago, Jack Newfield, called Bush to City, "Drop Dead."
JACK NEWFIELD: In The Nation magazine.
AMY GOODMAN: Your first sentence was that Giuliani has treated New York City like the battered wife who still gets displayed for photo ops and state dinners. Talk about New York City under President Bush?
JACK NEWFIELD: Under President Bush, New York City is — has not gotten its just, fair, necessary level of funding in every area — housing, education, but most — you know, most luridly and dramatically in homeland security. We are the biggest terrorist target in the world. We were attacked in 1993, and again in 2001. And New York state ranks 49th in the country in homeland security funding. The first bit of budget making, there were seven cities, including New York and Washington that got the money, but then homeland security under Bush and tom ridge became a pork barrel program like highways. And now they’re at 80 cities that get a share of the funding. Cheyenne, Wyoming, gets more per capita funding than New York City. It’s as if the Cheyenne rodeo is as big a terrorist target than Yankee Stadium or the subway system or the United Nations. Time and again, many people have made the point that New York is getting cheated on homeland security funding, and nothing changes. Bush and Ridge blame the congress, which is not right. They are the ones who are under funding New York. And they are letting places like New Haven and Louisville and Cheyenne get more per capita homeland security funding for anti-terrorist preparations than New York City, the number one target in the world, already twice hit. This is so cynical to — I mean, you have to — we have been, like, battered three times. First Bush failed to protect us, the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. did not — did nothing, the F.A.A. didn’t do its job. We were hit. Then he has cheated us out of our rightful share of funding and now, he’s using us as a prop for this convention. He’s here because of 9/11. Giuliani spoke because he was able to convert himself into America’s mayor after 9/11. So, it’s a triple bogey against New York City.
AMY GOODMAN: Jack Newfield, New Yorkers, do you think, will hold a view that people here have of the Bush administration and of Mayor Giuliani is understood in the country? Do you think that the media presents a different picture than people here on the ground have in
JACK NEWFIELD: No, I think nationally and internationally, New Yorkers know it, it’s unfriendly to Bush . The world saw more than half a million people march here on Sunday. New York City in polls that I have seen, Bush is getting 27% of the vote in New York City. He’s hated here.
AMY GOODMAN: The firefighter, Beckwith, the man that —
JACK NEWFIELD: From Long Island, the retired firefighter.
AMY GOODMAN: That President Bushdraped his arm around a few days after September 11.
JACK NEWFIELD: In the pre-staged photo op.
AMY GOODMAN: Why don’t you explain that. Last night in looking at the video of President Bush, we saw, you know, his going to ground zero, but explain that.
JACK NEWFIELD: On September 14, the president came to ground zero, and I think in a prearranged moment, put his arm around a retired long island firefighter. That became the iconic picture of Bush embracing New York City, even though the guy was not an active duty firefighter, did not live in New York City. I think Karl Rove positioned him for that photo op.
AMY GOODMAN: Given the treatment of firefighters afterwards, I understand this firefighter was not very pleased with President Bush ?
JACK NEWFIELD: That I don’t know. I haven’t seen him, really, disown or disavow his symbolic role. You know, most New York City firefighters and police officers are protesting because the republican Mayor Bloomberg has refused to give them a contract, has refused to give them a raise. They’re very alienated. I marched on Sunday from 14th street up to 34th street and every time I saw a cop, I knew. I said, you guys deserve a raise. This overtime for today is not enough. And they were very angry about not getting their contract, and their fair share of the salary.
AMY GOODMAN: Oddly, at some moments during various protests over the last few days, as there have been confrontations between protesters and police and police have cracked down very hard on the protesters, when things got quite tough, sometimes you would hear the protesters chanting, give the cops a raise. Give the cops a raise.
JACK NEWFIELD: I think that was very shrewd. It’s true and fair.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us. Jack Newfield is a long-time reporter.
JACK NEWFIELD: Pleased to be here
AMY GOODMAN: In New York. His book is called, The Full Rudy: The Man, the Myth, the Mania. This is Democracy Now!.