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On the May 2 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews asked Mike DuHaime, campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani: "Who would win a street fight ... Rudy Giuliani or [Iranian] President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, who would win that fight?" Matthews said that the fight would take place "over in Queens somewhere ... a dark night, it's about 2 in the morning. Two guys are out behind the building, right?" DuHaime responded, "I am putting my money on Rudy on that one." Matthews added, "If [Giuliani] wins that notion, he is the next president."
Although this assertion was conditional upon Giuliani "win[ing] that notion," Matthews has previously touted the viability of Giuliani's candidacy without equivocation. On the July 18, 2006, edition of NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Matthews predicted that "the next president of the United States will be Rudy Giuliani."
Throughout the interview, Matthews left unchallenged various claims by DuHaime that Giuliani has a "tremendous record" as "somebody who will keep us free from terrorism and safe from terrorism." DuHaime said, in an apparent reference to the September 11, 2001, attacks, that Giuliani "is somebody who has been tested in times of great crisis and obviously come through with flying colors." He also said that Giuliani "has certainly demonstrated an ability to do the job ... in times of terrible crisis."
However, as Media Matters for America has noted, in the book Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11 (HarperCollins, 2006) Village Voice senior editor Wayne Barrett and CBSNews.com senior producer Dan Collins cited several of what they presented as Giuliani's terrorism-related failures before, during, and after September 11. Barrett and Collins wrote that when Giuliani heard about the disaster on 9-11, his "original destination" was the "much-ballyhooed command center he had built in the shadow of the Twin Towers," in the 7 World Trade Center (7 WTC) building (Page 6). However, when Giuliani arrived, then-New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik "decided it was too dangerous to bring the mayor up to the command center he had so carefully and expensively built" (Page 340). In settling on the downtown location, Giuliani "overruled" warnings from Howard Safir, a previous police commissioner, and Lou Anemone, chief operating officer of the New York police department, not to put the command center at 7 WTC and rejected "an already secure, technologically advanced city facility across the Brooklyn Bridge" (Page 41). Later on 9-11, the 7 WTC building collapsed.
Although Matthews did not ask about these failures, he is familiar with criticism of Giuliani's role before 9-11 and in response to the attacks. The day before DuHaime's appearance, HBO host Bill Maher told Matthews that "the reason why [Giuliani] was on the streets that day is because his office was blown up," and said, "All of the experts told him to move the command-and-control center out of the World Trade Center. He put it in the World Trade Center." Maher added: "He's not a terrorism fighter. He has no credentials in this. In fact, he failed the one time he had an opportunity, just like [President] Bush."
Matthews is scheduled to host the Republican primary debate on MSNBC on May 3.
From the 7 p.m. ET May 2 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
DUHAIME: He is a tremendous leader, somebody with a tremendous record both as an economic conservative and somebody who will keep us free from terrorism and safe from terrorism. And I think how the debate goes, you will be in more control of that than I will.
MATTHEWS: You're -- well, I don't think I'm in control, because I really do think I can interview the candidates as a group and see whether they go to battle with each other. I'll tell you one thing without getting into specifics, because I want to keep some of this under wraps, but clearly, your guy's the frontrunner, and it must not be a surprise to you that he's taking some incoming these days.
DUHAIME: Well, I think, you know, this is a long campaign, and the American people and Republican primary voters are going to get to see all of the candidates over time. And I'm confident that when they see Mayor Giuliani and his record, they are going to be -- he is going to be a Republican that they are going to be proud to support.
This is somebody who has cut taxes, cut spending, been a true supply-sider as mayor of New York, took one of the -- took a city that many called ungovernable and did a great job cutting crime, getting people off of welfare. And obviously this is somebody who has been tested in times of great crisis and obviously come through with flying colors.
MATTHEWS: Is he going to like it if the other candidates take a shot at him tomorrow night, here?
MATTHEWS: Is he meaner and tougher than the other candidates?
DUHAIME: I do not know about -- you know, I don't want to necessarily compare him to the other candidates, but this is somebody who has certainly demonstrated an ability to do the job and not shrink away in times that are very tough and situations that are tough in places that -- problems that many people see as ungovernable, and certainly in times where his -- certainly in times of terrible crisis. This is somebody who is certainly tough enough to get the job done. I am certain of that.
MATTHEWS: Who would win a street fight? Rudy Giuliani -- just think of a street fight now over in Queens somewhere. It's a dark night, it's about 2 in the morning. Two guys are out behind the building, right? On a vacant lot. Rudy Giuliani or President Ahmadinejad, who would win that fight?
MATTHEWS: If he wins that notion, he's the next president. That's one to look for. Who is tougher than Ahmadinejad? Because he is our biggest worry right now.