Times Chips Away at Giuliani's "Myth-Making Moment" of 9-11

Michael Powell, a veteran Giuliani-beat reporter, made Friday's front page with "In 9/11 Chaos, Giuliani Forged a Lasting Image," the latest in a series of Times articles whose reason for being seems to be to chip away at Giuliani's strength - his leadership as New York City mayor after 9-11.

"What was most difficult to bear about Mr. Giuliani's mayoralty - his operatic personality, his head-throbbing certainty - became points of strengths in the disorienting weeks after Sept. 11.

"But this fusion of personality with a wounded city had an underside. Mr. Giuliani became convinced that he was New York's indispensable man. He tried to overturn term limits and run again. Failing that, Mr. Giuliani wanted to extend his term three months."

Under the subhead "Mockery and Mistakes," Powell rehashed points made in the left-wing tabloid Village Voice back on August 7.

"Here is the rich irony for those who look askance at Mr. Giuliani's myth-making moment. His march uptown should not have been necessary, many experts say.

"Mr. Giuliani insisted in 1997 on placing his state-of-the-art emergency command center at 7 World Trade Center, mocking critics who warned that it was too close to a terror target. On Sept. 11, that building collapsed. Had the center been placed in Brooklyn, as a mayoral aide had suggested, the cameras might not have made a legend of a dust-shrouded mayor.

"In 'Leadership,' Mr. Giuliani insists he still would have headed downtown. 'I wanted the fire commanders to talk to me face to face - to look into my eyes and give me an undiluted assessment,' he wrote.

"Some question that.

"'It didn't make any sense for him to be there on the scene,' said Glenn P. Corbett, an associate professor of fire science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who studied the attacks.

"'Lincoln was a wartime president,' Professor Corbett added. 'But you didn't see him on the battlefield at Gettysburg.'

"Many other things went wrong with the emergency response. Police and fire radios operated on different frequencies, a problem administration officials had known about since the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. The Police and Fire Departments established separate command posts. When police helicopters noticed that the north tower showed signs of buckling, they notified police commanders, who ordered an evacuation. But evidence strongly suggests that many firefighters never heard these orders from the police, or from their own commanders."

Blogger Megan McArdle, who was in Manhattan on 9/11,has an alternate view.

"...you might want the city's staff to be able to get there quickly in the event of an emergency. As anyone who was in New York on 9/11 can attest, unless you could walk, you didn't get anywhere quickly; traffic was an evil snarl (and much worse downtown, where, at least when I was at the site, the collapse had snafued things like traffic signals and telephone trunk lines)."

In a harsh look at Giuliani's NYC mayoralty from July 22, Powell wondered "whether a man raised and schooled in a white world understood the force with which his harshest words rained down on black New Yorkers."