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The Rudy and Bernie Show

Reported by Judy - December 13, 2004

When I first heard that George Bush picked Bernard Kerik to head the Department of Homeland Security, I flashed back to that moment at the Republican Convention when Rudy Giuliani recounted his first reaction to the 9/11 disaster.

Shamelessly using the horror of that day for partisan political gain, Giuliani told a gullible nation that as he gazed at the burning towers of the World Trade Center he grabbed Bernie Kerik by the arm and said, "Thank God George Bush is our president."

Despite the absurdity of the comment, no one questioned Giuliani or Kerik about it. Although the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler made a feeble attempt to fact check Giuliani's speech, Kessler concentrated on Giuliani's distortions of John Kerry's record. And there were many of those.

When Kerik surfaced as a Bush nominee, I hoped some curious reporter doing a profile of Kerik would ask Kerik what his reaction was when Giuliani exclaimed at that moment of catastrophe, "Thank God George Bush is our president."

Kerik may well have stumbled for an answer. Rudy Giuliani himself barely remembers the incident. In fact, when he wrote his account of 9/11 for the first chapter of his book, Leadership (New York: Hyperion, 2002), Giuliani never mentioned his Alleluia to George.

Oh, there was some arm-grabbing going on. But the "Thanks-be-to-Bush" line never came out of Giuliani's mouth.

In his book (p. 7), Giuliani recalls watching people jump out of the windows of the twin towers to escape the flames and says: "That someone would choose certain death brought home the reality of what was unfolding on the floors above where the planes had hit. I grabbed Bernie's arm and said,'We're in uncharted waters now. We're going to have to make up our response.'"

Later, the mayor engaged in a little more arm-grabbing, this time involving a reporter who rushed to the scene to cover the developing disasater. "I was determined to communicate with people both the fact that they should head north [away from the trade center complex] and also that the leaders of the city were alive and in control," Giuliani writes (p. 13). "I grabbed Andrew Kirtzman by the arm (he's a reporter from all-news channel New York 1) and said to him and to other members of the press, 'Come with us. We'll talk as we walk.'"

Hmmm. Funny that just a few months after 9/11 the mayor came up with two grabber incidents but did not consider the Bush ejaculation important enough to put in his book, which after all was about leadership. A cynic might conclude that it never happened at all.

In fact, the impression one gets from Giulini's chapter on 9/11 is that it was Dick Cheney, not George Bush, that the mayor leaned on in those first hectic hours. Giuliani had trouble getting through to the White House, but finally was able to reach Cheney. Recalling the incident, he wrote: "Dick Cheney was President Ford's Chief of Staff when I first served in the Justice Department; I knew him and had great confidence in him, so I was relieved to hear a woman's voice on the telepone say, 'Mr. Mayor, the Vice President will be on the line.'" (p. 11).

On its face, Giuliani's chapter on 9/11 is not at all an endorsement of Bush's performance on the morning of the disaster. He barely mentions Bush at all, except to point out twice that he did not know that Bush was in Florida (taking remedial reading classes)when his staff reached Bush chief of staff Andrew Card. Communications between the White House and the mayor of the city under attack were sporadic at best.

The mayor may well have made up the entire Bush ejaculation out of whole cloth in order to deliver the strongest endorsement he could for Bush's re-election. The convention speech may well have been one of those chits Giuliani called in to get Kerik the job.


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