A special comment about Rudolph Giuliani’s remarks at a Lincoln Day dinner in New Hampshire:
Since some indeterminable hour between the final dousing of the pyre at The World Trade Center, and the breaking of what Sen. Barack Obama has aptly termed “9/11 fever,” it has been profoundly and disturbingly evident that we are at the center of one of history’s great ironies.
Only in this America of the early 21st century could it be true that the man who was president during the worst attack on our nation and the man who was the mayor of the city in which that attack principally unfolded would not only be absolved of any and all blame for the unreadiness of their own governments, but, moreover, would thereafter be branded heroes of those attacks.
And now, that mayor — whose most profound municipal act in the wake of that nightmare was to suggest the postponement of the election to select his own successor — has gone even a step beyond these M.C. Escher constructions of history.
“If any Republican is elected president — and I think obviously I would be best at this — we will remain on offense and will anticipate what (the terrorists) will do and try to stop them before they do it.”
Insisting that the election of any Democrat would mean the country was “back ... on defense,” Mr. Giuliani continued: “But the question is how long will it take and how many casualties will we have. If we are on defense, we will have more losses and it will go on longer.”
He said this with no sense of irony, no sense of any personal shortcomings, no sense whatsoever.
And if you somehow missed what he was really saying, somehow didn’t hear the none-too-subtle subtext of “vote Democratic and die,” Mr. Giuliani then stripped away any barrier of courtesy, telling Roger Simon of politico.com:
“America will be safer with a Republican president.”
At least that Republican president under which we have not been safer has, even at his worst, maintained some microscopic distance between himself and a campaign platform that blithely threatened the American people with “casualties” if they, next year, elect a Democratic president — or, inferring from Mr. Giuliani’s flights of grandeur in New Hampshire — even if they elect a different Republican.
How ... dare ... you, sir?
“How many casualties will we have?” — this is the language of Osama bin Laden.
Yours, Mr. Giuliani, is the same chilling nonchalance of the madman, of the proselytizer who has moved even from some crude framework of politics and society, into a virtual Roman Colosseum of carnage, and a conceit over your own ability — and worthiness — to decide who lives and who dies.
Rather than a reasoned discussion — rather than a political campaign advocating your own causes and extolling your own qualifications — you have bypassed all the intermediate steps and moved directly to trying to terrorize the electorate into viewing a vote for a Democrat, not as a reasonable alternative and an inalienable right ... but as an act of suicide.
This is not the mere politicizing of Iraq, nor the vague mumbled epithets about Democratic “softness” from a delusional vice president.
This is casualties on a partisan basis — of the naked assertion that Mr. Giuliani’s party knows all and will save those who have voted for it — and to hell with everybody else.
And that he, with no foreign policy experience whatsoever, is somehow the messiah-of-the-moment.
Even to grant that that formula — whether posed by Republican or Democrat — is somehow not the most base, the most indefensible, the most un-American electioneering in our history — even if it is somehow acceptable to assign “casualties” to one party and “safety” to the other — even if we have become so profane in our thinking that it is part of our political vocabulary to view counter-terror as one party’s property and the other’s liability ... on what imaginary track record does Mr. Giuliani base his boast?
Which party held the presidency on Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Giuliani?
Which party held the mayoralty of New York on that date, Mr. Giuliani?
Which party assured New Yorkers that the air was safe and the remains of the dead recovered and not being used to fill potholes, Mr. Giuliani?
Which party wanted what the terrorists wanted — the postponement of elections — and to whose personal advantage would that have redounded, Mr. Giuliani?
Which mayor of New York was elected eight months after the first attack on the World Trade Center, yet did not emphasize counter-terror in the same city for the next eight years, Mr. Giuliani?
Which party had proposed to turn over the Department of Homeland Security to Bernard Kerik, Mr. Giuliani?
Who wanted to ignore and hide Kerik’s organized crime allegations, Mr. Giuliani?
Who personally argued to the White House that Kerik need not be vetted, Mr. Giuliani?
Which party rode roughshod over Americans’ rights while braying that it was actually protecting them, Mr. Giuliani?
Which party took this country into the most utterly backwards, utterly counterproductive, utterly ruinous war in our history, Mr. Giuliani?
Which party has been in office as more Americans were killed in the pointless fields of Iraq than were killed in the consuming nightmare of 9/11, Mr. Giuliani?
Drop this argument, sir.
You will lose it.
“The Democrats do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us,” Mr. Giuliani continued to the Rockingham County Lincoln Day Dinner last night. “Never, ever again will this country be on defense waiting for (terrorists) to attack us, if I have anything to say about it. And make no mistake, the Democrats want to put us back on defense.”
There is no room for this.
This is terrorism itself, dressed up as counter-terrorism.
It is not warning, but bullying — substituted for the political discourse now absolutely essential to this country’s survival and the freedom of its people.
No Democrat has said words like these. None has ever campaigned on the Republicans’ flat-footedness of Sept. 11, 2001. None has the requisite, irresponsible, all-consuming ambition. None is willing to say “I accuse,” rather than recognize that, to some degree, all of us share responsibility for our collective stupor.
And if it is somehow insufficient, that this is morally, spiritually, and politically wrong, to screech as Mr. Giuliani has screeched, there is also this: that gaping hole in Mr. Giuliani’s argument of “Republicans equal life; Democrats equal death.”
Not only have the Republicans not lived up to their babbling on this subject, but last fall the electorate called them on it.
As doubtless they would call you on it, Mr. Giuliani.
Repeat — go beyond — Mr. Bush’s rhetorical calamities of 2006.
Call attention to the casualties on your watch, and your long, waking slumber in the years between the two attacks on the World Trade Center.
Become the candidate who runs on the Vote-For-Me-Or-Die platform.
Do a Joe McCarthy, a Lyndon Johnson, a Robespierre.
Only, if you choose so to do, do not come back surprised nor remorseful if the voters remind you that “terror” is not just a matter of “casualties.” It is, just as surely, a matter of the promulgation of fear.
Claim a difference between the parties on the voters’ chances of survival — and you do bin Laden’s work for him.
And we — Democrats and Republicans alike, and every variation in between — We Americans! — are sick to death of you and the other terror-mongers trying to frighten us into submission, into the surrender of our rights and our reason, into this betrayal of that for which this country has always stood.
Franklin Roosevelt’s words ring true again tonight.
And, clarified and amplified, they are just as current now as they were when first he spoke them, 74 years ago.
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself” — and those who would exploit our fear, for power and for their own personal, selfish, cynical, gain.
Good night, and good luck.