Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What did Rudy actually do on 9/11?

Since I was there at the time, I remember. The answer is: one thing, and one thing only. He was a heckuva good TV talk show host over the period of several days right afterwards.

I don't want to minimize this too much. It actually mattered to a degree. A key virtue is that he was actually calm. With all the grief and shock in the air, he helped New Yorkers to feel better.

But that was it. So far as actual emergency management is concerned, the less said the better. Think of the lost command post that he put on top of the WTC, possibly as a love nest. Or the dead firemen who would have survived if they could have communicated by radio with the police. Or the lack of health precautions for people at the site, who are still getting sick due to his negligence. Or the fact that he spent more hours at Yankee games between 9/11 and the end of that year than at the site (not that he was really needed there).

Good talk show host for a few days. Period. Via a completely different persona than his mad dog spewings on the campaign trail these days. And again, this was genuinely valuable and I still appreciate it. But it is a slim reed for a Presidential campaign.

3 comments:

Joshua NYU '10 said...

Rudy Guliani's leadership after 9/11 included far more than TV appearances. True, the thrust of his duties sought to maintain calm and order to a shocked populace, but that alone would be enough to qualify him for an outstanding leadership review.

But he did far more than assuage fears. Rudy attended hundreds of funerals for fireman and police officers, sometimes attending dozens daily, grieving with his people. He made the time to give the public what it needed, namely, him, when most public officials would have plenty excuses to be busy with other matters. Being cognizant of this need was itself a great sign of leadership.

One needn't look further for comparitive leadership than Mayor Nagin of New Orleans, who exhibited wholesale neglect of his citizens and used his media time to complain and about others and only further hysteria. Would one rather have Guliani or Nagin in charge when catastrophe strikes?

Finally, to blame Rudy for the placement of the emergency post is misguided. First, it was not 'on top' of the WTC, but rather in the lower floors, in what was considered by contingency planners to be one of the safest areas in New Yok City to put the command center. Most importantly, it wasn't Guliani's personal choice, but one made of a large emergency committee. Guliani wasn't either in charge of radio equipment for emergency officials. I don't recall Guliani trimming the budgets for these departments leading up to 9/11.

In light of all this, Guliani excelled at what he could do for the city, and was largely not responsible for the negatives you cite.

Daniel Shaviro said...

I'll admit that I don't definitely know all the facts on this. But (a) I believe it is undisputed that Rudy overruled 100% of his aides to put the command center in the WTC; (b) I have read charges that the radio communications problem resulted from faulty equipment from suppliers that his administration selected through cronyism. On this second point I certainly don't know where the truth lies. But even if the cronyism charge is erroneous, there's a pretty good argument that after the 1993 WTC bombing he was fairly on notice about the importance of getting response procedures ironed out.

Daniel Shaviro said...

Further update: An admittedly partisan film, as discussed on the admittedly partisan huffingtonpost.com website, alleges the following:

Giuliani failed to equip the FDNY with adequate, let alone functioning, communication equipment. That in turn created massive problems on 9/11 and may have contributed to the unnecessary deaths of dozens of servicemen.

"What did Mr. Giuliani do [about faulty radios]?" Al Santora, the retired Chief of Safety for FDNY whose son died on 9/11, asks in one of the film's most poignant moments. "He had eight years. He did nothing to correct that situation... We got people dead as a result."

As Greenwald documents, the radios used by the FDNY on 9/11 were precisely the same ones that malfunctioned during the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. Eight years after that attack, Giuliani did replace the defective equipment. But the new radios he bought under a no-bid, $14 million contract from Motorola (the previous contract was $1.4 million) were never field-tested. The "upgrade" proved disastrous. Within a week, the just-purchased radios were recalled after a firefighter's mayday went un-heard. Giuliani was forced to reissue the old, faulty batch. And on 9/11 when a police helicopter warned that the North Tower could collapse, more than 120 firefighters remained inside.

"The radios failed them and that was Giuliani failing them," says Roseleen Tallon, whose brother Sean was an FDNY member killed in 9/11.