On this day 10 years ago, Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City who led the city through the 9/11 terrorist attacks and their aftermath, earned the nickname “America’s Mayor,” as he reassured New Yorkers and the country that they would pull through the horrific tragedy even as ground zero continued to smolder.
Giuliani told a group of journalists that he tried to make the best decisions that he could and hoped that his intuition was correct as he led the city through the crisis. Of the many lives lost on 9/11, the most jarring for Giuliani was Father Mychal Judge, a chaplain at the New York Fire Department, who was the first victim identified from the nearly 3,000 who perished. Giuliani was hoping Judge would help him talk to the many New Yorkers whose loved ones were either missing or dead. When Giuliani lost Judge, he “really felt alone” and thought he would “have to grow up and do this on my own.”
The former prosecutor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate said at a National Press Club event this week that “September 11 is not part of our history. It’s part of our present reality. And we can’t use this as an opportunity to say, Oh, let’s put this behind us. If we do that, we will repeat the mistake that we made before September 11, which is not evaluating correctly the scope and the danger of Islamic extremist terrorism.”
Giuliani said America is still vulnerable 10 years after the September 11 attacks. He also addressed the sluggish national economy, saying, “We let our economy and our budget get so out of control that it’s beginning to become significantly and really a national security issue. When this country has to worry about whether we’re spending too much money on defending us, then this is a national security problem.”
Here are some excerpts from Giuliani’s press conference:
Question: What are some of the lessons learned from 9/11?
Answer: Don’t underestimate your enemy.
Don’t be afraid to face your enemy honestly and squarely.
Don’t be afraid to discuss it honestly and don’t create – within the bureaucracy, including the bureaucracy of the military – a fear of doing the right thing because it will be misinterpreted.
We need to be militarily present in the Middle East until a significant number of people in the Middle East stop planning to come here and kill us.
Question: What is one thing we’ve ignored?
Answer: Our port security hasn’t really been improved the way it should. And it needs that kind of attention.
Question: After 9/11, where did you find the strength to continue leading the city?
Answer: No one place. I don’t think I had a choice. It was a question of, Do I roll up into a little ball and have people showing me on television like that? It would have been really embarrassing if the mayor started crying. Or do I just do the best that I can? I guess you find the strength in the things that brought you up.
Question: Your thoughts about the face of terrorism today – and the ongoing threat from al-Qaeda and the shift and fear of the threat of homegrown terrorists?
Answer: I think that they are both equally dangerous threats. In some ways homegrown terrorists are more dangerous because they're harder to detect. If it’s something as being organized overseas, particularly in the areas where we have this tremendous military presence, we need to communicate that. It gives us a much better chance of finding it and detecting it. Homegrown terrorists are much harder to detect. Most of them are still organized around Islamic extremists and their own desire to participate in jihad.
Question: What are your thoughts on Pakistan?
Answer: I do believe that part of the problem we have in Pakistan and Afghanistan is the silly timetables we put on things. You cannot fight a war with a timetable. When did this idea emerge? Who figured this out? This is the dumbest thing and the most dangerous thing you can possibly do. You can’t win a war that way. You give your enemies a tremendous blaring headline. When you do that, you demoralize your troops and put them under much greater danger. You fight a war for an objective. Objectives don’t have timetables.
We should remain in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in that part of the world until people in that part of the world, significant numbers of people, stop trying to figure out how to kill Americans.
Question: What was your reaction to the death of Osama Bin Laden?
Answer: My reaction was relief and a tremendous amount of pride in the way the United States handled it. It was President Obama’s finest moment. It will make the 10th anniversary somewhat easier, because when you bring someone to justice there is something very elemental about that desire in human beings who have been victimized.
Question: Is the consensus right or wrong that you are going to run for president?
Answer: How do I know? I’m not part of the consensus. I don’t know the answer to that. I decided to put it off three weeks ago as we got closer to 9/11. I would very much like to see a change in direction in our country. I think if I were to run, I would have a chance at the presidency. A chance, nobody ever knows. But I would have a hard time getting nominated. I’m a realist and I understand how the primary system works. If I think we are truly desperate, then I may run, which is the way I got elected as mayor of New York City.