It was his performance on Sept. 11 that made Rudy Giuliani a front-runner for the Republican Presidential nomination, and it should be surprising to no one that he talks about it all the time.
He may soon have an opportunity to do so in an unfamiliar context, as Representative Jerrold Nadler kicks off a series of hearings into the way the federal government handled the toxic pollution caused by the attack.
Mr. Nadler, a liberal Democrat who has been critical of the Mayor for “endangering Ground Zero workers” and for failing to lobby the Bush administration aggressively for help in paying for sick workers’ treatment, chairs the subcommittee that recently convinced the former Environment Protection Agency head, Christine Whitman, to testify about what she knew of the air quality at Ground Zero and its potential health effects on workers and residents.
He knows, at least, where he wants to start when Ms. Whitman makes her appearance.
“I know what questions I want to ask,” he said. “There are a lot of questions. Why were they saying—we know they were telling people the air was safe to breath when we had data that it wasn’t safe to breath. Why were they saying it? Who told them to say it, if anybody? What was the White House’s involvement? What were they thinking about safety? What was the involvement of the city?”
At the moment, it would actually run counter to Mr. Nadler’s purposes for Mr. Giuliani to become a focus of his investigation, obvious political implications notwithstanding. He is seeking billions of dollars in restitution for the costs of clean-up and medical attention from the federal government, and any apportioning of guilt to Mr. Giuliani for the handling of the aftermath would presumably detract from the focus on claiming that money.
“I said while he’s to blame, the federal government has the ultimate responsibility,” Mr. Nadler said. “And the federal government has the ultimate responsibility—and it’s important to say that, because the clean-up ought to be borne by the federal government, not by the City of New York. Now, the city might have been culpable in not doing what it was supposed to do, but it was the federal government that had the ultimate responsibility.”
Could that eventually lead to Mr. Nadler seeking testimony from Mr. Giuliani?
“I don’t know,” Mr. Nadler said. “We’re not calling him, but who knows about the future? It’s an open investigation. We’ll see where it leads.”
Asked about the possibility, Giuliani campaign spokesman Mike McKeon offered this statement: “Millions of people around the world saw firsthand the decisive leadership of Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the bravery of so many men and women working to save lives on Sept. 11—everyone doing everything they possibly could to help. The murderous terrorists and their supporters who made it possible to turn commercial jetliners into missiles and fly them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Penn., are clearly and solely responsible for the worst attacks on the United States.”
He did not mention Mr. Nadler.