Newsweek, Frank Rich misled on Giuliani's support for Bush policy in Iraq

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

In its cover story for the March 12 issue, Newsweek suggested that Rudy Giuliani has not been a "staunch advoca[te]" of a troop increase, despite reports that Giuliani has repeatedly endorsed the Iraq war and President Bush's troop increase. Similarly, New York Times columnist Frank Rich alleged that Giuliani had not been a "cheerleader" for Bush's decision to invade Iraq.

In its cover story for the March 12 issue of the magazine, Newsweek asserted that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's (R) candidacy has been gaining support "thanks in part to former front runner [Sen.] John McCain's [R-AZ] staunch advocacy for escalating the troop presence in Iraq," suggesting that Giuliani has not been a "staunch advoca[te]" of a troop increase, despite reports that, "[i]n every speech he makes," Giuliani "endors[es] the war and the deployment of 21,500 more troops." Similarly, in his March 4 column (subscription required), New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich asserted that Giuliani had not been a "cheerleader" for President Bush's decision to invade Iraq. Rich did not define what he meant by "cheerleader," but in 2002, Giuliani repeatedly called for regime change in Iraq "earlier" rather than "later." Rich also suggested that "[t]o voters, [Giuliani's] war history begins and ends with the war against the enemy that actually attacked America on 9/11," even though Giuliani has, over the last five years, repeatedly tied the Iraq war to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Newsweek on Giuliani's position on Iraq troop increase

In contrast with Newsweek's suggestion that Giuliani and McCain have differed on the question of support for Bush's troop escalation in Iraq, New York Magazine reported on March 5 that Giuliani and McCain "hold essentially the same position on Iraq."

Giuliani has repeatedly said that he is in favor of a troop increase. As CNN noted, Giuliani released a statement on January 10 that read: "Success or failure in Iraq is not a matter of partisan politics but a matter of national Security. ... In that spirit, I support the president's increase in troops." As The New York Times similarly noted, Giuliani said on the February 5 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes: "I support what the president asked for support to do and what General [David H.] Petraeus has asked for support to do, not because there's any guarantee it's going to work."

On February 14, The New York Times reported that, "[i]n every speech he makes," Giuliani "endors[es] the war and the deployment of 21,500 more troops," but that, according to political analysts, he also has to "avoid alienating antiwar voters to win the presidency in a general election, and avoid taking the blame if the war continues to go badly." The Times then quoted Republican strategist Dan Schnur, who suggested that Giuliani is able to appear more "ambivalen[t]" than McCain on the escalation issue simply because Giuliani does not have to face the binary decision of a vote: "Giuliani may be in the best position of any of the Republican primary candidates on this because he uses very strong language in support of the war and its goals, but he doesn't have to take simple up-or-down votes, like McCain does. ... He can voice the same ambivalence the voters feel."

Rich's column

In his column, Rich acknowledged that Giuliani supported the Iraq war but said he was not a "cheerleader" for the war:

Mr. Giuliani is also a war supporter and even contributed a Brownie of his own to the fiasco, the now disgraced [former New York City Police Commissioner] Bernard Kerik, who helped botch the training of the Iraqi police. But, unlike Mr. McCain, Mr. Giuliani isn't dogged by questions about Iraq. To voters, his [Giuliani's] war history begins and ends with the war against the enemy that actually attacked America on 9/11. He wasn't a cheerleader for the subsequent detour into Iraq, wasn't in office once the war started, and actively avoids speaking about it in any detail.

However, Giuliani spoke out in favor of regime change in Iraq "earlier" rather than "later" in 2002. The Journal News of Westchester County, New York, reported on September 8, 2002, that Giuliani had said a week earlier, "Our goal has to be to unseat Saddam Hussein and to end his regime." On the October 12, 2002, edition of Fox News' Fox Wire, Giuliani told host Rita Cosby: "If you're going to end global terrorism, you have to remove Saddam Hussein from power, otherwise, we're just going to be facing a bigger problem two, three, four and five years from now. Confronting people like Saddam Hussein earlier is safer than confronting them later."

