Like most Americans, I knew little about Rudolph Giuliani, save that he had been the very successful mayor of New York City catapulted to iconic status for his cool-headed demeanor after the Sept. 11 attacks. I was curious about where he stood as a presidential candidate, so in April 2007, I joined nearly 3,000 other Texas A&M faculty and students to hear him speak.
After saying some nice things about his host, President George H.W. Bush, Rudy launched into a stemwinder about the “war on Islamic fundamentalist terrorism” that basically repudiated everything the former president stood for in his foreign policy. Moreover, in the space of 40 minutes, Giuliani never once mentioned Osama bin Laden, the man who masterminded the attack on his city.
I was so appalled by the mayor’s simplistic message that terrorists were attacking us because they “oppose our freedom and … want to impose their ideology on us” that I ignored protocol and challenged him during the Q&A. To the accompaniment of hisses from the rabidly pro-Rudy students, I reminded the mayor that Islamic fundamentalists in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and elsewhere in the Middle East have taken our side against al-Qaeda at various times. Like the students, Hizzonor was not amused, and I got five minutes of unvarnished Rudy chiding me for just not getting it.
To the cheers of the partisan crowd, Giuliani argued that my “failure to see the connection between Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups [was] a recipe for disaster.” In his view, the campaign of radical Islamic terrorism began back in the 1960s and 1970s and included things like the Black September attack upon Israeli Olympic athletes at Munich in 1972. He ridiculed my call to disaggregate the terrorist threat, saying it ignored the fact that Yasir Arafat, whom, he lamented, we helped win the Nobel Prize, was responsible for “slaughtering 29 Americans” over the years. I learned later that Giuliani was so annoyed by my hectoring that he complained about it at the reception after the talk. He was reportedly shocked to learn that I was not some lefty professor but a member of the faculty at the Bush School. [complete article]
Editor’s Comment — Guiliani might still be pinning all his hopes on Florida, but after winning just 3% of the Republican vote in Iowa, he’s starting to look less dangerous and more of a crank. While the candidate was smiling off his miserable performance, John Podhoretz made the farcical claim that the “result in Iowa could not have been better for Giuliani tactically.” How many more such tactical successes can Guiliani suffer before it destroys his campaign?