Blitzer referred to Giuliani as "Mr. 9-11," asked 9-11 Commission co-chair Kean: "Why McCain over Giuliani?"

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

In one of the teases announcing his interview with former 9-11 Commission co-chairman Tom Kean Sr., CNN's Wolf Blitzer referred to Rudy Giuliani as "the man known as America's Mayor." Blitzer said he interviewed Kean, who recently endorsed Sen. John McCain for president, to find out "why [Kean] didn't go with the candidate who's perhaps the most obvious 9-11 choice." Blitzer, who failed to challenge at least two of Kean's claims about Giuliani's 9-11 record during the interview, also called Giuliani "Mr. 9-11."

On the November 19 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, in one of the teases announcing his interview with former 9-11 Commission co-chairman and former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean Sr. (R), host Wolf Blitzer referred to Republican presidential candidate and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani as "the man known as America's Mayor." Kean, who recently endorsed Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for president, was interviewed by Blitzer to find out, in Blitzer's words, "why he didn't go with the candidate who's perhaps the most obvious 9-11 choice." Blitzer had previously stated that McCain's touting of Kean's endorsement is "a fresh example of Republican rivals trying to deflate Rudy Giuliani's 9-11 hero status." At the start of the interview, Blitzer asked Kean: "Mr. 9-11 is running for president, Rudy Giuliani. Why McCain over Giuliani?" Blitzer then failed to challenge at least two of Kean's claims about Giuliani's 9-11 record.

When Kean claimed that "Rudy Giuliani did a very great job on that day of 9-11," Blitzer did not ask him about an assertion in his book, Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission (Random House, August 2006), which he co-authored with 9-11 Commission co-chair Lee Hamilton, that the commission failed to ask Giuliani tough questions about September 11, 2001. Kean and Hamilton wrote in their book: "The questioning of Mayor Giuliani was a low point in terms of the commission's questioning of witnesses at our public hearings. We did not ask tough questions, nor did we get all of the information we needed to put on the public record" (Page 231). Kean and Hamilton also wrote: "[I]t proved difficult, if not impossible, to raise hard questions about 9/11 in New York without it being perceived as criticism of the individual police and firefighters or of Mayor Giuliani" (Page 230).

When Blitzer asked "about the criticism of putting that emergency response center that New York City had in the World Trade Center," Kean replied: "[I]t was very, very difficult to anticipate anything that would happen on 9-11. And we didn't have any criticism in the report of people who failed to anticipate some of the things that happened. Nobody did." However, some did anticipate that the World Trade Center would again be the target of a terrorist attack and questioned the decision to locate the city's emergency command center at 7 WTC. In fact, both the 9-11 Commission and Media Matters for America have noted that there was criticism about the location of the command center before the attacks.

As Media Matters documented, the 9-11 Commission noted in its final report, in a section on preparedness before 9-11, that "[s]ome questioned locating it [the New York City Office of Emergency Management] both so close to a previous terrorist target and on the 23rd floor of a building (difficult to access should elevators become inoperable). There was no backup site." Indeed, Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins, authors of Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11 (HarperCollins, August 2006), described several New York City officials' objections to the location of the emergency command center as it was being constructed. One such official was then-NYPD chief operating officer Lou Anemone, described as a "fierce opponent" of the WTC location and quoted by Barrett and Collins saying, "I did a couple of memos against that site, citing the closeness to an intended target, the 23rd floor dangers and hazards. It was a joke" (Page 185). Anemone added, "In terms of targets, the World Trade Center was number one. I guess you had to be there in 1993 to know how strongly we felt it was the wrong place" (Page 186).

As Media Matters noted, Blitzer has previously touted Giuliani as "the man known as 'America's Mayor,' " without noting the numerous controversies marking Giuliani's political career.

From the November 19 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: John McCain steals some of Giuliani's thunder in the fight against terror. He scored the endorsement of a 9-11 Commission co-chairman, but is it enough to give McCain some new and badly needed momentum?

And [Sen.] Hillary Clinton [D-NY] borrows a page from her husband's playbook. She's zeroing in like a laser beam, she says, right now on the economy, and she's questioning whether [Sen.] Barack Obama [D-IL] has enough experience to cash in.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

But up first this hour: a campaign tug of war over 9-11. John McCain is touting a brand-new endorsement today that gives him new bragging rights about the anti-terror credentials he wants. He won the backing of 9-11 Commission co-chairman and former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean. It's a fresh example of Republican rivals trying to deflate Rudy Giuliani's 9-11 hero status.

[...]

BLITZER: In our "Strategy Session": John McCain picks up the endorsement of the man who led the 9-11 Commission.

McCAIN [video clip]: I especially, as all Americans do, appreciate the magnificent work that Governor Kean did on the 9-11 Commission, which was very important to America.

BLITZER: But why didn't Governor Kean endorse the man known as America's Mayor, Rudy Giuliani?

