Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani got a hero’s welcome inside a Bay Ridge catering hall this week — but outside, the man running for president as “America’s Mayor” got Swift-boated.
About four dozen protesters, mostly relatives of World Trade Center victims and firefighters who typically form Giuliani’s amen corner, showed up outside the Bay Ridge Manor on 76th Street near Fifth Avenue to pick apart the central piece of the former mayor’s legacy: his handling of the 9-11 terror attack.
“The mayor has blood on his hands,” said Rosaline Tallon, whose brother, Matthew Tallon, died at Ground Zero. “He wants to walk into that reception as the hero of 9-11, but we want to remind the public of who this man really is.”
Tallon and others said the mayor was responsible for the faulty radios used by firefighters that day. And they also said his leadership was anything but inspiring in the aftermath.
“My brother died because of the antiquated equipment this man bought — and people need to know the truth,” Tallon said.
The Giuliani campaign expected to take heat from the right on social issues, but now finds itself in the unexpected position of facing questions over the one piece of his resume that appears golden to the rest of the country.
The protest at Bay Ridge Manor, and others nationwide, brought back memories of the 2004 presidential campaign of John Kerry, which was torpedoed when some of Kerry’s former Navy comrades formed a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and started attacking the decorated war hero’s patriotism.
While some of the charges against Kerry were inaccurate, the “swift-boating” of his campaign resulted in one of his perceived strengths — his military service in Vietnam — being turned into a liability.
Now it’s Giuliani’s turn.
“We are trying to peel him back like an onion, layer by layer,” said Uniformed Fire Officers President Peter Gorman. The union official then addressed Giuliani, who had already been spirited inside the Republican-friendly catering hall, directly: “We will be here today on your home turf, in any borough, in any state.”
The media may have gotten the message, but the former mayor certainly didn’t.
That’s because as the number of protestors swelled to over 40, they were quickly corralled by police, along with the media, behind metal street barriers on the other side of the street.
“This is a frozen zone,” said Captain Eric Rodriguez, the commanding officer of the 68th Precinct. “Everyone is going to have to be behind the barriers we set up across the street.”
The order contradicted a Giuliani aide, who only minutes earlier, had told the media that the former mayor would meet with the press “to answer a few questions,” before hitting his fundraiser/63rd birthday party. But the mayor and his staff had an apparent change of heart after seeing the swelling protestors.
“There is nothing I can do,” said the aide. “You are just going to have to listen to what the police say.”
Instead, Giuliani’s black SUV pulled up directly in front of Bay Ridge Manor’s entrance at 76th Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues — out of view of media and protestors. The mayor was quickly escorted inside, as the protestors greeted his arrival with chants of “shame on you.”
For civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, who helped organize the event, the metal barriers brought back memories.
“No access and metal bars — it reminds me of his days as mayor,” said Siegel. “Just imagine, if he gets elected, these metal bars will be on a national level.”
Inside, though, Giuliani was hailed.
“Long before he was ‘America’s Mayor,’ Rudy Giuliani turned around a city everyone said was ungovernable,” state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R–Rensellaer) said in a statement. “He did it with the same principles he displayed on September 11 and on the days and weeks that followed — moral clarity, strong leadership and accountability.”
Of course, the protestors weren’t buying it.
Jim Riches, who lost his son, also named Jim, on 9-11, believes it would be a “nightmare” to see Rudy become president, and that while the mayor can run, he can’t hide.
“He acts like some big tough guy when he talks about terrorism, but the truth is my son was fighting for his life while he hid under a table,” Riches said, then addressed Giuliani, who was, alas, out of earshot.
“You are a coward, and you can run, but we are going to follow you — wherever you go.”