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August 31, 2004
The Keynote Speeches of 8/30: Rudy Giuliani

Perhaps even more than John McCain, Rudy Giuliani's appearance at the convention had been the subject of much conjecture beforehand. His prominence in the schedule indicated to analysts that the Republicans would not run away from 9/11, and Democrats warned the GOP against "exploiting" the terrorist attacks. Given that they went through their entire convention without mentioning it at all, they obviously wanted Americans to forget it ever happened.

But Rudy was there when and where the buildings fell. Giuliani understands better than most what's at stake in this election. He knows what happens when people pretend that terrorism doesn't exist and when dangers are ignored. And he isn't planning on letting anyone forget about it. In one of the most effective and personal wide-audience speeches I've ever seen -- it even got grudging admiration from former Dean advisor and MS-NBC analyst Joe Trippi afterwards -- Giuliani described in stark personal terms what 9/11 meant for him and his city and what it was like to live through the hell of the worst foreign attack on American soil.

Giuliani knows how to play to an audience, of course, and his warm, personal style connects on a deep emotional level that amplifies in person rather than on television. He talked first (and last) about leadership, and hit that quality hard:

Thank you. Welcome to the capital of the World.

New York was the first capital of our great nation. It was here in 1789 in Lower Manhattan that George Washington took the oath of office as the first president of the United States. And it was here in 2001 in the same Lower Manhattan that President George W. Bush stood amid the fallen towers of the World Trade Center and he said to the barbaric terrorists who attacked us, They will hear from us.

Well, they heard from us. They heard from us in Afghanistan and we removed the Taliban. They heard from us in Iraq and we ended Saddam Husseins reign of terror. And we put him where he belongs, in jail. They heard from us in Libya and without firing a shot Qaddafi abandoned his weapons of mass destruction. Theyre hearing from us in nations that are now much more reluctant to sponsor terrorists or terrorism.

So long as George Bush is our president, is there any doubt they will continue to hear from us?

Leadership continued to be the theme of Giuliani's speech, but he peppered it with personal recollections that brought back memories of that awful late-summer day:

On Sept. 11, this city and our nation faced the worst attack in our history. On that day, we had to confront reality. For me, when I arrived there and I stood below the north tower and I looked up and seeing the flames of hell emanating from those buildings and realizing that what I was actually seeing was a human being on the 101st, 102nd floor that was jumping out of the building. I stood there, it probably took five or six seconds. It seemed to me that it took 20 or 30 minutes. And I was stunned. And I realized in that moment and that instant, I realized we were facing something that we had never, ever faced before. ... Ill always remember that moment as we escaped the building that we were trapped in at 75 Barclay Street and I realized that things outside might actually be worse than inside the building.

We did the best we could to communicate a message of calm and hope, as we stood on the pavement watching a cloud come through the cavernous streets of lower Manhattan. Our people were so brave in their response. At the time, we believed that we would be attacked many more times that day and in the days that followed. Without really thinking, based on just emotion, spontaneous, I grabbed the arm of then Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and I said to him, Bernie, thank God George Bush is our President.

I say it again tonight, I say it again tonight: thank God that George Bush is our President. And thank God that Dick Cheney, a man with his experience and his knowledge and his strength and his background is our vice president.

The reference to Dick Cheney is no accident in this election. John Kerry selected John Edwards as a running mate largely, it seems, on the basis of polling rather than any serious review of his credentials. Edwards hasn't yet completed his first term in public office, having been a trial lawyer up until his election to the Senate in his maiden campaign of 1998. Half of the term that followed has been spent running for President, and while the Kerry campaign touts Edwards' experience on the Senate Intelligence Committee as his only qualification for president, Edwards missed almost as many meetings of the committee as Kerry did. Edwards doesn't take the assignment seriously, and apparently Kerry doesn't take the role of Vice President any more seriously than his or Edwards' responsibilities for intelligent oversight in the Senate.

It's all about leadership, as Giuliani continued to hammer home, with humor and passion. He reviewed the lack of global leadership on terror and its consequences today:

Terrorism didnt start on Sept. 11, 2001. It started a long time ago and it had been festering for many years. And the world had created a response to it that allowed it to succeed.

The attack on the Israeli team at the Munich Olympics was in 1972. Thats a long time ago, thats not yesterday. And the pattern began early. The three surviving terrorists were arrested and then within just three months the terrorists who slaughtered the Israeli athletes were released by the German government. Set free. Action like this became the rule, not the exception. Terrorists came to learn time after time that they could attack, that they could slaughter innocent people and not face any consequences.