[...]

BLITZER: And a co-chairman of the 9-11 Commission makes his presidential choice. I'll ask Republican Tom Kean why he didn't go with the candidate who's perhaps the most obvious 9-11 choice.

[...]

BLITZER: The former chairman of the 9-11 Commission has picked the candidate he believes will be best for America. It's not necessarily the man you might think.

KEAN [video clip]: Giuliani does have it. I've nothing, nothing against Rudy Giuliani. He's been a friend of mine for a long time, and I think he'd make a fine president.

BLITZER: He may feel that way, but he's endorsing someone else. Tom Kean explains why. That's coming up in The Situation Room.

[...]

BLITZER: And, today, he announced he's backing Senator John McCain because of his experience. And he's not backing Rudy Giuliani.

[begin video clip]

BLITZER: And joining us now from Boston, the former governor of New Jersey, the co-chairman of the 9-11 Commission, Governor Tom Kean.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

KEAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know a lot of people appreciate your support for John McCain, but they're wondering. So, you're since -- you're so associated with 9-11, and Mr. 9-11 is running for president, Rudy Giuliani. Why McCain over Giuliani?

KEAN: Well, first of all, I would never say anything against Rudy Giuliani, because he's a friend of mine for a long time and he's very able.

But I just have to endorse John McCain because nobody, in my mind, has done anything more to keep the American people safer than John McCrain -- McCain. John McCain was the one who got the 9-11 Commission going. John McCain was the one who supported our recommendations. He took on everybody, from leaders of his own party to the White House itself, to try and get recommendations through to make the American people safer.

And so, I, in conscience, just feel I have to endorse John McCain.

BLITZER: He's got an ad, Rudy Giuliani, that's running. I'm going to play a little clip for you.

GIULIANI [campaign ad]: I've been tested in a way in which the American people can look to me. They're not going to find perfection, but they're going to find somebody who's dealt with crisis almost on a regular basis and has had results.

BLITZER: You know, Governor, people will say, this is a sort of a slap at Giuliani, even though you don't want to criticize him.

But I want you to elaborate a little bit, a little bit further, on why Giuliani, apparently, from your perspective, simply didn't have it.

KEAN: No, Giuliani does have it. I've nothing, nothing against Rudy Giuliani. He's been a friend of mine for a long time, and I think he'd make a fine president.

I just happen to feel the best kind of president in either party would be John McCain. And, by the way, speaking of testing, nobody has been tested the way John McCain has. John McCain is the one also who knows leaders all over the world. John McCain would be president from day one and start -- and like a couple of other great presidents, he's going to inherit two wars at once.

BLITZER: You know, what I --

KEAN: And I think nobody could -- yeah, go ahead.

BLITZER: I was going to say -- sorry for interrupting -- when I heard that you were endorsing John McCain, I remembered some of the criticism in the 9-11 Commission report that you and Lee Hamilton co-chaired of the New York City operation, basically, and Rudy Giuliani was the mayor in that report.

Among other things, it said: "The task of accounting for and coordinating the units was rendered difficult, if not impossible, by internal communications breakdowns, resulting from the limited capabilities of radios in the high-rise environment of the [World Trade Center] and from confusion over which personnel were assigned to which frequency."

There was plenty of other criticism of the New York leading up to 9-11. Did that have any impact on your thinking?

KEAN: No, not at all, because, actually, the lack of communications was not Rudy Giuliani's fault. It was because they didn't have the same frequencies they were operating on.

And one of the reasons I'm so for John McCain is, he's got the bill in the Congress to end all that and allow first responders to communicate with one another, to have the same spectrum, which would not only be helpful in case of another terrorist attack, but things like [Hurricane] Katrina, where lives was lost because first responders couldn't communicate with each other. That's not anything against Rudy Giuliani. That's for John McCain.

BLITZER: Well, what about the criticism of putting that emergency response center that New York City had in the World Trade Center, which, obviously, made that useless. What about that?

KEAN: Well, look, it was very, very difficult to anticipate anything that would happen on 9-11. And we didn't have any criticism in the report of people who failed to anticipate some of the things that happened. Nobody did.

Rudy Giuliani did a very great job on that day of 9-11. But, today, I'm up here because I happen to feel the best man to be president is John McCain -- not to criticize Rudy Giuliani, just to support John McCain.

BLITZER: Fair enough. There's another Tom Kean who disagrees with you. That happens to be your son, Tom Kean Jr., who is a state senator in New Jersey.

He says this: "Rudy Giuliani is the proven leader New Jerseyans want as our next president. We have witnessed his leadership firsthand and know he will win New Jersey in both the primary and general elections."

Looks like you and your son have a little disagreement.

KEAN: There is nobody I respect more than my son, but every now and then, we don't agree on everything, and I guess our choice for president this year is a little bit different.

Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Wolf Blitzer
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
Stories/Interests
Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.