I was at the gym when I heard the "Crunch Time" segment about Rudy Giuliani on ATC yesterday. The beginning of the piece was really horrid, a virtual worship ceremony of Giuliani's performance on 9/11. But a little less than three minutes into the piece, some criticism of Giuliani found its way into the report, and I thought "Well, they did offer some dissenting information." Then at home later I noticed the angry comments in the Open Thread post below and figured, all right, I'll give that story another listen. It was a revelation.
First, break the story down by time segments: From beginning to 2 minutes, 46 seconds the piece is 100% positive (downright worshipful) of Giuliani on Sept. 11, 2001. Then the major critique of Giuliani (the inoperative emergency radios and the placement of the Emergency Command Center) air until 4 minutes, 7 seconds. That comes to a whopping total of 1 minute, 21 seconds. The rest of the piece is basically a positive treatment of how the voters already know and like Giuliani. The total time of the report is 6 minutes, 18 seconds; 4 minutes and 57 seconds to the positive and 1 minute and 21 seconds to the negative. If I were Giuliani, I'd take that.
Second, look at the way the positive and negative comments are reported. Jaffe introduces the report by saying there are "some images from September 11th that will never leave us, one of them is Rudy Giuliani marching out of lower Manhattan through the dust and ash of the collapsed World Trade Center." Notice how there is no qualifier such as "for many people," or "some will always remember"; instead Jaffe simply speaks for the collective "us." She authoritatively says he "found just the right tone." We also are treated to a Dave Letterman clip where Letterman emotionally tells his audience "Rudolph Giuliani is the personification of courage."
Here's were Jaffe gets really sly. The critiques of Giuliani are devastating, and Giuliani's spin of his 9-11 performance are essentially big lies. He completely botched the preparations for a terrorist attack on NYC, doing nothing about the radios, and ignoring expert advice about where to place the Emergency Command Center. He ignored the health risks to the crews at ground zero. These were failures that cost hundreds of lives. And of course his police chief was a sleazy criminal who he wanted to put in charge of the "homeland" several years later. Jaffe reduces the overwhelming (and easily confirmed) truths of Giuliani's failures to "some say that difficult situation was made worse by decisions that Rudy Giuliani made before September 11th." Some say? Makes it sound like chit-chat at the barber shop. We hear from one of these "some," Wayne Barret who wrote the Village Voice "Big Lies" piece linked above. And Jaffe concludes his contribution with "Barrett and other critics have also blamed Giuliani for failing to enforce safety standards...in the wreckage..." That's it. No attempt to establish facts, just "Barrett and other critics."
Lastly, consider how the whole report is framed. It begins with high praise nailed down with universal truths. It's briefly interrupted by some pesky discontents with their "blame." And then it turns to rightwing pundits to explain that voters "know Giuliani." We hear a lot from Matthew Dowd (Bush pollster and campaign strategist) and Dan Schnur, former McCain campaign advisor. But especially ugly - from a journalistic standpoint - is the way the report ends. Here's Jaffe's closing remark:
"...and to so many voters who remember that day when the nation was under attack and Rudy Giuliani was the one who gave them comfort and made them feel safe."
(The graphic comes from this spot-on send-up of Giuliani's BS from The Onion.)