Barrett on Barrett

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I interviewed Wayne Barrett, whose new book, Grand Illusion, tries to strip Rudy Giuliani of his post-9/11 mythic stature. Barrett interviewed people in the Giuliani administration who said the ’93 World Trade Center bombing and terrorism in general never came up.

Terrorism is also missing from Barrett’s 2000 biography on Giuliani. “If somebody wants to say I wasn’t sensitive to the terrorist threat when I wrote the first Rudy book, I think that’s fair comment. I think the question is ‘Why wasn’t he?’ ”

As for whether Grand Illusion is opposition research for Hillary Clinton and John McCain, Barrett said, “Rudy has a long way to go before he faces Hillary Clinton.”

Azi Paybarah

Excerpts of the Wayne Barrett interview

I certainly think he’s running for president of the United States. I think he could change his mind, but as of this moment, I think he’s running. He’s running on the strength of a single credential. Look, he has a crime record, a welfare record in New York. It’s not like the only thing he ever did was 9/11. But 9/11 is really the opening…He said all the rights things but I think we prove in the book he did all the wrong things. That’s before 9/11, after 9/11 and even on that day.

I think if you begin to examine, and we do more than begin to examine, what his anti-terrorism record is, what really he did related to Ground Zero after 9/11 and what he did in preparing the city for a terrorist attack, when you look at that, he has a dismal record.

And so, if that’s the rationale for a presidential candidacy, it’s not much of a rationale. I don’t think it’ll be just us saying that. I don’t think it’ll be just this book saying that. There are court cases in the southern district involving Ground Zero. There are court cases involving lower Manhattan. Both of those cases are proceeding in court and both of those cases will really haunt his presidential candidacy because he is in large measure responsible for some of the things that happened in lower Manhattan.

This book is coming out five years after the event and there’s good reason for that.

Could it have come out earlier?

I think it was conceivable. It wasn’t ready, but was it conceivable we could have had large portions of it done sooner, rather than this, it’s conceivable. I think the publishers and we felt there had to be an adjustment period. We are tampering with a giant myth here…To go into the fundamental questions that we raise chapter after chapter that were made that cost lives that day, I think you need a passage of time before people can accept that, before people can deal with that.

[On his first Giuliani biography, Rudy]

It came out after he withdrew. In fact, we were afraid he was going to disappear into the sea before we could get it out. I was in the final phase of writing it. I had written probably about 90 percent of it when he announced he had prostate cancer…The book comes out July 4th and he pulls out of the senate in late May.

In Rudy, you don’t mention terrorism. It’s as if it wasn’t much part of the narrative.

That is certainly true. If somebody wants to say I wasn’t sensitive to the terrorist threat when I wrote the first Rudy book, I think that’s fair comment. I think the question is ‘Why wasn’t he?’ I think there is a very difference in the standard for the mayor of the city of New York’s awareness, after the city has been bombed, after the bombing factory was broken up in Queens in 1993 and when he comes into office.

I think there is a big difference between a mayor who never mentioned the ’93 bombing – and I’m not just talking about publicly but in the gathering with his cabinet and staff. It was never an issue he discussed with his police commissioners. The overall terrorist threat was something that basically receded into the background for years…

I think when I reviewed a history of the Giuliani administration as part of a biography [terrorism] was absent from that biography because in large measure it was absent from his administration. But it is fair to say it was absent from my own consciousness…

Government has a great ability, and I think a growing and disconcerting ability to set the media agenda. Should we, not just me but everyone in the media have been conscious during the Giuliani administration that terrorism was a danger to the city? Should we have been more conscious ourselves? I don’t think there is a question that that’s true.

The fact that the administration was not conscious of it, never had a program or never seriously talked about it, you know, mean that we didn’t either.

Do you expect people to take portions of your book and run ads against Rudy? Could Hillary Clinton and John McCain look at your book as opposition research delivered on a silver platter?

Rudy has a long way to go before he faces Hillary Clinton. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all if in the Republican primary that issues of his performances – I don’t know if they’ll be issues that proceed from our pages – but issues about his true 9/11 performances [are raised]. He made some bad decisions that morning.

Do I think that can be part of the qualifying debate for the presidential election that I expect Rudy to enter? Yes, I think it could be. I think some of those cases will haunt him. The cases about the toxins in lower Manhattan are going to haunt him. Those cases will proceed when he hits the campaign trail…Some of the families are outraged at the notion that he can run for president of the United States on the strength of what he did on 9/11. I think many families are outraged by that notion. And I expect some of them to be on the campaign trail with him.

Barrett on Barrett