Rudy, Fugeddaboutit!

Flip-Flopping for Power

by James Ostrowski by James Ostrowski

Rudy Giuliani is back — with all the old arrogance, conceit, prickliness, and ambition for power. Couldn’t he have just retired into the sunset with all those profits he made off 9/11?

When 9/11 hit, Giuliani was a scandal-ridden, washed-up, former rogue prosecutor, soon to be ex-mayor with nowhere to go politically. Then, on the way to his anti-terrorism headquarters in the World Trade Center — that’s right, the World Trade Center — he got trapped in a building after the first tower collapsed. Later, many of his firemen died due to outmoded radios. His police helicopters were ordered away from the scene, apparently due to bureaucratic infighting. A sorry performance by any standard.

Later that day, with heroic rescuers still anonymous, the nation needed a hero and Giuliani was handy with Bush on the run. He does deserve credit for this role, but as Giuliani no doubt reminded many a defendant at sentencing time, the good you do does not erase the bad.

Eventually, though, Giuliani’s hat size expanded and he tried to stay on as Mayor even after his term was set to expire. Geez, what a gargantuan ego. Alas, Rudy, we hardly missed you.

Next, Giuliani profiteered off 9/11 with a book, lectures and a politically-connected security firm. "Don’t have your anti-terrorist command center inside the leading terrorist target on earth. That’ll be $50,000."

Then, he pops up at the Republican Infomercial the other night. There is an "I" in team, according to Giuliani, whose remarks were seasoned with the "I"-word.

Giuliani offered a spirited defense of one of our worst presidents, a president who has failed in foreign policy, the economy and civil liberties, but done well in all other aspects of his administration such as having lunch with the Belizean Ambassador and reading to school children.

He excuses Bush for 9/11 by explaining that he had only been president for eight months. He fails to mention that Bush had been repeatedly warned about bin Laden. Giuliani dissertates about how terrorism had obviously been mishandled for many years but fails to explain why Bush and his team did nothing about this obvious policy lapse for eight months. He also fails to mention that his former boss Ronald Reagan promised action against terrorism but funded the Mujahedeen.

Giuliani accuses John Kerry of flip-flopping, giving sparse examples. Here’s Giuliani’s record: voted for McGovern (1972); worked for Ronald Reagan (1981—1989); ran as a Liberal for Mayor of New York City (1989, 1993, 1997); endorsed Mario Cuomo (1994); now endorses George W. Bush. His whole career has been one long series of flip-flops for power.

One thing Giuliani doesn’t flip-flop about is Israel, to which he repeatedly panders in his speech. After all, Israel is America’s most reliable ally in the Middle East. I can’t for the life of me figure out why an "ally" with one of the top two armies in the world, and a mere 500 miles away, has contributed no troops to the Iraq War. In any event, it takes great courage for a New York politician to be mindlessly pro-Israel.

He is right about one thing: "The hatred and anger in the Middle East arises from the lack of accountable governments." Two governments with superior military machines have been able to impose their wills on Middle East peoples who never voted in favor of such domination: the United States and Israel.

Giuliani boasts of Bush’s war on global "terrorism." The problem is, neither Giuliani nor any other neocon is against terrorism; they are only against "terrorism." That is, they are not against the systematic use of aggressive force or violence to achieve political ends; they are merely against the use of such force by the private sector or by governments they don’t like. The leaders of democratic governments, no matter how many innocent people they kill, maim or torture, can never be called terrorists, by definition. "Isn’t that special?"

The "terrorism" that Giuliani complains of is often inspired by the terrorism that Giuliani, lawyer that he is, defines out of existence by word games. However, not even the most brilliant lawyer by verbal gymnastics can define out of existence the real consequences of such blindness, hypocrisy, arrogance and self-destructiveness, as Giuliani himself found out on 9/11 when he was trapped in that building on Barclay Street.

So Rudy — take your 9/11 millions and run — as far away from us as you can.

September 10, 2004

James Ostrowski is an attorney in Buffalo, New York and author of Political Class Dismissed: Essays Against Politics, Including "What’s Wrong With Buffalo." See his website at