Days after he reluctantly let 9/11 family victims lay flowers at Ground Zero to commemorate the 6th anniversary of the attacks, Michael Bloomberg’s administration said that the president of Iran – whose country is listed by the federal government as a known sponsor of terrorism – was denied access to the site “because of construction there.”
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad requested a visit to the site during his trip to New York City later this week, when the General Assembly of the United Nations convenes for its annual meeting.
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly indicated to a reporter Wednesday afternoon that city officials were working on accommodating Mr. Ahmadinejad’s request. The story was first reported on the New York Sun’s web site at 2:39 p.m., and headlined on the Drudge Report minutes later.
Then came the clarification from Mr. Bloomberg’s administration.
The Deputy Commissioner for the city‘s Police Department, Paul Browne, emailed reporters at 4:50 p.m. to say, “A request earlier this month to permit a visit by Iranian President Ahmadinejad to Ground Zero during the United Nations General Assembly was rejected in a meeting which included NYPD, Secret Service, and Port Authority officials. The site is closed to visitors because of construction there. That was the only request. Requests for the Iranian president to visit the immediate area would also be opposed by the NYPD on security grounds.”
A spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg emailed reporters in City Hall three minutes later to say, “Note especially: ‘Requests for the Iranian president to visit the immediate area would also be opposed by the NYPD on security grounds.’”
But the story was already born. By the time Mr. Bloomberg’s people clarified the issue, critics were pouncing on it as proof that Mr. Bloomberg isn’t ready to handle national politics.
“It is frankly unbelievable that the Mayor needs more than a nanosecond to tell the world's leading sponsor of terrorism, ‘HELL NO!’” wrote Jim Addison in a blog entry on Wiz Bang just before 4 p.m.
Comparisons to Mr. Bloomberg’s predecessor, Rudy Giuliani were bound to come next. In 1995, then-mayor Giuliani spotted the designated Ahmadinejad of his day, Chairman Yasir Arafat of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, at a UN-related event in Lincoln Center, and threw him out.
Now-presidential candidate Giuliani was quick to take the opportunity for an encore.
“Under no circumstances should the NYPD or any other American authority assist President Ahmadinejad in visiting Ground Zero,” Giuliani said in a public statement. “This is a man who has made threats against America and Israel, is harboring Bin Laden's son and other al-Qaeda leaders, is shipping arms to Iraqi insurgents and is pursuing the development of nuclear weapons. Assisting Ahmadinejad in touring Ground Zero – hallowed ground for all Americans – is outrageous."
Instant, reliable outrage of the Giuliani variety, as this incident seemed to show, is something that Michael Bloomberg either can't or won't do.
UPDATE: Chuck Schumer just released the following statement: "It is beyond offensive for the leader of state that is the preeminent bankroller of global terror to visit Ground Zero. Instead of dropping a wreath on this hallowed ground, Ahmadinejad and Iran should drop their support for thugs like Hezbollah and terrorists in Iraq who are targeting our troops everyday."