Moreover, Rich suggested that voters do not associate Giuliani with the war in Iraq and only "with the war against the enemy that actually attacked America on 9/11." The statement ignores that Giuliani has repeatedly tied 9-11 to the war in Iraq and invoked 9-11 to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Newsweek reported in the September 9, 2002, issue of the magazine that Giuliani suggested that those opposed to "eliminating Saddam Hussein's regime ... militarily" had a "pre-September 11" mindset:

I think there's no question that in the right way and in the right time our goal has to be eliminating Saddam Hussein's regime. I think the only way it can be done is militarily. I think the current debate may be a function of the fact that we're further away from September 11. It's almost like a throwback to where we were pre-September 11 -- let's pretend we live in a world different from the one in which we live.

On September 21, 2002, Newsday reported that Giuliani said that Bush's Iraq policy was a "question of self defense" and that "[y]ou have to take pre-emptive action."

Similarly, in his 2004 Republican National Convention speech, Giuliani suggested that "Saddam Hussein's reign of terror" was related to "the barbaric terrorists who attacked us," as Media Matters noted.

More recently, on the February 5 edition of Hannity & Colmes, Giuliani again tied the Iraq war to the 9-11 attacks, saying that "the reality of" the Iraq war is that "we're at war because they're at war with us." Giuliani's evidence that "[t]hey want to ... kill us" was that "they did on September 11, and they did a long time before September 11. Way back in 1993, they came to this city and killed people." However, there is no evidence that Saddam's regime was involved with the 9-11 attacks. In its September 8, 2006, report, the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that "Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qa'ida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al-Qa'ida to provide material or operational support," and that "[n]o postwar information indicates that Iraq intended to use al-Qa'ida or any other terrorist group to strike the United States homeland before or during Operation Iraqi Freedom."

From the Newsweek cover story:

After a slow start, Giuliani's candidacy has gained ground in recent weeks, thanks in part to former front runner John McCain's staunch advocacy for escalating the troop presence in Iraq and the emerging impression that none of the top-tier candidates (Giuliani, McCain, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney) is a true believer on social issues. In the new NEWSWEEK Poll, Giuliani leads McCain by 25 points (59 to 34 percent) as the choice of registered Republicans and voters leaning Republican for the party's nomination, while Romney trails both men by more than 30 points.

[...]

And then came the cold horror of September 11. In those morning and midday hours Giuliani was transformed into the man of destiny he'd seemed to always believe himself to be. Some New Yorkers will remember that awful day as a sheer struggle for survival, a crazed exodus from lower Manhattan. Others will recall the frantic search for a loved one feared to be in one of the towers or on one of the doomed planes. But when the vast majority of Americans look back on 9/11, they will, for the ages, think of Giuliani walking through ash and soot. He was honest, sad and strong; he was heroic. Alone that night, before going to bed, he read Churchill's May 1940 speech to the House of Commons: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.

September 11 made Giuliani untouchable. Queen Elizabeth named him an honorary knight. French President Jacques Chirac called him "Rudy the Rock." He became a fixture at Republican rallies around the country in the elections of 2002, 2004--the year the GOP convention came to Madison Square Garden--and 2006. Once reviled by his party for his moderate views, he leapt to the top of opinion polls of potential 2008 Republican nominees.

[...]

Will conventional considerations--that is, the ordinary expectations voters have of presidential candidates--apply to Giuliani, or does 9/11 loom so large in the national consciousness even now that Americans will give the mayor a pass on the temperament question in favor of a man who is both strong and competent? (It is hard to imagine a President Giuliani botching the response to Katrina in the way President Bush did.)

The numbers may be strong now, but as British Prime Minister Harold Wilson used to say, a week is an eternity in politics, much less a year. At the event last month in South Carolina, Giuliani looked unsteady as he fielded questions on jobs, immigration and free trade. He still seems un-comfortable when coaxed off his national-security script. But no one knows better than Giuliani that every day is not 9/11, and while the crises of a campaign may seem inane, they are far from inconsequential. In the coming months, there will be a million small disasters--ways to falter or chances to become a man of destiny once more.