In 1985, terrorists attacked the Achille Lauro and they murdered an American citizen who was in a wheelchair, Leon Klinghoffer. They marked him for murder solely because he was Jewish. Some of those terrorist were released and some of the remaining terrorists, they were allowed to escape by the Italian government because of fear of reprisals from the terrorists.

So terrorists learned they could intimidate the world community and too often the response, particularly in Europe, would be accommodation, appeasement and compromise. And worse, and worse they also learned that their cause would be taken more seriously, almost in direct proportion to the horror of their attack.

It doesn't take much to discern from these examples what Giuliani thinks about Kerry's deference to the EU, especially the recalcitrant members of the old guard, France and Germany, in regards to fighting terrorism and providing for American national security. This point had been driven home by John McCain earlier, who said that the "containment" of Saddam Hussein had begun to break down years before, and these so-called allies had begun trading with Saddam Hussein even while he shot at our pilots in their missions to enforce the sanctions regime that France, Germany, Syria, and Russia busily undermined.

Giuliani invoked Winston Churchill at least twice, an analogy I've used often at CQ to explain the war effort:

They ridiculed Winston Churchill. They belittled Ronald Reagan. But like President Bush, they were optimists; leaders need to be optimists. Their vision is beyond the present and its set on a future of real peace and security. Some some call it stubbornness. I call it principled leadership. President Bush President Bush has the courage of his convictions. ...

One one of my heroes, Winston Churchill, saw the dangers of Hitler while his opponents characterized him as a war-mongering gadfly. Another one of my heroes, Ronald Reagan, saw and described the Soviet Union as the evil empire while world opinion accepted it as inevitable and even belittled Ronald Reagans intelligence. President Bush sees world terrorism for the evil that it is.

It's been asked by myself and others what would have happened to Churchill had his advice on Hitler been heeded, even as late as Munich in October 1938? Europe would have gone to war, certainly precipitively in the minds of many. Churchill would have suffered tremendous political damage for his actions. Absent the camps, the Aushcwitzes, the Polands and the Ukraines that followed, the world would have concluded that Churchill was a war monger who loved nothing but battle and the shedding of blood -- a criticism he suffers to this day among a few anyway.

And he would have saved tens of millions of people from the death and destruction of Nazi Germany that ensued.

On the other hand, Giuliani didn't bother to analogize John Kerry, but spoke directly to his record and his shifting public statements. And at the same time, he tied Kerry's policy shifts to John Edwards's 'Two Americas' slogan in a way that may make the slogan a laugh line for the next two months:

John Kerry has no such clear, precise and consistent vision. This is not a personal criticism of John Kerry. I respect him for his service to our nation. But its important and critical to see the contrast in approach between these two men: President Bush, a leader whos willing to stick with difficult decisions even as public opinion shifts and goes back and forth, and John Kerry, whose record in elected office suggests a man who changes his position even on important issues.

Now, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, John Kerry voted against the Persian Gulf War. But he must have heard you booing because, because, because later he said he actually supported the war. Then in 2002, as he was calculating his run for the presidency, he voted for the war in Iraq. And then just nine months later, he voted against an $87 billion supplemental budget to fund the war and support our troops. He even, at one point, declared himself as an antiwar candidate. And now, he says hes a pro-war candidate. At this rate, with 64 days left, he still has time to change his position four or five more times.

My point about John Kerry being inconsistent is best described in his own words not mine. I quote John Kerry, I actually did vote for the 87 billion before I voted against it.

Maybe this explains John Edwardss need for two Americas one where John Kerry can vote for something and another one where he can vote against exactly the same thing.

I defy you to think of 'Two Americas' again without thinking of it as a code word for Bizarro Kerry, where everything he does is reversed by his alternate-reality alter ego, like the old Superman comic books.

Like John McCain did, Giuliani finished strong, reminding Americans that George Bush is the president who moved us from defense to offense against terrorism, and who remains the only candidate pledged to keep us on the offensive that has America fighting terrorists where they live, instead of where we live. He spoke about the power of freedom, and how liberating the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq has created a force of 50 million people who will fight to keep their newfound freedoms and ally with us against those who would plunge them again into dark nights of terror and totalitarianism. Giuliani assured us that people fighting for freedom have always prevailed over those fighting for enslavement, and that freedom is America's mission in the world.

As another delegate said to me at the end, "If anyone's watching this convention, I don't see how we lose." Indeed.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 31, 2004 6:08 AM

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» Giuliani Speech (reaction) from The Key Monk
Giuliani understands the minds of the terrorists: these are not reasonable and civilized people upon whom sweet reason will have its desired effect. Instead, any action other than stomping out the terrorists themselves is effectively appeasement -- a s... [Read More]

Tracked on August 31, 2004 10:30 AM

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