From Rich's New York Times column:

Senator McCain, who, unlike Senator Clinton, fervently supports the war and the surge, is morbidly aware of his predicament. This once-ebullient politician has been off his game since a conspicuously listless January ''Meet the Press'' appearance; on Thursday, he had to publicly apologize after telling David Letterman, in an unguarded moment of genuine straight talk, that American lives were being ''wasted'' in Iraq. (Barack Obama had already spoken the same truth and given the same pro forma apology.) Last week a Washington Post-ABC News Poll confirmed Mr. McCain's worst political fears. Rudy Giuliani now leads him two to one among Republicans, a tripling of Mr. Giuliani's lead in a single month.

Mr. Giuliani is also a war supporter and even contributed a Brownie of his own to the fiasco, the now disgraced Bernard Kerik, who helped botch the training of the Iraqi police. But, unlike Mr. McCain, Mr. Giuliani isn't dogged by questions about Iraq. To voters, his war history begins and ends with the war against the enemy that actually attacked America on 9/11. He wasn't a cheerleader for the subsequent detour into Iraq, wasn't in office once the war started, and actively avoids speaking about it in any detail.

What makes Mr. Giuliani's rise particularly startling is that his liberal views and messy personal history are thought to make him a nonstarter with his own party faithful. These handicaps haven't kicked in, the Beltway explanation has it, because benighted Republican voters don't yet really know that ''America's mayor'' once married a cousin or that he describes himself as ''pro-choice.'' But perhaps these voters aren't as ignorant as Washington thinks. After the flameouts of Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Rick Santorum, Ralph Reed and other Bible-thumping politicos who threw themselves on the altars of Terri Schiavo or Jack Abramoff, maybe most Republicans could use a rest from the moral brigade. Maybe these voters, too, care more about the right to life of troops thrust into an Iraqi civil war than that of discarded embryos used in stem-cell research.

From the February 5 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

HANNITY: Let me ask about Iraq. You've generally been very supportive of the president and the Iraq war. Is there anything you would have done differently? Do you think there's been any mistakes made?

GIULIANI: Well, sure, the president has explained the mistakes that were made. I mean --

HANNITY: If you were in this situation -- if you were the president?

GIULIANI: I think he could go back and, as we develop positions and we explain things, I think it's quite appropriate to go back and explain, "Well, I might have done it this way, or I might have done it with more troops, or I might have done it some other way."

But here's -- here's the reality of it: We're at war. And we're at war because they're at war with us. I mean, sometimes, when you listen to these debates in Congress, and you listen to the politicians debating, you sort of get the impression that they -- they think we're in control of whether we're at war or not.

It doesn't matter what we think. They're at war with us. They want to come here and kill us. And they did on September 11, and they did a long time before September 11, way back in 1993, they came to this city and killed people.

So, we've got to put Iraq in the context of a much broader picture than just Iraq. And getting Iraq correctly -- in other words, getting stability there -- is real important. And I support -- I support what the president has asked for support to do and what General Petraeus has asked for support to do, not because there's any guarantee it's going to work. There's never any guarantee in -- at war.

But if we can come out with a -- with a correct solution or a better solution in Iraq, it's going to make the whole war on terror go -- go better. We got to get beyond it. We got to get beyond Iraq.

HANNITY: In essence, have people forgotten?

GIULIANI: It's natural, right? I mean, you have a terrible -- a terrible attack like September 11, 2001. Right in the aftermath of it, there's tremendous unity. We understand that we have to be on offense against terrorists, that we have to make it bipartisan, that it isn't about being a Democrat or Republican. It's about being an American.

Now, you get further away, and that lesson isn't as vivid. And all wars have that happen. This is a difficult thing to do, but we've got to start getting beyond Iraq.

We've got to be thinking about Iran. We have to be thinking about Syria. We have to be thinking about Pakistan and Afghanistan and making sure that the transition in Afghanistan goes correctly. We have to be ready for the fact that whatever happens in Iraq, success or failure -- success will help us in the war on terror. Failure will hurt us. But the war is still going to go on. They're still going to want to come here and kill us.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
The New York Times, Newsweek
Person
Frank Rich
Stories/Interests
Rudy Giuliani, 2008 Elections
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